JT Basque Bar & Dining Room
Photo © JT
With its roots stretching back well over a hundred years, the JT Basque Bar & Dining Room in downtown Gardnerville is a Carson Valley icon. You walk through the door to a bustling bar, the walls dotted with notable hats and posters and the ceiling plastered with dollar bills. (It's a JT good luck tradition. Ask the bartender.) That short highball glass with the dark liquid and lemon twist that seems to be in front of everyone is a Picon Punch, the mandatory start to a Basque dinner. Try one, but watch out for the effects of the second one.
Served in the traditional Basque 'family style', diners are treated to a parade of courses that delight the palate. The procession begins with a tureen of soup and bottle of wine and bread as soon as they are seated, followed by platters of salad, beans, a stew course and french fries, along with your choice of entree. Entree choices feature steak, lamb, shrimp and chicken, all prepared from traditional family recipes. (Just a suggestion. When asked, add the garlic.) The parade of Basque delicacies doesn't stop until the ice cream and coffee is served.
From start to finish, you'll be treated to more than a meal. You'll become one of the extended family members of JT customers.
Hours Open: Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm and 5pm-9pm. Sat 11:30am-2pm and 4:30pm-9:00pm. Closed Sunday.
Seasons Open: Open year round.
Price Style for this Establishment: A la carte lunch menu; DInners are all inclusive. ($10-$30)
It all started in 1896 when an early Gardnerville entrepreneur named Hans Nelson bought and moved the building from its original location in Virginia City, Nevada. Since then, the authentic Victorian building has served as a hotel, saloon and dining hall throughout its more than 100 year history in downtown Gardnerville. The Lekumberry family has restored the building’s facade to look as it did over 100 years ago.
Leaving his homeland on the French side of the Basque Pyrenees mountains in 1947, Jean Lekumberry immigrated to Gardnerville at age 22. He arrives with $32 in his pocket. He found work as a sheepherder and his brother Pete soon followed. On April Fool’s Day of 1960, the two immigrant brothers along with Jean’s wife Shirley, purchased the J.T. The Lekumberrys were proud to continue the traditions of the established sheepherder hotel, bar and dining room. Founded in 1955 by the Jaunsaras and the Trounday families, the Lekumberrys kept the name that highlighted the previous owners’ initials: “J. T.”
The Lekumberry brothers were delighted to move on from sheep herding and join the other Basque innkeepers in downtown Gardnerville. Jean tended bar, “Uncle Pete” cooked up the hearty family-style meals, and Shirley ran the dining room and the upstairs hotel. In those days there was one seating for lunch and one seating for dinner. At 12 noon and at 6:00 p.m. sharp, the dinner bell rang and the sheep herder boarders, ranch hands and town folk took their seats at the long tables and passed the food family-style. The price of the multi-course meal (similar to the one served today) was a whopping $1.25 for lunch and $1.50 for dinner. A Picon Punch set you back 50 cents!
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the busy bar and dining room, Jean and Shirley raised their three kids Robert, Marie Louise and J.B. Here the next generation learned the value of hard work and every aspect of the family business, and you'll find them in the restaurant every day, keeping that tradition alive.
In addition to working the restaurant, the Lekumberry family also raises beef and vegetables in the Carson Valley, producing natural grass-fed beef and local produce for their kitchen. The ranch’s grass-fed beef is all natural, free of antibiotics and growth stimulants. They also feature natural cuts of meat from neighboring Carson Valley ranches. JT's kitchen is committed to purchasing local products whenever possible, including Winnemucca potatoes and Smith Valley onions. They serve Pure American lamb from Superior Products and are committed to bringing you the most natural meat products available.