Next time you’re headed for Truckee or Lake Tahoe via Interstate 80, take a detour at Exit 168, Rainbow Road/Big Bend. Turn right at the stop sign to find the Rainbow Lodge & Tavern. It’s well worth a look, especially if you want to grab a bite; lunch and dinner are served from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The 33-room B&B was built from local granite and massive timbers in the 1800s, when it was a stagecoach stop. By the 1920s it had become an inn and mini-resort. It’s a familiar landmark to generations of Sacramentans who have stayed and played there over the decades, cross-country skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.
After a series of dead-end trails (including years in receivership) and ownership changes dating to the 1990s, the lodge was purchased in 2013 by a Rocklin-based family, who refreshed it and installed a whole new kitchen.
We pulled into the parking lot one recent Sunday morning and strolled over to the bridge to watch trout rise to the surface of the river. As it was too chilly for deck seating among the aspens, we made our way past the bar and into the handsome Sierra Room, which was bustling with 35 customers and not enough servers, though the ones on duty hustled as best they could.
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The menu shows omelets, Benedicts, french toast, chorizo skillet and more ($6 to $19), with an unusual offering we saved for next time: The Field & Stream Breakfast pairs “oven-braised beef medallions” with a “pan-fried rainbow trout filet.”
We went for a Lifthouse Omelet (ham ‘n’ Swiss with roasted asparagus), Italian Omelet (spinach, mozzarella, tomatoes, green onions, mushrooms, pesto and Italian herbs), classic Eggs Benedict (open-face English muffin topped with Canadian bacon, poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce), and, from the children’s menu, pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head, garnished with strawberries and, mysteriously, with spring greens (as was a side of bacon).
The omelets were fine — big and hot, with fresh ingredients — but the country-style potatoes that accompanied them needed another 10 minutes or so on the grill, as they were only half-cooked.
When the Eggs Benedict arrived, something didn’t look quite right. Missing was the Hollandaise sauce, which defines the dish. Hollandaise is one of the five French “mother sauces” and can be a work of art. It’s composed of egg yolk, butter, lemon juice and salt, further spiced with either cayenne or white pepper. Our server covered the kitchen’s oversight by bringing a side of Hollandaise in a little metal ramekin. Alas, the sauce lacked any taste of lemon.
The obvious conclusion is the kitchen was slammed and the scene was hectic. Still, if you’re going to serve brunch, it should be a centerpiece.
The Rainbow Lodge is at 50080 Hampshire Rocks Road in Soda Springs; (530) 562-5061, www.therainbowlodge.com. Dining is 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.