[Truckee, CA — Local entrepreneur Robert Mincy is looking to cash in on Truckee’s booming economy by opening a family style buffet on the Eastern shore of Donner Lake. The idea came to him in 2013 while attending a Christmas dinner with his extended family at their Truckee log home. As always, Mr. Mincy was doing the cooking and his family was nagging him to “start his own restaurant.”
“The Robert can sure cook, and it’s a shame he just keeps all his recipes in the family,” said sister Jamie Mincy Stuart in a Gish Gallop telephone interview. “He can cook-up food to serve a starving army, I’ll tell you. And he’s really big on getting local ingredients.”
After months of nagging from his family, the idea of an all-you-can-eat buffet seemed to be what the local community was missing. But it had to be more than just a bunch of cafeteria trays and hair-netted servers. It needed a “local hook.”
“America doesn’t need another buffet restaurant. I mean Truckee does,” continued Mr. Mincy. “But Truckee needs a lot of things to bring it down to good-old-America-earth. Too many foofy burger joints and restaurants appealing to the “2nd home” crowd. I wanted to open a place that was all Truckee. That’s when the Donner Party thing clicked into my head.”
According to Mr. Mincy, he set out to work with park officials to secure a lot on the Eastern end of Donner Lake, made famous by the 1848/49 Donner Party. He promised park officials that his restaurant would, “stay true to the Donner Party” experience and be both a culinary destination, but also provide history to one of California’s most gruesome events.
“Yeah, I had to get the thing past the government,” said a reserved Mr. Mincy scratching his head. “They were not on board until I explained how we’d weave what I like to call “the Donner Party experience” into the dining room. So this not only included authentic dishes but also things like booths with certain themes.
According to Donner Party Family Buffet project manager Sarah Owens of Costa Mesa, CA, each booth will feature the story of one of the struggling Donner Party families and will be modeled after one of their make-shift and hastily made cabins built in 1848. Dining tables will be laminated with pictures of their struggles. As for the menu, Mr. Mincy is focusing on creating dishes that mimic what the Donner party dined on. The dishes will be recognizable to patrons, but will have creative names:
- No-hair Animal Hide Delight
- Shoe Leather Stew, w/ Shoestring Potatoes
- Grandpappy’s Liver and Onions
- Pine Needle Tea
- And something Mr. Mincy is hoping will be popular: A Huge Bowl of Ice
Mr. Mincy said he’s also planning live entertainment, something that he said finally convinced park officials to let him open his restaurant.
“I’m going to have the wait staff take ‘entertainment breaks’ like they do at Max’s Opera Cafe,” said a gleaming Mr. Mincy. “But instead of breaking into song, they’re going to pretend to have Cholera and Dysentery. They’ll wander around the restaurant pretending to almost vomit and pass out. They might beg for food. The lucky dysentery actors will get to feign crapping their pants on demand. We haven’t worked all the details yet. It should be great fun.”
The Donner Party Family Buffet is scheduled to open next summer for lunch and dinner.