Tri-tip a little tenderness

Jamie Swing, son of T's owners Chuck and Terri, with a platter of chicken, tri-tip, a burrito, and chips and salsa.

Jamie Swing, son of T's owners Chuck and Terri, with a platter of chicken, tri-tip, a burrito, and chips and salsa.

Photo/Allison Young

T’s Mesquite Rotisserie is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A drive to Lake Tahoe is a great way to take in some beautiful scenery while filling the lungs with fresh mountain air. But at some point, you’re going to get hungry and perhaps ask a local, “Where’s the best place for lunch?” If you’re anywhere near Incline Village, I guarantee more than one person will tell you T’s Mesquite Rotisserie is where it’s at.

The kitchen is small and open, dominated by the namesake rotisserie with its rotating enticement of mesquite-smoked tri-tip roasts and whole chickens on display. The spartan furnishings provide indoor seating for perhaps 30, with patio seating as weather permits. We felt lucky to get a table as the room filled up, which might partially account for the heavy traffic of take-out orders leaving the kitchen. Most impressive was how well the team worked together, putting out made-to-order fresh food at a pace that would make most fast food operators jealous.

You can order a plate of slow-roasted meat with a choice of sides and either tortillas or garlic bread, or you can choose a meat to be the star ingredient in your choice of sandwich, burrito, tostada, quesadilla or tacos. Burritos, tacos and tostadas can be ordered without meat for the herbivore in your group, doubling up on all the other ingredients including fresh guacamole.

T’s tri-tip is marinated with soy sauce, lime juice, white wine, garlic, and a blend of herbs and spices. The chicken is prepared with either the soy lime marinade, or a Yucatan-style mix of citrus and pineapple juices followed by a rub of mild chilis and spices before roasting. Pork is also an option, prepared in what appeared to be carnitas style.

We chose to focus on the meat with a pair of combo meals ($10.95), each featuring a couple of large slices of tri-tip, a chicken breast with wing attached, and servings of black beans, cole slaw, potato salad and cucumber salad. The latter was my wife’s favorite, with peel-on slices of cucumber and thin-sliced red onion marinated with a tangy, sweet vinegar dressing. The beans were beans—nothing fancy, just your basic stick-to-your-ribs legumes that do just fine on the side or stuffed in a burrito. The coleslaw was a bit better than average, with just enough spice to balance the sweet. I prefer a much more savory potato salad than what was served, but I know there are plenty of folks who like it on the sweet side. This example reminded me of the packaged stuff they sell at supermarkets.

Although we ordered one plate with soy lime chicken and the other with Yucatan-style, both plates were served with the soy lime variety. Either that, or there’s very little difference in flavor and appearance between the two. I usually skip most of the skin on roasted chicken, but this stuff was crisp and tasty enough to be worthwhile. The meat itself was a bit dry, but the addition of some medium-heat cilantro and lime salsa took care of that. The hot variant was quite a bit hotter. Unless you have my taste for heat, use with caution.

I grill plenty of tri-tip at home, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time developing my own marinades. I tend to be a bit judgy when tasting examples from other kitchens. So believe me when I tell you that T’s tri-tip is completely worth the trip. It’s tender and juicy, with just enough smoke and a marinade char that melts in your mouth. Absolutely perfect.

Not to leave any meat untasted, we split a giant pork quesadilla cut into four pieces with two wrapped in foil, perhaps both to keep them warm and to be ready for the moment when you realize you can’t eat another bite ($6.95). The pork was tender and tasty, lightly seasoned with a ton of melted cheese. I took most of it home and enjoyed it as a delicious late night snack.