Oct. 1, 2009
I almost missed old town Truckee altogether. I hadn’t been there for decades and took a turn off the freeway that sent me past condominiums, luxury cabins, spiffy new office buildings and a few upscale shops and businesses. I had remembered a mountain community with historic structures and was baffled by the modernization, as often happens when revisiting a small town after it’s had years of growth. Fortunately, I decided to take one last loop back in the opposite direction, where I found the old town I sought.
Built in 1873, The Truckee Hotel has worn the hat of many names – American Hotel, Whitney Hotel, The New Whitney Hotel (which it inherited after most of the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1909,) Hotel Blume, Riverside Hotel, Alpine Riverside and, since 1976, The Truckee Hotel. It won an award in 1994 for historical restoration and is easy walking distance from historic downtown Truckee’s shops and cafes.
Guests need to have an appreciation for the authentic historic ambiance, as opposed to the modernized historic hotel luxury of some older hotels. Heated by the original steam system, there’s always a chance it might go out during the night, which is what it did on my visit – on a twenty-four degree night, no less.
On the other hand, a hotel with central heat, air conditioning and other updated luxuries would not have cost a mere fifty-nine dollars for the night. This was a mountain town and I specifically chose The Truckee Hotel for the mountain experience. Expectation plays a big part in perceived experience. I simply donned a jacket and gloves and snuggled under the covers.
In spite of having a bath down the hall, I was delighted with my room. Where the in-room bath might have been—at twice the room price—I had a sitting area with couch, table and chairs. The bedroom section held an old brass bed, antique dresser, side table, and a wash basin with a small mirror and light above. A wall rack and basket offered towels, washcloths, soaps, and hand lotion.
I found dinner in an eatery just across the street, a former Bank of America now named the Bar of America. Serving the purpose of both bar and restaurant, I grabbed a table in the dining section which bore the name of Pacific Crest Grill. Though the menu featured elegant options such as Homemade Mushroom Ravioli with basil cream sauce and hazelnuts or Coriander Crusted Ahi with gingered carrot reduction, I went for a simple salad and small Margherita Pizza.
The salad—bibb lettuce with candied almonds, shaved parmesan and champagne vinaigrette—may have been the best salad I’ve ever tasted. The pizza was also excellent, with thick slices of Roma tomatoes and no skimping on the sauce or cheese. I ate two small slivers and saved the rest for the next day. Classy ambiance and decor, upbeat music that ranged from soft jazz to flamenco, and excellent service all contributed to a great meal.
The hotel offered a basic continental breakfast, served in a common room on the second level of the four-floor hotel. I picked up a blueberry muffin, some orange juice, and hot coffee before departing for the day’s drive.