Best Cafés in Tahoe

10Best Cafes in the Lake Tahoe Area: Breakfast, Lunch or To-Go

At a café you can enjoy everything from breakfast and brunch to lunch and even late night desserts –without a long time commitment. The Lake Tahoe area has a wide range of cafés that serve a multitude of breakfast and lunch items during the day and coffee and sweets into the evening. Some of these Tahoe cafés also let you take your goodies on the road, on the trail and wintery slopes.

For a bit of grocery shopping and some delicious deli items, try Obexer's General Store near the Homewood ski resort on the West Shore. Also on this side of the lake is the West Shore Cafe (try their warm lobster dip) or the Fire Sign Café with their large portions and fresh squeezed juice. If you are on the South Shore, head to the Driftwood Café near Heavenly or the Keys Café near the Tahoe Keys Marina. For some vegetarian sandwiches and desserts, try the Blue Angel Café, which is also in South Lake Tahoe. For a special treat, Café Blue at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe fresh pressed juices, signature house-made paninis and Blue Bottle Coffee.


Dam Cafe
Photo courtesy of Dave Benson/Flickr

This little coffee shop and cafe is right across from the Truckee River outlet and Fanny Bridge right on the "Y" of highway 89 and 28 near Tahoe City. The Dam Cafe serves sandwiches and burritos like the Dam Burly-rito and the Tasty Turkey, soups like Brazillian Black Bean, Illy coffee and quality teas. The owners also cater to vegans and vegetarians with their sandwiches and burritos and any item can be replaced with a vegetarian option. This is a local favorite and can get a little full. They have parking and outdoor seating on their front and back decks.

Recommended for Cafés because: If you are a tea lover, you get a choice of about 20 different teas in their "tea drawer".

Christina's expert tip: There is limited seating inside the Dam Cafe, but you can sit at one of the picnic tables outside in good weather.

Read more about Dam Cafe →

The Driftwood Cafe near the Heavenly ski area has a huge menu full of breakfast and lunch items. This cute little diner serves items such as Huevos Rancheros, Eggs Benedict, Breakfast Burritos and Sandwiches and their Outrageous Omeletts with three eggs. The Herb Cheese Omelette has zucchini and green onions topped with herb cheese sauce and the Black Bean Chicken Chili Omelette has cheddar cheese, green onions and sour cream. The Driftwood also serves buttermilk pancakes, French Toast and an assortment of waffles. For lunch the Driftwood serves various sandwiches, salads, soup, chili and specialties such as Fish Tacos, Escargot and Grilled Basa.

Recommended for Cafés because: The Bloody Mary's at the Driftwood are spicy and great for Sunday mornings.

Christina's expert tip: The Driftwood serves locally roasted coffee.

Read more about Driftwood Cafe →

With rave reviews from locals and visitors and lines often out the door on busy weekend mornings, Fire Sign Cafe is surely one of Tahoe's most popular breakfast and brunch 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. Sandwiches, burgers and burritos are served for lunch, but for late-risers, breakfast is available all day. An attractive deck under the pine trees of the West Shore is open seasonally.

Recommended for Cafés because: The Fire Sign Crepes include green onions, mushrooms and jack cheese topped with Hollandaise sauce.

Christina's expert tip: The Fire Sign is in between Tahoe City and Homewood, so it's away from most of the town crowds.

Read more about Fire Sign Café →


This small, yellow house on the South Shore serves up breakfast, lunch, beer wine and their famous smoothies. The atmosphere is fun and funky with local art on the walls and fresh, local eggs served in their omelettes, breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos. Their smoothies include the typical fruit smoothies like the Go Mango with mango, raspberry, banana and orange juice and the Castaway with Coconut, mango and pineapple juice as well as granola smoothies that are great for breakfast. The Keys Cafe also has Chai Tea smoothes, Espresso smoothies and Super Smoothies like the 911 with Emergen-C, banana, mango and orange juice. Lunches consist of turkey, ham and swiss, roast beef, Reuben and cheese sandwiches. They also serve a sweet potato sandwich with baked sweet potato, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, marinated onions, organic mixed greens, balsamic vinaigrette dressing, on a ciabatta roll.

Recommended for Cafés because: The Keys Cafe has a Chai Tea Smoothie called the Milli Vanilli with David Rio Vanilla Chai and your choice of milk.

Christina's expert tip: Try their Acai Bowl (served all day) with Acai berries, blueberries, banana, strawberry, and soy milk blended into a yummy frozen delight, topped with granola and bananas.

