History of the Red Hut Café
In 1959, the old Donut Shop building at Stateline was moved about 2½ miles down to its current location in South Lake Tahoe and the original Red Hut Waffle Shop was opened. You can still see the original letters on the east side of the building. The owners, Mac and Lorraine, and their two daughters, Candy and Cheryl Lee, ran the operation, with Mac as chief cook and bottle-washer. Mac has passed on, but Lorraine still lives in Gardnerville, Nevada. Mac would hide the next day’s bank in an old pair of cowboy boots above the freezer. If you look hard today, you might see a pair of boots in one of the Red Huts to remind us of our history. The building has changed little since 1959. An electric heater was finally added. Before that, some mornings we would be sitting at the counter having a cup of coffee, still with all our heavy coats, hats, and gloves, watching our breath. The windows would steam up so much that we couldn’t see the long lines of people outside waiting to be seated.
In 1984, after having been customers for 20 years, we purchased the business from Mac & Lorraine. With the purchase came some wonderful employees, two of whom are still with us: Judy and Susie. We committed to make every effort to keep everything as it was. We even had the same agreement with Jeff, the dishwasher, who was permitted to continue living out back in his black van hooked up to our electricity. He washed dishes all day and played in his rock band at night. Quite often he didn’t show up on time in the morning, so someone would just go outside the back door and bang on the van. One day we noticed a strange-looking plant growing outside Jeff’s black van. Needless to say, after the plant was identified, it was quickly removed.
In 1990, we opened our second location in Lake Tahoe on Kingsbury Grade. The location that is now referred to as Red Hut Nevada was originally a small market. We made every effort to follow the look and feel of the Original; Nevada has nearly the same number of seats and is full of wonderful old Tahoe photos.
In March of 2009, we opened our third restaurant on the corner of Highway 50 and Ski Run Blvd in South Lake Tahoe. Our family’s construction company was the proud builder of the Ski Run Center for our longtime friends, the Gersick family. We were honored that they asked us to open the Ski Run Red Hut in their Center.
In December 2011, a location in Carson City became available: the old Woody’s Diner. We were excited to be of service to our family and friends in the capital city. So Red Hut Carson became a reality, and we couldn’t be happier. It is complete with lots of old Carson City memorabilia as well as the old-time Tahoe ski and lake memories.
Less than a year later, the opportunity to share the Red Hut experience in Reno became available. Thanks to the Nightingale family, we were given the chance to remodel the old Blue Bounty Fish Market at the corner of Moana Lane and Lakeside. Again we attempted to keep with the traditional Red Hut look and have captured the feeling of all the Tahoe Red Huts in our newest location in Reno in November of 2012. The special treat in Reno was being able to preserve a little of Reno’s history. By acquiring original signage and seating from the old Moana Ballpark before it was torn down and with the help of old time Reno family and friends we were able to dedicate our family room to Reno baseball. The City was even kind enough to widen Moana Lane for us almost all the way to the newest Red Hut Reno location.
Although over 50 years have passed, we still maintain the core beliefs of The Red Hut Café. Our first priority then is the same as it is now: we believe in giving the best customer service possible. As a byproduct, we serve the World’s Best Food. As owners, we are indeed thankful to brag that our staff is far and beyond the best. We may not all be related by blood, but when asked if this is a family-owned and -operated business, we never hesitate to answer, “Yep! We are!”
As the owners of The Red Hut Café, we are delighted that you made the effort to visit us today to experience this little part of Lake Tahoe and Northern Nevada. We hope that when you leave, your life might be just a little bit brighter. Please come back again often! And, oh yes, don’t forget to tell all your friends and family about us!
The Gardner Family