California may bring to mind images of avocado toast and craft IPAs, but in Lake Tahoe, you can expect so much more from the area's thriving culinary scene. You'll find cuisine to suit every palate, but bring your wallet; even a basic burger at the cheapest restaurant costs close to $10 on the North Shore. The South Shore, on the other hand, has a greater range of options at different price points.
You’ll want to make reservations at least a day or two in advance for some of the area’s higher-end restaurants in the busy summer and winter seasons—but during off-peak months (April, May, October, and November), you might be able to walk in and grab a table anytime. Although some restaurants in Lake Tahoe take reservations, most do not. If you have to wait for a table to open up, feel free to order a cocktail or glass of wine while admiring the lake or mountain views.
South Lake Tahoe and Stateline
South Lake Tahoe, Calif. and neighboring Stateline, Nev. together make up the largest and busiest area around Lake Tahoe—and it has the dining scene to match. It’s also the best for cheap eats, though some of the casinos in Stateline have high-end options to rival anything in North Lake Tahoe.
- Taqueria Jimenez: This authentic taco shop is incredibly tasty, affordable, and just a quick walk from the base of the Heavenly Mountain gondola. Their street-style tacos hit the spot after a long day of skiing.
- Sprouts: Organic, healthy, and loaded with vegetarian options, Sprouts has a massive menu of bowls, wraps, salads, and smoothies.
- Edgewood Restaurant: Built over two levels, every table at this luxurious Edgewood Resort restaurant has a great view of the lake. Book a table just before sunset, or buy tickets in advance for one of their four-course, farm-to-table dinners.
Tahoe City’s cobblestone sidewalks and European-style buildings are as inviting as can be, and so are the restaurants; it’s positively booming with fantastic options.
- Christy Hill: This is one of the premier restaurants in Tahoe City. With a small lakefront garden and bar, it's the perfect place to sip on a glass of wine while you wait for a table.
- River Grill: River Grill has a huge outdoor patio along the Truckee River. Outdoor heaters, live music, and great happy hour specials make this a popular spot year-round.
- Fire Sign Cafe: Ask any local in Tahoe where they like to go for breakfast and you’ll get a few different answers—but it’s a safe bet at least a few of those answers will be “Fire Sign Cafe.” Breakfast is available all day, but no matter what time you get there, be prepared to wait for a table.
Truckee is the largest town on the North Shore. With a population of approximately 12,000, the number of people in town can balloon to 50,000 or more during peak ski season. Be sure to make reservations if you want to get a table on a Saturday night or during a holiday weekend.
- Pianeta: Arguably the best Italian food in Truckee, Pianeta is set in a historical brick building. Most tables are designed for two, making it an excellent date night choice. Entrées start at $20.
- Restaurant Trokay: For a tasting menu to rival any popular city restaurant, book a table at the trendy Restaurant Trokay. The chefs are masters at gastronomy, creating dishes of artwork that are just as beautiful as they are tasty.
- Drunken Monkey: A few miles away from downtown Truckee, Drunken Monkey has surprisingly good sushi as well as an extensive menu of other Japanese and Asian favorites.
- The Station: This small restaurant is a laid-back locals favorite that serves healthy food like quinoa and veggie bowls, organic sandwiches, and daily specials. The Station is one of the cheapest places in town for tasty food and a cold beer.
Kings Beach was one of the first areas developed along the lake and as a result, it has a great mix of decades-old establishments and new beachside options.
- Caliente: If you’re in the mood for Mexican, Caliente is your spot. The rooftop bar is the perfect spot for a sunset Chupacabra, the restaurant’s signature tequila cocktail.
- Char-Pit: Expect a wait any time of day at this old-school grill, which has limited indoor and outdoor seating. There’s a reason this affordable restaurant has rave reviews from carnivores and vegetarians alike.
- Soule Domain: This semi-hidden restaurant is in Crystal Bay, just a few minutes from Kings Beach. Every item on the gourmet menu is delicious, but because it’s housed in a wood cabin from the 1930s, it’s small. You’ll always need reservations.
Incline Village has a huge amount of restaurants considering its small size. Any of the premier lakefront restaurants will set you back a pretty penny, but there are plenty of affordable breweries, too.
- Lone Eagle Grille: With a lakefront firepit, this high-end restaurant's locally sourced dishes and seasonally changing cocktail list warrant its rave reviews.
- Brewforia: If you love beer, head to Brewforia. The simple space has beers on tap plus more than 500 cans in the beer cases. The food is pretty tasty, too.
- Bite: Choose from a large tapas and wine menu at Bite. Tapas are affordable, but you’ll want to order two or three per person.
Tahoe is dotted with massive ski resorts, many of which have their own villages and base lodges. If you’re hitting the slopes, check out these options for a little après-ski action.
- Plumpjack (Squaw Valley): This is the place to be on winter afternoons. The inviting bar is always busy and the dining room menu is loaded with creative twists on American staples, including chicken pot pie with rutabaga, baby turnips, and pearl onions.
- Le Chamois (Squaw Valley): Made famous by the 1980s ski movie “Hotdog,” the large courtyard is packed with skiers and riders recalling their best lines. Plus, the outdoor bar is open year-round.
- West Shore Cafe (Homewood): Across the street from Homewood Resort is this lakefront dining room. The menu is almost entirely locally sourced and the long pier is the perfect spot for a mini Tahoe photoshoot. (Expensive)
- Manzanita (Northstar California): Head to Manzanita, the signature restaurant at the slope-side Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe (pictured above). If you like your ski trips with a side of luxury, it’ll be the highlight of your Tahoe getaway. (Expensive)
- Big Water Grille (Diamond Peak): Diamond Peak is a small resort, but it has amazing views of the lake. Fortunately, those same views are offered from Big Water Grille, at the far end of the resort’s parking lot. Expect a large wine list and hearty American favorites (Expensive).