Best Outdoor Dining in Tahoe

Outstanding Outdoor Dining Experiences in Tahoe

No matter which one of these restaurants you choose, you will be able to have a great view if you sit outside. Whether it's in front of a mountain, right by a creek or river, overlooking a town or even right on the lake's shore these places will have something to gaze at while you dine al fresco.

If you want to be right on the water's edge, you have to visit Christy Hill in Tahoe City for lunch or dinner. They serve fresh, local and organic dishes that you can enjoy on their outdoor deck as the water laps beneath your feet. Other restaurants with decks right on the lake is Jake's on the Lake in Tahoe City and the Riva Grill in South Lake Tahoe.

If a babbling brook or roaring river is more your style, head to the Dam Café in Tahoe City where you can get some great breakfast burritos and coffee on their deck overlooking the Truckee River. Right nearby is the Bridgetender which is a popular locals spot on the weekends. For a great view of town, head to the Cottonwood in Truckee where the view from their deck is of the entire town, the mountains and the train as it chugs along its track.

For a great view of the mountains, visit the Plumpjack at Squaw Valley. Here you can enjoy their wine and appetizers outside on their deck right next to a firepit, which will make dining outside in the winter a bit more bearable.


Located in Historic Kings Beach and just minutes from the waterfront, Caliente takes its name from its diverse family neighborhood surroundings. Caliente specializes in the flavor of the American Southwest and beyond. Think Santa Fe, or as we like to say, "Southwest, South". Caliente opened on August 3rd, 2007 after an extensive remodel and one very important step in the revitalization of the Kings Beach neighborhood. Today, Caliente stands on the main highway as the stunning example of the Kings Beach remodel in progress. We take great pride in our creation and our clean, casual and friendly atmosphere awaits your visit. Caliente offers an unequaled and unique variety of quality fun, food and beverage at affordable prices. Dining out is more than just a meal, it is an event based on value and a wonderful experience. Combine our meals with generous premium Margaritas and our famous signature drink, The ChupaCabra, and we have created a dining experience to remember.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: The top deck of Caliente! has a view over Kings Beach.

Christina's expert tip: Try their Pink Taco made with peppermint ice cream sandwiched between chocolate dipped wafers with granada cream.

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Olympic Valley

Understated elegance enlivened with touches of whimsy characterizes this revered restaurant's dining room. Often, patrons are focused on the snowy landscape, visible through many windows, or on toothsome dishes before them. Dinner is divided into first and second courses; expect such fare as pancetta-wrapped diver scallops and foie gras torchon followed by Colorado braised lamb shank and New York steak with a twice-baked Yukon potato and broccolini. A less expensive but still excellent bar menu is available starting at 11:30am, and a children's menu is a boon for ski-tired families. For dessert, don't forget the PlumpJack's Chocolate Mousse "S'more" with a Honey Graham Cracker, Liquid Fudge and House Made Marshmallow.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: The Plumpjack offers Farm to Table dinners outside in the summer.

Christina's expert tip: The Plumpjack probably has the largest wine list in Lake Tahoe.

Read more about PlumpJack Café →

Backyard Bar & BBQ
Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Highlands

The Backyard Bar & BBQ is located mid-mountain at the Ritz-Carlton Highlands at the Northstar ski resort near Truckee. This casual, but beautiful outdoor dining area offers diners year-round back patio BBQ, beer and specialty drinks. The restaurant specializes in locally sourced St. Louis smoked ribs, brisket and pulled pork sandwiches cooked with an on-site smoker for 12-24 hours, house-made BBQ sauces, wood-fired oven-baked pizzas and traditional burgers. Side dishes include classic coleslaw with a twist and delicious salads. A seasonal beverage menu includes saloon-inspired cocktails and local craft beers.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: The view from the Backyard Bar & BBQ is of the slopes of the Northstar resort.

Christina's expert tip: The Backyard Bar & BBQ is located right next to the outdoor pool.

