The Soule Domain proudly uses natural, free range, and organic meats and poultry whenever possible. Our local, seasonal produce offers the highest quality of ingredients in our dishes, which are prepared with love and respect.
The Soule Domain’s upscale, intimate restaurant deliciously combines style & romance in the cozy dining room. “I want my guests to walk away feeling like they had a complete experience—full of good food at a good price, having had a good time.”
In a place where businesses rise and fall with the uncertain tides of the tourism industry, the Soule Domain is a unique success story. And the man at the center of this story is no less unique.
Lifetime resident of Lake Tahoe, Charlie Soule has faced the odds to follow his dream of providing a distinctive fine dining experience in his hometown. After graduating from North Lake Tahoe High School, Charlie embarked upon his culinary journey washing dishes and making salads in Tahoe City and cut his teeth in various upscale eateries in the area. Charlie left Tahoe due to the brief distraction of attending college. He soon realized that Tahoe’s beaches and ski slopes were calling him home, and cooking was his ticket back.
Charlie worked hard in some of Tahoe’s finest eating establishments honing the skills he now employs on a nightly basis, but he didn’t feel he was getting anywhere. That changed in 1985, when opportunity knocked, or rather rang. The phone. Soule’s uncle, impressed by his exceptional work at orchestrating his Mom’s 50th birthday dinner party, had called to ask Charlie if he thought he was ready to take off on his own. Charlie graciously accepted the offer, and the Soule Domain (or simply “the Soule”) was born in the small log cabin behind the Tahoe Biltmore, where it still stands. “My uncle and aunt gave me the most wonderful opportunity in my life. And I’ve had fabulous help from the start.”
Soule had confidence that whatever he lacked in expertise and business savvy, he could compensate for with his fiery passion for excellent food, his driving ambition, and sheer force of will. Charlie threw everything he had into his dream—literally. Moving in above the restaurant, Charlie cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two years, giving explicit form to his lifelong whatever it takes to do it and do it well work ethic.
How Charlie made it through that two-yearlong blur of fiery saute pans and flashing chef knives is anyone’s guess, but once he’d established the Soule Domain as a gastronomic real deal and a legitimate business (no mean feat in the unforgiving seasonally oriented Tahoe economy), he began to plot the course for the restaurant’s next twenty years.
In the beginning, the Soule’s culinary signature was country French. Once Charlie decided to focus solely on dinner, though, Mediterranean and Asian Pacific rim flavors began to find their way onto the menu. Charlie understands and embraces the eclectic and diffuse elements that fuel the kitchens of the most daring and successful chefs, and when he gets some time off, he pores over the food sections of city papers or visits the city to see for himself what’s happening. “Everything is a learning experience and I think that’s what keeps us unique. Cooking is a challenge, it’s competitive,” says Soule. Not that that bothers him: “I love the quickness and I love the freshness. I love the heat.” A visit to the Soule Domain provides ample proof of that, where on a given night, one may find oneself seamlessly traveling from a ranch kitchen in Guadalajara, Mexico to an open-air market in Morocco, to a tea and fish shop in Bangkok. (Dessert will be served in Rome, Paris, or New York.)
He follows trends in the nutritional world as well: “Years ago, we weren’t really educated on the processing of ingredients or additives in the food we were buying. Now, if my suppliers can’t get me fresh, organically grown products, I’ll search them out. It may cost more, but that’s what I want to serve.”
Ten years into his twenty-one year run, Charlie’s younger brother Stephen arrived to take control of the floor as manager and head waiter. Steve’s quick wit, easy warmth, and consummate professionalism as the face of the Soule have endeared him to regulars. His addition to the roster has only increased the unforgettable appeal of an evening spent at the Soule Domain. “I asked him to join me. He deserves a lot of the credit,” says Charlie. “We share the responsibilities—we get along well.” And they do their job well. I.e., providing a superb dining experience with exceptional food and service. The high caliber of expertise and plain human warmth are also reflected in the people who work for Charlie and Steve.
Charlie explains his business model succinctly: “I want my guests to walk away feeling like they had a complete experience—full of good food at a good price, having had a good time.”
