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The Caldor Fire Could Cost South Lake Tahoe Restaurants Millions of Dollars

Plus, congrats to Dominique Crenn, winner of the 2021 Icon Award, and other intel

Traffic flows along Highway 50 near Stateline, Nevada as residents begin to return to South Lake Tahoe, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021. Cal Fire officials downgraded some evacuation orders near Lake Tahoe and allowed thousands of South Lake Tahoe residents who fled the Caldor Fire last week to return home Sunday. Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

Welcome to a.m. Intel, your bite-sized roundup of Bay Area food and restaurant news. Tips are always welcome, drop them here.


With the Caldor Fire 49 percent contained as of Tuesday morning, some South Lake Tahoe residents are beginning to return home, though it’ll be some time before the area’s businesses can resume normal operations. Cal Fire downgraded the mandatory evacuation order to a recommendation over the weekend, but it’s been almost a week since thousands were forced from their homes as the flames drove closer to the popular tourist destination. The Caldor Fire has been active for 23 days now, tossing smoke into the air and generally driving away visitors during what’s usually Tahoe’s high season. The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority projects the fire, which is now the 15th largest in state history, is having a devastating financial impact: the Mercury News reports losses in the retail and restaurant industry are estimated at $19.4 million.

As of Monday, the SF Chronicle reported many South Lake Tahoe businesses were only just starting to reopen. At Heidi’s, a local breakfast institution housed in a Swiss chalet–inspired building, owner John Higgins had to toss out all the food in his walk-in freezer, while at South Lake Brewing Company, co-owner Nicole Smith said reverting to online sales, which also buoyed the restaurant during the pandemic, could help recover some of the lost Labor Day weekend business. Many of these businesses are still climbing their way of the financial black hole that was 2020, so losing several weeks of business during this typically busy time of year is quite a setback. Farther down Highway 50 in Apple Hill, a longstanding fall destination for all things apple, many farms moved forward with their usual Labor Day weekend kick-off despite the fact that poor air quality was predicted all weekend.

In other news:

  • A bill that could add more transparency to food delivery apps in California has landed on Governor Newsom’s desk for consideration. AB 286 would require food delivery apps such as DoorDash, UberEats, and Grubhub to “provide customers and restaurants a clear, itemized cost breakdown for each transaction,” the SF Business Times reports. It would also make it illegal for apps to charge more for items than the price set by the restaurants themselves. [SF Business Times]
  • Impossible Chicken Nuggets have arrived in the Bay Area. The plant-based nugs feature a “golden, crispy breadcrumb coating” wrapped around a “juicy and springy white meat texture and a savory chicken flavor.” They’ll be landing on retail shelves at stores including Walmart, Albertsons, Kroger, and Safeway this month and will be on the menu at Traci Des Jardins’ fast-casual counter El Alto Junior within State Street Market.
  • Congrats to SF’s own Dominique Crenn, who will be awarded the 2021 Icon Award by World’s 50 Best Restaurants. The award celebrates “an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the restaurant industry,” per the organization, who lauded Crenn for promoting sustainability and inclusivity. Crenn has also partnered with Shake Shack on a limited-edition item: it’s a grilled cheese with Bohemian Creamery’s Boho Belle cheese, Bleu Belle Farm tomatoes, and onion jam on Tartine Bakery sourdough bread. Get one while they last starting at 11 a.m. on Thursday, September 9 at Shake Shack’s location in Cow Hollow on Fillmore Street.
  • Outer Richmond restaurant Cassava, famous for its Japanese breakfast spread, will move to a larger location in North Beach early next year the Chronicle reports. The owners don’t have enough staff to operate two locations right now, so the O.G. restaurant will turn into an incubator space, though they’re not against making it a second location eventually. [SF Chronicle]

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