The Best Restaurants Near Lake TahoeWhere to eat on the south shore, north shore, and in Truckee.
Most first-time visitors to the Lake Tahoe region are coming to town for a few things: skiing and snowboarding in the winter, or hiking, biking, paddleboarding, and falling in the lake in the summer. But it only takes one trip to realize that these small towns on the border of California and Nevada have a really solid food scene.
As is common in plenty of western ski towns, the majority of Tahoe’s restaurants focus on American food. Fortunately, they do it exceptionally well, often with equally impressive beer, whiskey, and cocktail menus. But you can still find places that serve things beyond burgers, beer, sandwiches, and pizza, like oversized cheese-covered German pretzels at a South Lake tavern, tapas on the north shore, and a creative Mediterranean food in Truckee that you shouldn’t miss.
While it’s certainly a busy tourist destination, Lake Tahoe isn’t really a late-night kind of place. Many restaurants close by 9pm, and you’ll need to head to a casino on the Nevada side of the lake to find a bar open past 11pm. But hey, this is Tahoe: you’ll want to wake up early to be first to the trailheads, anyway. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t call it Happy Hour: it’s après-ski (yes, even in July).
When it comes to ski town restaurants, pizza and beer are as common a pairing as shotskis and hot tubs. While Tahoe has plenty of options for a pizza, there’s no need to go anywhere other than Base Camp. They do interesting flavors like the Thai Chicken Curry, with sweet-and-spicy curry in lieu of tomato sauce, and every pie is served thin and crispy and always manages to hold plenty of toppings without falling apart.
Expect local beers on tap, frequent live music, and a dog-friendly outdoor patio. Even though it’s always noisy and busy, Base Camp is one of the more family-friendly dining options in South Lake Tahoe, thanks to its large outdoor space, complete with cornhole.
Head to Himmel Haus for après-ski action and an impressive list of German and Belgian beers. And good luck not ordering one of a giant pretzels, especially once you see one go by covered in sea salt, three-cheese fondue, and bacon-onion jam. The weekly trivia nights are lively, and the annual Oktoberfest celebration packs the indoor rooms and outdoor patio. While they have some tables for smaller groups, don’t expect much room for yourself, especially on winter weekends—it’s usually a bit easier to find space in the summer, thanks to Himmel Haus’s outdoor picnic tables and grassy lawn area.
Cafe Fiore is South Lake Tahoe’s long-standing date-night staple, so if you’re looking to actually bring the romance your lakeside summer getaway, call and book a table here. The small cafe is tucked away inside a decades-old log cabin and serves some of the best pasta and Italian classics in the area. The eggplant crepes stuffed with smoked salmon and sherry cream are a must-order, and the veal scaloppine with wild mushrooms, garlic, and tarragon is a decadent third or fourth course. When we say make a reservation, we mean it—they only take them by phone and should be made as far in advance as possible.
Conveniently located between popular El Dorado and Lakeside beaches in South Lake Tahoe is Empanash, a pop-up empanada bakery that opened its permanent location back in 2019. The Argentinian owners do a ton of sweet and savory versions (served with chimichurri, naturally), which includes options for vegetarians. Go at literally any point in the day for the spicy Henhouse with sauteed onions and their Popeye empanada with spinach, mozzarella, and mushrooms. Expect lines, especially on days when homemade Argentinian dulce de leche cookies, called alfajores, are on the menu.
After a long day of hiking, sometimes you just want something cheesy, salty, and juicy. Fortunately, California Burger is happy to meet that need, with creative burgers—you can’t go wrong with the Wild Turkey with ghost pepper-habanero cheese, or the caprese with balsamic and basil. You can make any burger vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free, and the cocktail menu has a ton of standouts and more than 200 whiskeys. You should also seriously consider ordering a Buttery Pecan adult milkshake with bourbon, butterscotch schnapps, vanilla ice cream, and pecans for an ideal après-ski treat.
Sprouts Cafe has been South Lake Tahoe’s go-to spot for kind-of-healthy quick eats for more than 30 years. Plus, the fact that it’s two blocks away from the beach makes it the place to be on summer weekends if you need a fast lunch without giving up your prime beachside parking spot. Sprouts focuses on organic and plant-based dishes, with tofu, tempeh, and legume-heavy bowls, salads, and wraps that vegans and vegetarians will love (though it does have a few turkey options). Service is usually quite speedy, even when there’s a line out the door.
It’s not easy to find restaurants on the north shore that take reservations, but Safe Leaf fills that void. Fortunately, it’s also reliably delicious, leaning heavily on food sourced from Tahoe’s local food co-op. The homemade sage and cheddar biscuits, served with a honey drizzle, are a particular standout, and the braised bacon tacos have been a brunch staple for years. It pairs well with a candied-bacon-loaded Bloody Mary, though the pineapple sage martini will never fail to make you feel elegant. Try and get a table on the pretty outdoor patio if you’re visiting in the summer.
Tapas may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re in an American mountain town, but Bite serves up some extremely delicious small plates. There’s usually a can’t-miss scallop dish on the menu (with stuff like red Thai curry, grits, and housemade kimchi), and a chef’s special daily tartar. Maybe it’s just that the tables are smaller and closer together, but it feels hipper and more intimate than most restaurants in Tahoe. The small-but-inventive cocktail menu helps, too.