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Jake's On The Lake is a mainstay on the West Shore. Serving both locals and visitors since 1978, Jake's features a casual yet delicious menu that reflects its waterfront atmosphere. The menu features seafood appetizers such as Dungeness Crab Cakes ($18) and entrees such as Seared Diver Scallops ($32). Turf-inspired dishes are also available such as short ribs and filet mignon tacos. Salads, soups (such as their decadent clam chowder), and several desserts are on hand to round out your meal. A kids' menu ensures that families leave happy. If you're making an afternoon of it, the full bar has its own menu, along with specialty cocktails, wines, and draft and bottled beers.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Both the bar and the restaurant at Jake's have views of the marina and the water.

Christina's expert tip: Jake's has one of the best views on the lake.

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Fresh Ketch Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

The Fresh Ketch is located in a small marina at the foot of Tahoe Keys Boulevard and has long been regarded as South Lake's premier seafood restaurant. Try for a window table so you can watch the marina activities. Try the half a dozen oysters and the seared ahi tuna with garlic, soy, wasabi, and sesame seaweed salad. Then it's on to the fresh catch of the day such as big Alaskan king crab, steamed in the shell and served with drawn butter. The menu also includes a modest selection of meat and poultry dishes, such as the great surf and turf of petite mignon and lobster. Prices are a bit steep, but you can also belly up with the locals and order from the extensive bar menu, with everything from blackened mahimahi to fresh-fish tacos and fish and chips for under $13. They've recently added a sushi bar as well. Live music acts perform Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: The Fresh Ketch offers wine specials all day on Wednesdays.

Christina's expert tip: If you have your own boat, you can dock at the Fresh Ketch to enjoy lunch.

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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.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: You can see the entire town of Truckee from the deck of the Cottonwood.

Christina's expert tip: The bar of the Cottonwood can get crowded and rowdy on Friday and Saturday nights. This is not a quiet and romantic restaurant.

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South Lake Tahoe
Riva Grill
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

The Riva Grill has one of the lake's best waterfront decks in which to enjoy the view on a warm summer day. Make the day even better by ordering one of their famous Wet Woody cocktails. The Riva Grill is an upscale casual restaurant that accommodates larger groups for special occasions such as weddings. The chef has created a menu highlighting California cuisine that includes items like Filet and Scampi, Pistachio Halibut & pizza from a wood fired brick oven. The wine list is a collection of California's best and best known vintners featuring more than one dozen wines by the glass.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: The Riva Grill has a view of the local marina as well as most of the South Shore.

Christina's expert tip: A great location for a special event. The Riva allows weddings to be performed on their beach.

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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.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Christy Hill puts heat lamps on their deck for evening dining.

Christina's expert tip: Christy Hill has earned rave reviews by the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and Bon Appetit.

Read more about Christy Hill Lakeside Bistro →

South Lake Tahoe

The Boathouse is located at the Tahoe Beach Retreat hotel in South Lake Tahoe and offers a unique dining experience over the waters of Lake Tahoe. The restaurant is only open during the summer, but you can enjoy lunch or dinner on a pier with no walls to separate you from nature. The Boathouse offers casual dining and cocktails and has become a local favorite. The menu includes seasonal and fresh creations by Chef Brian Sunkamaitis and his team. Lunch items include Baked Brie ($13) with grapes and apples, New England Clam Chowder ($7/$10), the Boathouse Burger ($13) served on a brioche bun, and the Fish Tacos ($13) with Mahi-Mahi. For dinner enjoy cocktails or California wines with Pan Seared Scallops ($18) or the fresh fish of the day.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: The Boathouse has some great signature cocktails with delicious ingredients.

Christina's expert tip: The Boathouse has live music on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

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Part of charming Sunnyside Lodge, this lakeside restaurant delivers wonderful views and straightforward, filling lunchtime eats. You'll find burgers, fish, and chicken sandwiches, as well as pasta dishes, salads, and soups. The lodge's dock staff can assist you if you arrive by water, but show up on the early side if you want to secure a seat on the deck. The wood-paneled, rustic dining room provides atmosphere to spare if it's chilly outside. Dinner sees an emphasis on well-prepared American favorites, including seafood and steaks. Sunnyside also offers Lakeside Libations like specialty cocktails, local and draft beers and a large wine selection.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: The Sunnyside won a 2015 Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor.

Christina's expert tip: The Sunnyside restaurant has a special lakeside dining menu.

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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