The trip to Tahoe is a bit brighter today as Auburn’s favorite Old Town restaurant, Awful Annie’s has reopened in their new location on Lincoln Way just off the road to Tahoe, Interstate 80. Set behind a glowing sign that could easily have lived in old Las Vegas but instead shouted Lou LaBonte’s name into the front windows and rear view mirrors of Tahoe bound travelers for over 6 decades, the new Awful Annie’s raised the bar for area restaurants.
Previously perched with two inviting porches and two postage stamp sized dining rooms in Old Town Auburn for decades, the eatery’s popularity outgrew its size as the line-up for breakfast and lunch was a constant pleasure for guests waiting to became part of the Annie’s family.
I meandered into Annie’s ten years ago while winding down to Placerville. I recently reacquainted myself with the menu when our company purchased a business in Auburn and Annie’s became a very regular breakfast habit: Their Benedicts would give any NOLA restaurant a run for the money.
The new location opened last Wednesday – closer to our offices, with more parking – so we had to breakfast-for-lunch on Thursday. I never dined in La Bonte’s, it closed before our move. However, according to Olli, one of Awful Annie’s servers, LaBonte’s was part of the steak house-supper club styled eateries that became so popular with not only locals, but the travelling to Tahoe set, back in the day. I can picture the cottage cheese-melba-toast-relish-tray being delivered to the table. A top eatery in its day.
But, for the unfortunate who never experienced the Old Town Awful Annies location – no worries – the new digs have mirrored the feel and ambiance with a style that is apparent in every corner of the eatery.
Jai and Don Baker, their sons Adam and Bryan, along with the entire Awful Annies team turned their new location into one of the most pleasant restaurants in The Foothills. Annies has a style and feel that is difficult to duplicate from one space to another, let alone undertaking a transformation task of this magnitude. The challenge could have easily been one shade off, but The Bakers’ hit a bullseye with the remodel. And as always, their food is outstanding.
The Baker’s did a remarkable job in bringing a space to life in a short period of time and creating an inviting atmosphere that is intriguingly comfortable. It’s a great place to watch the crowd, enjoy the wall posters – hand painted signage that shouts the artist’s free-hand talent- and enjoy the way the entire staff never seems to have a bad day. Believe me that alone is worth a star or two.
No matter where you turn in the restaurant you see barn wood, brick and new plaster-peeling walls that eclectically complement each other under the glow of chandeliers, spots and Faux-Tiffany’s that shed light on this new dining experience.
On a recent visit the bar was stacked two deep as Tahoe bound hikers, bikers and leaf-peepers sipped the famous Baker Brother’s Bloody Marys, while locals enjoyed their favorites: French-Toast, Waffles and the grilled-cheese-cheeseburger that could feed a family four.
Seldom do I go near a restaurant that has just opened. Especially if the new space is a step up in size, it is often wise to stay away. With my new Benedict addiction, I had to show up on Sunday, at the height of brunch, to see the action. I don’t know how many seats the Baker’s added to their culinary line-up but it’s obviously substantial.
But, as a customer, you would never know they had just opened. Service was perfect. The Benedict was the best, and the crowd was all having a great time. Wait, there’s a seat at the bar. Get over there. Enjoy it. And don’t forget to ask when they will be opening for dinner.