Read more about Keys Cafe →

South Lake Tahoe

Burt's Cafe in South Lake Tahoe is a classic greasy spoon that is open for breakfast and lunch and features homemade from scratch items like Pancakes. Eggs Benedict, Biscuits and Gravey, Chicken Fried Steak and Crepes. Other items include Huevos Rancheros, Cheese Blintzes and Club Sandwiches and salads. All the dishes at Bert's are hearty and the service is great, but sometimes there is a wait on holiday or summer weekends. Drinks like coffee, tea, soda and iced tea are served all day long and most of the prices for the dishes range around $8-$12 with plenty of refills on the drinks.

Recommended for Cafés because: The Walnut Pancakes at Burt's Cafe are pretty amazing. Wash then down with a cappuccino.

Christina's expert tip: There may be a wait for this diner on weekends.

Read more about Bert's Cafe →

This cozy, local coffee shop serves Alpen Sierra coffee, various teas and much more. Located in South Lake Tahoe on the way to Emerald Bay, Alpina is a comfy caf�, adored by locals. The Cafe has three computers with Internet access for customers to use, a kids' corner, and picnic tables in a sunny garden area for spring and summer. The Alpina has free WiFi and 3G. Try their house coffee or lattes (with great foam) or their great Mexican hot chocolate. The Alpina does serve basic food items like muffins, sandwiches and bagels and a darn good spinach quiche.

Recommended for Cafés because: Try one of Alpina's fresh pastries including their honey pastry.

Christina's expert tip: For their iced coffees, Alpina uses coffee ice cubes.

Read more about Alpina Coffee Cafe →

The Obexer's General Store is near the local's ski area of Homewood and has been a mainstay of the area for years. The store is right next to the Obexer's Boat Company which rents buoys and sells boats for use on Lake Tahoe. Obexer's serves up homestyle breakfasts and deli lunches as well as great coffee. The store offers groceries, produce, organic items (including baby food) and items specific to anyone who might be staying in a small cabin in the area. Their breakfasts include bagels, eggs, bacon, breakfast burritos and other grab-n'-go items for eating on the slopes or the hiking trails. Their lunches include sandwiches like Edna's BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato) sandwich and the Garwood Bagel sandwich with eggs and brown sugar bacon. The prices for the sandwiches are around $8.00.

Recommended for Cafés because: Try the Jacob's Ladder sandwich with salami, pastrami, and ham on Marble Rye.

Christina's expert tip: The grocery store sells healthy and organic items for picnics and boat rides.

Read more about Obexer's General Store →

Located in Homewood on the West Shore, the West Shore Cafe and Inn is defined by its long, beautiful pier and buoys that welcome both boaters and non-boaters to dine. The cafe serves lunch, dinner and cocktails as well as some excellent dessert. Try the Warm Lobster Dip as a starter, add on the Cauliflower and Pomegranate Salad with crispy prosciutto and mustard-pomegranate vinaigrette. For a romantic dinner order the Pan Seared Salmon with white beans and yams. The West Shore cocktails include classics with a twist like the West Shore Old Fashion with cointreau aged for one month in an oak barrel.

Recommended for Cafés because: The view from West Shore is fabulous no matter the season. The same goes for the food.

Christina's expert tip: During the winter season, the West Shore Cafe has complimentary après ski s'mores.

Read more about West Shore Cafe and Inn →

Caf� Blue is The Ritz-Carlton's signature bakery and coffee shop. Located in the upper lobby near the outdoor pool with views of the mid-moutain ski runs of Northstar, Caf� Blue features fresh pressed juices and smoothies, signature house-made Paninis and pastries and San Francisco-based Sightglass Coffee. The cafe offers house-made breakfast pastries in the morning, and classic French-inspired pastries in the afternoon including delicate, but amazing petit four pastries made on-site. Each of the baked items are hand-crafted by the Ritz's chef and staff and you can take your coffee and pastries onto the outside deck all year long.

Recommended for Cafés because: If you miss the Gospel Fried Chicken on Sunday, try the same chicken in a salad.

Christina's expert tip: Blue Bottle Coffee is a distinctive, organic coffee that carefully chooses its vendors.

Read more about Café Blue →

South Lake Tahoe

The Blue Angel Caf� in South Lake Tahoe offers unique and interesting meat and vegetarian dishes as well as desserts, wine beer and a generous happy hour. This cozy, little restaurant has a view of the lake, a place for eating outside, a nice garden and access to all the South Lake Tahoe fun. Their food includes items like Clam Chowder, Chili Dusted Sweet Potato Fries, Pulled Pork, burgers and vegetarian dishes like the Napolean with eggplant, zucchini, tomato sauce, pesto and polenta. They have a daily happy hour with menu items and drinks for $3 and a nice couch in front of the fireplace to sit and chat with locals and other Tahoe visitors. The Blue Angel also offers catering and special wedding menus.

Recommended for Cafés because: The Blue Angel Cafe can also cater any special event.

Christina's expert tip: The happy hour is from 4-6 p.m. every day.

Read more about Blue Angel Cafe →


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