The historical Bee-Bennett House is one of the oldest surviving Gold Rush era structures in Placerville. Constructed in 1853, it is the only building called out in the original town description for Placerville.
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As such, the Bee-Bennett house has seen many changes in Placerville’s history — good times and the rough patches as well. Somehow it has always pulled through. The structure has lived many lives: as a private residence, as an Elks Lodge and now as an elegant restaurant.
In 2002 Sequoia Restaurant reopened the doors of this historical building to the community. Originally conceived as a “destination venue,” the owners quickly realized that Sequoia would also need to appeal to the local community, if it was to become a commercial success.
“I was brought on board in 2003 as a consultant,” said David Bagley, general manager and co-owner of Sequoia. “One of the secrets to success is to adapt to the needs of the consumer.”
Sequoia Restaurant has always been known for award-winning cuisine, a timeless atmosphere, elegant settings, an outstanding regional wine list and as a place to celebrate a joyous occasion or have a business conference.
The menu remains as excellent as ever, but Bagley has made a few changes in response to guest needs in this economy.
“We’ve returned to a menu concept from the 1950s,” he said. “That involves offering meals as an entrée or a la carte.”
Bagley also expanded the menu. Guests have more choices to choose from that are made from a select list of ingredients that Sequoia can have fresh and on hand continuously.
“This gives them more price points,” he said. “For example, prices on the menu in 2007 ranged from $17 to $35. Now, our menu prices range from $10 to $35.”
The most popular item on the menu remains the Steak Diane: medallions of filet mignon flambéed tableside and served with Dijon mustard, mushrooms, demi-glace and brandy, potato gratin and winter vegetables ($32 – entrée, $35 – full dinner).
A glance at Sequoia’s menu shows a generous selection of entrees and full dinner selections of American ranch beef, poultry, seafood and pasta. All entrees are served with accompaniments — choice of house salad or soup of the day, house-made artisan breads and seasoned butter.
The children’s menu offers a choice of linguine, burger with cheese, grilled cheese sandwich or chicken strips — all for $5.95 and served with a beverage, bread and butter.
When one considers the quality of the menu, the skill in preparing the food and the elegance of the setting, Sequoia actually comes in as a very good value for that special brunch, lunch or evening out.
“We continue to make everything entirely from scratch,” Bagley said. “We don’t buy anything that is pre-made. That is a rarity today. We serve natural food, and keep it local as much as possible.”
In addition to being available for special events, the chefs at Sequoia will also cook on request. All that is necessary is to call the restaurant ahead to schedule this special service.
“If we have the time, the ingredients and the talent and ability (that may be needed for a highly specialized entrée), we will give you great service,” Bagley said. “No question. It is considered a high compliment of a chef’s skill to be asked to cook on request. Cooking is both an art and a science — you become one with the food. We welcome the challenge.”
One final secret to success at Sequoia is give back to the community that supports you. The restaurant supports the efforts of the Rotary Club of Placerville and other community nonprofits.
“It just makes sense,” Bagley said. “These people give so much to the community. It is a pleasure to help them in their efforts.”
Sequoia is located at 645 Bee St. in Placerville. Sunday brunch is served from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch is available on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Dinner is available on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sequoia is closed Mondays, and Christmas, New Year’s and Independence days.