Seconds after I sat down at Johnson’s Steakhouse in Weaverville, a relish tray appeared with fresh, crisp carrots and celery, lovely onyx olives and perfectly-flavored, sweet but salty bread and butter green beans. The perfect start to a perfect meal. I sank into a cozy booth, was enveloped by azure walls, warmed by a corner fireplace and, long before food arrived, treated to a visual feast of artwork created by the owner, Meg Wilson. The graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago has returned to her roots in Northern California.
You’d never know it, but Meg and her mom Liz Johnson operate the restaurant by default. Meg, who has experience in restaurants but has never owned one, admits, “It came with the golf course.”
“What golf course?” one would ask, if you arrived under a star-filled Weaverville sky, as I did on my first visit.
But for the Johnsons, the Trinity Alps Golf Course is the main attraction, and as new owners, they have worked hard to make it that way, overcoming the course’s terrible reputation and years in limbo with various investors. A visit to the course during the day revealed a strata of scenery that includes landscaped greens, critter-filled ponds and mature trees, all surrounded by the evergreen-coated Trinity forest. The course is Eden, even if you just want to hang out on the golf cart, but it’s also the perfect spot for those who are serious about the sport.
Meg’s brothers, Wil and Tom Johnson, both professional golfers, have taken the wounded course under their wings and are transforming it. The Johnsons restored the irrigation system, sowed new fairways, modified bunkering, trimmed and removed hazardous trees, and altered some of the greens. All of the fairways have new turf, and the greens and tees have new sod.
Wil and Tom also constructed a new practice green and bunker. The putting green was seeded with new bentgrass, trees were replaced, the parking lot cleared and a new practice range is in the works. Tom, who will return to golfing professionally after recovering from a wrist injury, is close to opening a full-service pro shop to complement a new fleet of electric carts, parked in new cart barns. Wil plans to oversee the course as its superintendent.
Dave Hunt, a 52-year Weaverville resident, playing golf with a cast of other locals during my second visit to Trinity Alps, praised Trinity Alps Golf Course from both the perspective of an outdoorsman and avid golfer.
“Fast greens and good conditions,” was Dave’s golf perspective, but he was clearly enjoying the changes the Johnson family has made to improve the course and clubhouse.
Equal love was bestowed on the restaurant, a construction project that took a year and transformed what Meg describes as a “Chinese bordello” into a softly lit, ambient, 50s-reminiscent dining room. In addition to the restaurant, Johnson’s boasts a 150-capacity banquet facility and a cocktail lounge with a picture-window view of the first tee. Umbrellas, Adirondack chairs and a fire pit complete the bar’s adjacent outdoor patio. The course would be a great place for a summer wedding but it is also host to “Home to Home” golf tournaments, pool leagues and wine tastings.
But back to the food. The Johnson’s Steakhouse menu is a dizzying array of cuts of beef, pork, seafood and poultry. Now, I’m no Femme de Joie, but I know when I’ve had a cocktail with just the right ratios, followed by a crispy wedge salad oozing with rich homemade blue cheese (with a steak knife to cut it) and just-as-I-like-it, rare Angus prime rib. The piece de resistance was homemade blackberry pie and ice cream from scratch. In fact, all of the bread, sauces, dressings, soups and ice creams are made fresh daily.
The best part of the menu is the restaurant’s “split” policy that allows budget- and portion-conscious diners, for an additional $5, to share an entrée, but enjoy their own sides and soup or salad. This feature I found helpful when dining with my 11-year-old (who loves rice) and her Nana (who would knock you down for a good baked potato.) However, there was nothing portion-conscious about the “split” meal.
Great scenery, a professional golf course and mouth-watering food aside, it’s Meg and her professional but friendly staff and the restaurant’s sophisticated but casual atmosphere that make a meal at Johnson’s memorable. Meg admits, “It’s been an adventure.” I’m sure glad she embarked on it.
The Trinity Alps Golf Course and Johnson’s Steakhouse are at 160 Golf Course Road in Weaverville. For more information, visit trinityalpsgolf.com or call (530) 623-6209.
Adam Mankoski is a recent North State transplant who feels completely at home here. He enjoys experiencing and writing about the people, places and things that embody the free spirit of the State of Jefferson. He and his partner own HawkMan Studiosand are the creators of Redding’s 2nd Saturday ArtHop. Email your North State news and events to firstname.lastname@example.org.