Perhaps that is why the Soule Domain has been voted the “Best Place to Take a Date” by the North Tahoe Truckee Action Guide for thirteen years running. Warm and cozy with a fire burning in the winter, open and airy with the Dutch door ajar and ceiling fans lazily spinning in the summer, tasteful cool jazz or classical music quietly playing as an aural backdrop, an evening with that special someone at the Soule is always romantic. The lighting is subdued, but not dark. The fresh flowers on each table are an elegant accent. Steve is a wizard at helping you to decide on the perfect wine from the restaurant’s surprisingly extensive fine wine list, and the servers have an uncanny ability to sense when they’re needed and when you’d like to be left alone with your date.
The log cabin is small and charming, but inside, it doesn’t feel stuffy. With exposed rafters under a high roof, there is a feeling of spaciousness combined with the intimacy of the cabin’s size. The decor is plain and understated, yet distinctive. Soule family artifacts and heirlooms abound, along with vintage photographs from around the lake. It all lends itself to an alluring atmosphere which complements the excellent food and service.
The essence of what the Soule Domain is about is the nightly endeavor of transcending the ordinary to make the taste buds sing, to make the heart happy, and to make customers friends. After twenty-one years of rising to this challenge and meeting it with self-assured deftness, it appears that Charlie has proven that his uncle knew a sure thing when he saw it.
I am proud to call myself a chef, and even more thrilled that I still cook on the line 5 nights a week. My station is sauté, and yes the pans are still flying, the flames are jumping, and no matter what your skin color the burns will hurt like hell.
Yes, we source the best ingredients within a reasonable price range, but the real excitement for me is in the teamwork and production every night. We know our challenges, but cooking just as fast as you can, staying caught up on our tickets, don’t make a mistake that you have to go backwards to fix, don’t fall behind, cook with detail, efficient precision! Try to have a perfect night though its close to impossible, make sure every plate is arranged properly, respect the ingredients.
When I started cooking in the late ‘70s I enjoyed the competitive nature of it and if you ever read Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential that explains everything about my early career. My favorite meal is anything that is executed the way it is planned, prepared with conviction, love and passion. I have been blessed with fantastic crews over my 4 decades of ownership, but none as solid as the people in the kitchen I have now who have raised the roof on their level of effort, loving their families, meanwhile sacrificing holidays and weekends because they love to cook, Thank You!
Coordinating this effort among not just my 3 kitchen partners but with the floor staff is my job, we are all putting max effort into an experience that will please our customers, and I get to feel like Joe Montana winning Super Bowl’s on most nights, that’s right, we are winning championships!
Every night comes to an end and no matter how difficult the night may have been our staff knows that we love and respect them just the same as before, and will start the next day full of fresh anticipation.
Another of my great joys at work has been building the wine list, traveling to our beautiful wine country and learning how much work goes into every bottle, searching out producers who share my beliefs and mirror our small business plan, with respect to the environment and to their people…plus who doesn’t love a great bottle of Pinot?
My wife Rachelle gets to work full time psychiatric listening to me trying to make decisions, analyze nights, food, staffing, service, budget, maintenance, you name it she’s heard about, offered her heart felt advice, and deserves a lot of credit for our success & my well-being.
It has been my blessing to work with my brother Steve for the last 25 years, all the successes we’ve shared, the sweat, emotion, toil, as well as the disappointments…its manual labor , hard work , we’ve done it together and I am a lucky man.
My family has been my support group from the very beginning, the rock if you will. My parents, aunties, uncles, cousins, step kids, & kings beach friends have all encouraged me to be who I am, been there for me through thick and thin, never doubting or questioning, just family love (and they like good food).
This is my story and I’m sticking to it. I think that after 33 years of being a chef/owner we are pretty damn good at what we do, because, that’s what we do. We’re all getting older & we are not sure how long we will continue to do this.
“Hello! I’m Charlie’s brother, Steve. As head waiter, and on behalf of the staff, I want to welcome you to The Soule Domain. We think you’ll love your experience with us. We’re proud of everything we do. So come have a nice night out. Enjoy!”
Robert Edminister | Wood Carver & Cathy McClelland | Original Artwork