10Best Restaurants and Cafes in Lake Tahoe: From Casual to Elegant



Lake Tahoe has a great mix of both casual and elegant restaurants. Whether it's a place to pop the question or to celebrate a special occasion, you can find a great table with a fantastic view of the lake at Christy Hill in Tahoe City or the darling Cafe Fiore–named one of the top places to kiss in California. Special occasions call for reservations at the award-winning Stella at the Cedar House Hotel or the Zagat rated Soule Domain.

If you just want to keep your dinner low key, but cozy after a day out in the snow, visit Pianeta for their rustic Italian food or Burger Me for their organic burger and great lemonade. Both of these restaurants are in the foodie capital of Truckee, California. If you want another nice view of the railroad town, visit the Cottonwood on the hill above Truckee.

For breakfast (or a hangover cure) head to the Fire Sign Cafe in between Tahoe City and Homewood for their omelets and wonderful baked goods. If you are closer to the North Shore, go to the Old Post Office Coffee Shop in Carnelian Bay for a stack of pancakes that will give you the crab loading you need for Tahoe's winter sports. If you are on the South Shore, a must-do stop will be at Rude Brother's Bagels where you can pick up some excellent bagels and coffee or bagel sandwiches to take with you in your hiking backpack.



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Gar Woods Grill and Pier Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Gar Woods


 

Gar Woods on Tahoe's West Shore is best known for it's wonderful pier and wooden boats, but it also has a great menu and a fun bar. The floor to ceiling windows, large deck and balconies provide breath taking views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Mountains. The menu highlights mainly California cuisine, hand cut steaks, fresh pacific seafood, pizzas, pastas and salads. The wine list is a collection of California's best and best known vintners featuring more than one dozen wines by the glass. The menu includes items such as Pomegranate Glazed Pork Ribs, Shrimp & Lobster Bisque, Filet and Scampi, Australian Lamb Chops, Seafood Tagliarini and desserts like White Chocolate Snickers Cheesecake and Butterscotch Creme Brulee. Gar Woods serves signature cocktails such as their famous Wet Woody with with Rum, Peach Schnapps, Cranberry Juice, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice and Sweet and Sour mix.


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Right in the middle of downtown Truckee sits this charming northern Italian restaurant. Outfitted with a full bar on the lower level and a dining room on the mezzanine, Pianeta offers several dinner options. For a more casual meal, dine on appetizers like eggplant bruschetta at the bar; alternatively, the main dining area offers upscale atmosphere and entrees like linguine with shrimp, mussels, and clams, or double-cut lamb chops in a minty pesto sauce. Lots of exposed brick and stone lend a comfy, rustic feel. The wine list is impressive with bottles and glass choices from Italy, Northern California, Austria and France.


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South Lake Tahoe

 

This is the perfect romantic spot for a special dinner. Decorated with white linens and glimmering candles, this cozy Italian restaurant is furnished with only seven tables for an intimate atmosphere. During the summer, you can enjoy your meal outside beneath the towering pines. For a hearty meal, try the Cappellini Bocconcini made with meatballs, fresh tomato and basil. Bistecca alla Veneziana is medallions of filet mignon a green peppercorn cream sauce. For dessert, try the homemade white chocolate ice cream. The Cafe Fiore has been featured in As featured in- The San Francisco Chronicle, The Sacramento Bee and Best Places To Kiss In Northern California book and has been awarded the "Wine Spectator Award of Excellence" since 1992.


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With rave reviews from locals and visitors and lines that often snake out the door on busy weekend mornings, Fire Sign Cafe is surely one of Tahoe's most popular breakfast spots. A quick glance at the menu shows why – a dill and artichoke omelet, veggie eggs Benedict, a gouda scramble, and buckwheat pancakes topped with hot, freshly-made blueberry and raspberry sauce are representative of the ante meridiem treats that await. Lunch is served, but for late-risers, breakfast is available all day. An attractive deck is open seasonally where you can enjoy both breakfast and lunch outside in the Sierra sunshine.


