While Lake Tahoe is known for the majestic natural beauty of the lake silhouetted by mountains, it’s also a prime destination for local foods and flavors.
Whether you choose to visit North Lake Tahoe or South Lake Tahoe -- I recommend both -- know that locals say there are different vibes to the two areas. North Lake Tahoe is more laid back and relaxing while South Lake Tahoe has more casinos and nightlife. Whichever you choose, you’ll find restaurants, many with lakeside views, serving local favorites and fine dining options.
On a recent press tour of the area, I was invited to sample several of the restaurants in both North and South Lake Tahoe. Here are my recommendations.
North Lake Tahoe Restaurants
Lone Eagle Grille
My first meal in North Tahoe was at Lone Eagle Grille. As soon as I walked through the entrance I was wowed by the scenery -- both inside the restaurant and outside on the patio facing the lake. Outdoors, there’s a fire pit to keep you warm when the air starts to chill so you can relax and watch the sun set over the water. The inside of Lone Eagle Grille is just as splendid, with an enchanting view from above the dining room, where you’ll first glimpse the heavy wooden beams, custom-made wood tables, and a two-story stone fireplace.
The menu focuses on local ingredients that leverage the flavors of the season. The restaurant is known for its expertly paired game meats, bison, seafood, and creative vegetarian options, plus the Baked Tahoe, a magnificent display with buckwheat brownie and French vanilla ice cream ensconced in a tower of torched meringue surrounded by chocolate sauce.
My companion and I started with the pan-fried Spanish octopus and the ahi tuna poke. For my main course, I relished in the flavor of the cabernet-braised Angus beef short rib served atop a truffle potato puree. The beef was tender and savory; the truffle flavor in the potato puree wasn’t overwhelming, but enough to taste the musky flavor of the prized truffles.
A woman I met in North Tahoe recommended Lanza’s. She told me, “It is one of my personal favorites. This place has amazing, authentic Italian food -- the best comfort foods and in a very homey, relaxed atmosphere.”
You’ll find large portions of traditional Italian dishes like chicken marsala served with salad and bread. A favorite is the Lanza’s Sampler, which comes with two meat-filled lumaconi shells and two ricotta-stuffed cheese shells on penne pasta with a choice of meat or marinara sauce all baked with a mozzarella cheese crust.
A TripAdvisor reviewer wrote, “Lanza’s restaurant is always on our go-to list every visit to Tahoe. Service was great, portions are large, good fresh bread, great large side salads! It was awesome. We come to Lake Tahoe every year for a month or more, [and] we would not miss Lanza’s.”
Jason’s Beachside Grille
Also in North Lake Tahoe, Jason's Beachside Grille has another gorgeous view of the lake coupled with live music on the weekends. It’s a family-friendly restaurant and a great spot for lunch or dinner. You’ll find classic American fare like prime rib, chicken and salmon dishes, hamburgers, soups, and sandwiches.
You may want to start with the grilled artichoke -- a whole artichoke marinated in garlic, basil, and olive oil, then grilled and served with roasted garlic aioli. Then enjoy a dinner of prime rib, salmon, or the coconut halibut, a Pacific Northwest halibut breaded with panko and coconut and lightly fried, then served with pineapple-mango chutney.
Jake’s On The Lake
Lake views are definitely a North Lake Tahoe-restaurant theme, and Jake's on the Lake is no exception. This family-owned restaurant, which has been in operation since 1978, puts its own spin on local serving “mountain aloha” options of quality meats, seafood, and seasonal produce inspired by Californian and Hawaiian flavors.
Start with the warm brie wedge or an apple walnut salad, then enjoy one of their specialties like the udon noodle bowl or the steak bites "pupu style," with mushroom bacon jus, truffle oil, garlic mash, and parmesan herbs.
One reviewer on TripAdvisor said, “We had the charcuterie platter for an appetizer, my wife had the most tender and delicious short ribs, which were fork cut-able and the best she ever had. I had the most wonderful pork chop dinner, with a high pork chop and roasted vegetables. Good to know that some places have maintained their quality over the years.”
South Lake Tahoe Restaurants
Zephyr Cove Restaurant
While Zephyr Cove Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I was lucky enough to sample a variety of breakfast items during my visit. Imagine warm and savory biscuits and gravy that cover an entire plate with no shortage of sausage or gravy, smoked salmon eggs benedict, and huevos rancheros, each light yet flavorful and filling.
The restaurant is located at the Zephyr Cove Resort, where guests can stay across the street in RV or tent camping areas or rent one of the lakeside cabins. The dining room features a large stone fireplace and windows on three sides that afford diners lake and mountain views.
Zephyr Cove Restaurant has been voted “South Shore’s Best” several times.
Also located at Zephyr Cove, Toast Tahoe is a family-owned restaurant serving fresh food in a relaxing atmosphere. The family moved from Japan in 2014 to open this successful restaurant serving fusion cuisine.
Their aim is to serve the freshest and finest ingredients -- organic when possible. All of the sauces, desserts, dressings, and pizza dough are made from scratch. There’s also a full-service bar serving specialty craft cocktails, plus more than 60 bottles of wine and sake to pair with their gourmet fusion cuisine.
One Yelp reviewer wrote, “Tucked in off Highway 50, this spot was definitely a hidden gem (as described on the website). The owner has infused her Japanese heritage with an American menu to create diverse menu offerings.”
Located inside the warm and inviting Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe -- winner of Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best” in 2018 and voted 2019 Hotel of the Year, USA and Canada -- The Bistro is one of three on-site restaurants. The hotel’s awards are even more impressive considering they just opened in 2017. This $100 million, LEED-designed luxury hotel is the perfect setting for a restaurant like The Bistro.
During my visit, I settled into a window seat with a view of the lake at sunset. I started with the bibb salad, which included bibb lettuce, apples, bacon, and blue cheese. It was fresh and flavorful and I could have made a meal of it. Instead, I wanted to try the pork chop dinner served with fingerling potatoes atop an artichoke puree. The large, bone-in pork chop was a treat with a crispy yet slightly sweet honey glaze. The artichoke puree added the right amount of savory to the sweetness and complimented the potatoes perfectly.
A legendary restaurant with amazing Lake Tahoe views, Chart House is known for its seafood and gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe's sunsets. Nestled in the trees of a hilltop, you’ll enjoy an exquisite view of Lake Tahoe that you won’t find anywhere else.
Chart House’s goal is to infuse local flavors with a touch of the unexpected, creating what they believe is “one of the most creative seafood menus around.” The dishes are definitely unique. Try the Indian Summer Shrimp + Scallops with an edamame puree, roasted red pepper oil, butternut squash, and basmati rice.
Tahoe Daily Tribune’s “25th Annual Best of Tahoe 2019” rated Chart House number one in the Appetizers and Happy Hour categories and second place for Best Dinner.
Evans American Gourmet Cafe
Step inside a vintage Tahoe cabin surrounded by pine trees to find Evans American Gourmet Cafe. This top Zagat-rated establishment in the Sierras is acclaimed as South Tahoe’s finest restaurant. Evans serves fine dining options like sauteed veal sweetbreads over polenta savarin with seasoned mushrooms and capers in a lemon brown butter with balsamic reduction. Or try the roast quail stuffed with crispy duck sausage, cranberries, and pine nuts on a bed of arugula and drizzled with honey and pomegranate.
In addition to their numerous accolades, Evans is listed as the number one restaurant in South Lake Tahoe on TripAdvisor. One reviewer wrote “Definitely make reservations. This is a house converted to a restaurant. It is not a big place and they can only accommodate so many people. The food was wonderful. The chefs are crazy amazing. Save room for dessert.”