Char Pit is a classic, straightforward, walk-in burger place, so don’t bother looking for a website, Instagram, or place to order online. Opened in 1962, Char Pit is a King’s Beach burger institution with a surprisingly good veggie option and fries that always have the perfect level of crunch. Like any good old-school burger joint, they also do oversized shakes and sundaes. While most people eat at the outdoor picnic tables, it’s also only a block from the beach, so you can get your burgers to go and have a low-key lakeside picnic.
It’d be easy to drive past Soule Domain, a small restaurant off the main drag located in the owner’s family’s original log cabin from the 1910s. But it’s worth seeking out while in Crystal Bay, despite the fact that it’s surrounded by shuttered casinos and construction projects. You can count on reliably delicious dishes like mango kiwi scallops, lobster wontons, and simple but perfectly prepared lamb chops with almonds and basil pesto butter. Make reservations as far in advance as possible, especially on summer Saturdays.
Plenty of restaurants in Tahoe City have views of the lake, but Christy Hill backs that up with some really incredible food. While nearly every seat has a fantastic view, it’s dishes like sweet corn risotto and Moroccan spiced lamb loin that make reservations here hard to come by. If you don’t want to drop $40 on entrees, head to the summer-only Christy Hill Sandbar for a glass of wine and light bites with a slightly smaller price tag. It’s directly behind the restaurant on the lakeside, with more of a boat-shoes-and-sun-visors vibe—there’s outdoor bar service and a food truck doing lobster rolls, charcuterie, and oysters.
There are tons of bakeries around Lake Tahoe, but the Swiss-style sweets from Tahoe House give it a leg up on the competition. They serve up fantastic pastries, cookies, and baked goods, plus great coffee and a small section dedicated to European gourmet goods. Tahoe House’s hazelnut-filled puff pastries called nussgipfel almost always sell out by mid-morning. Expect lines on weekends, but know you can order ahead for cakes, pastries, and to-go sandwiches before a day on the lake.
While Wolfdale’s may seem like any other high-end American restaurant from the outside, the menu is actually one of the most unique on the north shore. It’s seafood-heavy, with dishes ranging from Moroccan tagine to bao buns and ling cod with pineapple salsa. Wolfdale’s has both a raised patio and outdoor courtyard with space heaters in the summer, which doubles the restaurant’s seating and makes it a bit easier to snag a last-minute reservation.
You could easily confuse West Shore Market for a glorified convenience store, but it’s actually a sprawling market with organic produce and snacks sourced from California, plus a gourmet deli and excellent gelato counter. All sandwiches, scones, donuts, baguettes, croissants, and even granola are made from scratch, as are the winter-only soups. The deli counter closes mid-afternoon, but they do gelato until it runs out (which can also happen by mid-afternoon on busy summer weekends).
It may be because of its location in an otherwise-exclusive gated community, but The Sawyer is one of the best places for high-end, seasonal American cuisine without the usual large Truckee crowds. It’s a great choice year-round, but it’s especially enjoyable in the summer, thanks to a large patio area with fire pits overlooking the woods and mountains beyond.
The venue is small but most items can be customized, if, for example, you’d prefer the sriracha honey and house slaw of The Rocketbird sandwich added to your panko-crusted portobello on brioche (which you should). For those willing to drop a few million on a home in the community, you won’t need to book ahead—but those of us outside of the luxe Schaffer’s Mill need a reservation to make it past the neighborhood’s 24-hour gatehouse.
If Base Camp Pizza is South Lake Tahoe’s go-to pizza place, Old Town Tap is the Truckee equivalent. The restaurant serves up wood-fired pizzas with toppings like chili and truffle oils, castelvetrano olives, pickled peppers, and cured guanciale, plus shareables like cheese curds with wildflower blossom honey. Their Hooch menu also doesn’t disappoint, with cocktails that use less-common spirits (try the Finger Guns, with mezcal, Italian cappelletti aperitivo, and falernum).
While it’s easy to fill up on Old Town Tap’s can’t-miss pizzas, try to save room for dessert: the soft serve covered in olive oil and sea salt is the only way to end your meal here.
Stella’s dining room is a mix of indoor and outdoor space with an open-concept kitchen, and with only about 10 tables, you’ll likely need to relax outside with a glass of wine for a while if you arrive without a reservation. Do whatever it takes to secure a seat here, because the Mediterranean-meets-Latin menu has excellent dishes like toasted miso eggplant and fried cauliflower with candied pistachios, pink peppercorn, and anchovy chimichurri—the latter being one of the best things you can eat in Truckee. Just know the menu changes seasonally.
It’s hard not to notice Cottonwood as you’re driving through Truckee—the restaurant’s large cliffside patio and red neon sign dominate the views from downtown. You have two options: dinner on the outdoor patio under hanging string lights, or a more casual experience at the indoor bar, housed in a former ski lodge from 1928. The menu is the same in both places, but the patio area is better if you’re looking for a more romantic or elegant atmosphere.
No matter where you sit, you’ll be pleased with the menu, whether you’re sharing the mushroom medley veggie tacos at the bar or pairing your coriander-lime fettuccine with a glass of wine on the patio at sunset.
Most of Lake Tahoe’s fine-dining restaurants are classic American, but Restaurant Trokay—with its unexpected but well-executed menu pairings—is likely the most experimental (and expensive) of these options in the area. They do a seasonal, prix-fixe tasting menu, which blends dishes and ingredients from around the world into one cohesive menu. Recently, they paired shima aji from Japan with Maryland blue crabs and spaghetti topped with French truffles. Plus, Trokay’s room is like some kind of luxurious urban cave with stone walls and exposed industrial vents that somehow feels like the perfect setting for this kind of meal.