Incline Village’s favorite BBQ spot – Gus’ Tahoe BBQ – is back and open Thursday through Monday from 4:30pm until close.
Located at 930 Tahoe Boulevard in Incline Village, Gus’ welcomed approximately 50-70 people on their opening day on Saturday, October 14, 2023 to enjoy a quick, delicious meal and watch their favorite sports on one of the nine the big screen TV.
“Opening day went great, it was like we never left,” says Gus owner John Chaney, who also owns Big Water Grille. Cheney originally opened Gus’ in 2014 and ran it until 2021, when he sold the business. The new restaurateurs have changed the menu from outdoor barbecue to “eat in the lounge”. The change did not turn out to be so favorable, business died down and they stopped paying their rent. (Nevada Jane’s former owners posted on social media that they closed due to rising rent, delays in game approvals and a lack of kitchen staff.) The property reverted back to Chaney, who decided to bring back the popular Santa Maria-style barbecue.
“It was successful, it was going great. We survived COVID and then had a fire that shut us down in the summer of 2021. Even though business was going well, we tested [real estate] market to see if the business would sell, and it did. We gave them a successful business with a GM and staff, they changed the menu and it failed. They stopped paying rent and were about to be evicted when the landlord contacted me because I was in debt,” Cheney says.
Although Gus was doing well, during the pandemic the real estate market was lucrative and Chaney saw an opportunity. He’s owned Big Water Grille for 19 years (he helped open it 25 years ago with the original owners) and split more of his time during COVID between Tahoe and Los Angeles with his partner.
It’s called Gus because when he was going to college in Santa Barbara, he worked for Fess Parker at the Red Lion Inn, and the engineer who had access to his locker put a new name tag on his uniform that said “Gus.” Everyone started calling him that, and the nickname stuck.
“All my favorite restaurants have the same name, Sam’s, Brophy’s, O’Malley’s,” Cheney says. The general manager who worked with Cheney when Gus opened in 2014 is back, as are two other employees who have been with the barbecue since the beginning (a key employee of the recently closed Fredrick’s Fusion Bistro also joined the team).
It’s also obvious that Chaney is passionate about Santa Maria-style barbecue, making him the perfect person to own and operate Gus. Chaney grew up in Lompoc, California, and grew up grilling meat on an outdoor red oak barbecue, using a wheel to raise the shisha up and down to control the heat. Growing up, Chaney and his brothers would participate in fundraisers in the parking lot of the local grocery store, above the open pit mine, and make tri-tip dinners, chicken, salad, beans, and bread to sell for a worthy cause.
“I have three brothers and we all think we do it best. My dad taught us how to grill; I recently saw my dad’s original grill, which was an old oil drum with a crank – it’s pretty cool,” he adds.
At Gus’ Tahoe BBQ, tri-tip plates are a staple that include two sides (beans, salad, coleslaw, mac and cheese, fries, onion rings and grilled veggies) along with garlic bread. The tri-tip is also on one of the restaurant’s signature sandwiches, nestled between thick slices of garlic bread and pico de gallo. Chaney’s personal favorite is chicken breast, chipotle mayo, Ortega chili, lettuce, tomato and melted extra sharp cheddar cheese, also smothered between garlic bread.
However, most people will be happy to hear that LATS are making a comeback. Cheney coined this word in 2014 to mean legs and thighs. When Gus originally opened at the time, McDonald’s was testing chicken wings and that raised the price. So Chaney created a boneless version and called it LATS, which comes in all different flavors, like Asian, spicy and buffalo.
It’s also worth noting that Cheney is 14 feet. towable grill that can be used for catered events. Gus’ two-axle truck was one of the first vendors at the Bottlerock Festival in 2013, before the restaurant even existed. He was one of the vendors for the PGA Golf Tournament in Montreux, brought the outdoor barbecue to Red, White and Tahoe Blue and has worked several IVGID beach events.
The barbecue items (and side dishes) can be quick to prepare and serve, but Chaney has found that people hang out at Gus’s for hours. “You can come in, eat and leave in half an hour, but now people like to hang out in front of the big screen,” he says of the 140-inch video wall upstairs in the bar area (there are eight other TVs around the restaurant). . Gus will also begin mobile ordering and street delivery.
“We’ve never had this before and not many businesses here have it. When I came up with this, I didn’t think I could get staff, so I was just going to do takeout,” he says. However, luckily he can steal away some folks at Big Water Grille who might want a change from the fine dining scene to wearing jeans and a t-shirt to work.
“I’m really proud of it [Gus’]. My daughters grew up with this place and even guests say it feels like we never left,” adds Chaney.
Gus’ Tahoe BBQ at 930 Tahoe Blvd. is open Thursday through Monday from 4:30 p.m.-close and Sunday at noon. For more information visit the official website at http://www.gusbbqtahoe.net/.