The historic Mountain House has reopened with new owners and a ‘country coastal cuisine’ concept.
The Mountain House has stood atop Skyline Boulevard for the past century, serving as a gathering place for adventurers, loggers and locals in the redwood forests of Kings Mountain near Woodside. Since the early 1900s it has served a range of community functions, first as the Red Pump, a water pump station for homesteaders, then as Kings Mountain Rendezvous, a frontier saloon and likely a brothel, according to chef Will Roberts. It later became Alex’s Mountain House before Alex’s was dropped and the site became a restaurant in the 1980s. (It also served as the setting of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” music video in the 1990s).
A year after owners Jerry and Lorraine Olson retired and closed the restaurant, three new chefs have teamed up to bring a new concept to the space, offering “country coastal cuisine” and cocktails with forest views. During the Olsons’ ownership, the restaurant’s menu featured steak, seafood and pasta dishes and game meat like elk and venison.
Chefs Roberts, Dmitry Elperin and George Paleologos, who have worked together in different capacities as chefs at The Village Pub in Woodside and Dio Deka in Los Gatos, have teamed up to bring the restaurant back, says Roberts. The former owners planned to retire and wanted to pass the location to someone who would continue to operate it as a restaurant, he says.
“We’re really grateful to be able to slip into a space that has such a history,” Roberts says, calling it a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. “I’m honored and grateful we’re able to do this.”
The new restaurant draws upon Roberts’ own background as an outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing with his dad, he says. The restaurant’s decor includes taxidermy pieces from his dad’s collection in honor of his father, who died in 2021.
“The way I even got into food was the fact that I saw from a pretty early age that this is where food comes from, the work and blood that is involved in how we eat,” Roberts says.
He says he gets that the taxidermy may not resonate with everybody, but adds, “It’s not so much about being macho… it’s more about an honor to the animal.”
“We’re a little disconnected from where food comes from,” he says.
In describing the menu as “country coastal cuisine,” he says the restaurant’s proximity to the coast and the mountains allows them to offer high-quality fish, whether freshwater, saltwater or shellfish, alongside meat dishes like burgers, short ribs, pork, chicken and venison. With their relatively rural location, they’re also aiming to cultivate a more casual and unpretentious atmosphere. The bar is envisioned as a watering hole for locals and visitors alike, while the dining room will be more of a culinary destination – minus the pretension.
“I want people to feel like they can go for a hike and come in and sit at the bar,” he says.
But giving up the pretension doesn’t mean sacrificing precision in their service, he adds.
“We want to provide good-quality food done really well. We’re not looking to break the mold on gastronomic ingenuity,” he says. “(We offer) comforting, nice takes on some classics, with some twists.”
The aim is to create something similar to what Roberts has experienced in his travels abroad. As a visitor to rural Ireland, he says, he didn’t know what to expect, but it was a great surprise to stop at a pub in the middle of the country and be served a simply prepared but “really, really good” steak.
“Touches of provincial France and Italy can all be incorporated into that,” he adds.
An example of what they’re aiming for is the southern fried quail on the menu, which is served with a buttermilk biscuit, farm egg and a mushroom and sausage gravy.
“We take something classic and something regional America and try to make it better,” he says.
Another menu highlight is the shareable sourdough bread served with whipped butter, which uses a recipe chef Elperin has refined for years, Roberts says. Other dishes include a roasted venison loin served with vanilla-scented parsnip puree and lingonberry sauce or the crispy Mt. Lassen trout, served with olive oil crushed potatoes, pickled mustard seeds and Brussels sprouts. The dessert menu includes banana coconut cream pie; a dark chocolate brownie sundae served with bourbon, caramel and vanilla bean ice cream; and apple cider donuts with maple crème anglaise.
The cocktail menu is inspired by historical figures, with drinks called the Churchill, Bonnie Parker and Ms. Roosevelt, plus the Fireside Chat, 22 Short and Sierra Madre. The wine menu represents new and Old World selections along with some private non-listed wines they’ll break out as they get more settled in, Roberts says.
The restaurant is currently open for dinner service in the bar room, which has about 36 seats, from 5-9 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Reservations are recommended for dinner and can be made via OpenTable or by calling 650-851-8541, while the bar is first-come, first-served.
The Mountain House, 13808 Skyline Blvd., Woodside; 650-851-8541, Instagram: @themtnhse.