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Cottonwood
Photo courtesy of Cottonwood


 

Eat indoors or on the restuarant's beautiful patio. They have all kinds of dishes to seduce your taste buds. Choose between crispy Baby Back Ribs grilled with jerk spice, and served with house made barbecue sauce or Jerk-spiced Fried Rock Prawns with Cajun tartar sauce. Order a Braised free Range Rabbit Cassoulet with Andouille sausage, garlic, rosemary and white beans, or simply opt for a Cheeseburger with waffle fries. Here, the wine and beer lists are extensive. The Cottonwood is filled with skiing and railroad memorabilia from Truckee's days as a railroad town, this casual restaurant, bar, and lounge provides customers with great views of Truckee, charming ambiance, and lovingly-prepared Californian-American fare.


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Located in the center of Tahoe City, this restaurant offers excellent food and one of the best views on the lake. It's a small restaurant and reservations may be required during the high seasons, but the staff is friendly and very accommodating. They serve up a nice selection of wines by the glass and the bottle and the menu is small but it revolves around the changing seasons and the availability of fresh ingredients. The entrees include pork, lamb, seafood and pasta using fresh, local ingredients. For a starter the Caesar Salad is huge and very delicious and the various Ravioli dishes are a great entree. For dessert, try the Affogato with cranberry biscotti.


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Rated one of the best burger places in Lake Tahoe Area and featured on the Food Networks "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives", Burger Me is located in the old town section of Truckee. Their burgers are made with all natural ingredients. No growth hormones or chemicals in these beauties! The burgers and drinks are served in corn-based packaging and everything is recyclable. The refurbished building with retro styling is great to hang out in, but you can also get your burger to go and eat outside in the fresh mountain air. Burger Me offers natural burgers like lamb, bison, bacon and grass fed beef.


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Stella is located in the Cedar House Sport Hotel near Truckee and offers an award-winning menu by chef Jacob Burton. Stella's menu features many items from the Cedar House Hotel's gardens and incorporates simple ingredients that make for comforting and inviting dishes. Chef Jacob Burton worked at the Lone Eagle Grille and the Big Water Grille, both in Lake Tahoe, before coming to the Cedar House. His menu includes appetizers such as Pan Seared Diver Scallops, Popcorn Polenta and Roasted Mushrooms on a micro green salad, entrees such as Roasted Salmon with Crispy Yucca or Colorado Lam with Fingerling Potatoes. Desserts include Marscapone Cheese Cake with Madrone Bark Syrup. A stellar wine list is included as well as after dinner drinks.


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The Manzanita restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton at the Northstar ski resort not only embraces the natural surroundings with its name (a manzanita is an evergreen shrub that graces the Tahoe mountains), but it brings the beauty of nature into its dishes. The stylish restaurant sources many of its food from local farms and ranches and displays them in a natural and beautiful way. Start off a romantic dinner with a Beet & Burratta salad with local beets, apples, celery, hazelnuts and honey-rosemary vinaigrette, choose from 12-Hour Bordeaux Braised Shortrib or Hand-Made Tagliatelle with heirloom eggplant and fresh ricotta and finish up with a Pumpkin Souffle with spiced anglaise and butter pecan ice cream. Manzanita also serves breakfast and lunch and has an extensive wine, beer and cocktail menu. If you are not hungry enough for a full dinner, the restaurant offers a bar menu with items like Pomme Frites, the Durham Ranch Burger and the Drunken Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Pizza with rocket greens.


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Consistently topping local lists of the area's most romantic restaurants, this family-run Tahoe mainstay has become the go-to place for diners seeking to impress first dates and enjoy a great meal in the bargain. Fresh, organic ingredients heighten the flavors of French-influenced dishes like pan-roasted chicken with mushrooms or champagne-poached sea scallops. Desserts include the decadant Queen of Sheba flourless chocolate double torte cake with fresh whipped cream filling for only $7. An appealing collection of appetizers, salads, and desserts showcases the same dedication to fresh foods and classic preparations. Reservations are requested. The restaurant is Zagat rated and has won several awards for the chef's creations.


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Meet Christina Nellemann

Christina has lived in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area since she was a baby. A first-generation Nevadan, her Danish parents instilled in her an intense love of travel and the wild, rugged outdoors...  More About Christina

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