Steeped in old town Truckee history, Moody’s serves up innovative cuisine

Moody’s Bistro Bar & Beats features live music every weekend in a variety of styles from a diverse group musicians. Photo: Court Leve
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in the Summer 2017 edition of Tahoe Magazine. It was first published on this website in August 2018 and is presented in its original form.

Moody’s Bistro Bar & Beats oozes history and gravitas — from its more than 140-year-old building to a menu with staid dishes such as a Niman Ranch ribeye.

But don’t let that keep you away.

“I feel like the restaurant is more accessible to everyone now, as opposed to being a special occasion only place,” said JJ Morgan, managing partner of the Historic Downtown Truckee restaurant.

The move toward accessibility is part of Moody’s evolution, Morgan said while reflecting on the restaurant’s 15-year history.

“Before, you would come to Moody’s once a week,” Morgan said. “Now, you could come to Moody’s now three times a week. Come for dinner. Come for a pizza and a glass of wine. You don’t have to go the full Monty every time you come here.”

While Morgan and crew have made Moody’s more approachable, he said the restaurant still focuses on its three mainstays: food, wine and spirits, and music.

For the food, Chef William Burns finds inspiration in local and seasonal ingredients to keep the menu fresh.

“To stay above being trendy, we try to stay with the season,” Burns said.

William Burns, executive chef of Moody’s Bistro Bar & Beats, brings an innovative, playful sensibility to the restaurant’s menu. Trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, Burns has also worked at Le Bernardin, 11 Madison Park and The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. Photo: Court Leve

There’s a whimsy to Burns’ menu. One of its most popular offerings is a novel take on a country classic—chicken and waffles. Fried chicken roulade is served on a waffle spaetzle with local dino kale, pickled and green tomatoes and ricotta.

For summer, Burns is playing with the idea of offering a duck corn dog—a hot dog made of duck, battered in semolina and then topped with a red eye ketchup (think red-eye gravy).

Morgan joked about whittling the sticks for the corndogs.

“We put that much care into all our food,” Burns said. “We grind our burger meat here. We make our own buns here. Ninety-seven percent of everything done at Moody’s is done here in the back of the restaurant.”

Peter Fain manages the bar program at Moody’s Bistro Bar & Beats, which features barrel-aged cocktails. Photo: Court Leve

The same care goes into the bar program managed by Peter Fain.

“He has really picked up the craft cocktail programming and gotten to era specific cocktails,” Morgan said.

Moody’s musical offerings have also broadened over the past 15 years, Morgan said. While the restaurant is well-known for hosting performers such as Paul McCartney and Brittany Spears, Morgan said he focuses on bringing in a variety of acts.

“We do have jazz, but we have a lot of Americana bands, and we have hip-hop bands,” Morgan said. “We actually have everything as long as it fits the vibe of the room.”

Produce, meat and other artisanal ingredients from local farmers, ranchers and artisan cheese makers inspire the dishes at Moody’s Bistro Bar & Beats. Photo: Court Leve

As for the vibe of the room, even it offers a different taste for different people.

“You can be in the lounge where the music is livelier, or you can go to the back where the more serious diners would rather eat,” Morgan said. “Just like the menu, the restaurant has a little bit of something for everyone.”

Annie Flanzraich, a Reno-based freelance writer, is a former editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
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