Culinary Itinerary

For the Culinary Connoisseur: A Lake Tahoe Foodie Adventure

It’s no secret that Lake Tahoe offers some incredible experiences, from breathtaking mountain views to diving into the clear blue waters of the world’s second-largest alpine lake. Beyond the natural wonders that make this region so well-known, Lake Tahoe offers a wide range of activities and unique experiences for every kind of traveler, especially those prioritizing the culinary scene. Read on for the best bites to be found at each part of the Tahoe Trifecta — the perfect combination of mountain, lakeside and town experiences — and start planning your foodie-focused trip to Lake Tahoe.

Day One: Lakefront Dining

What’s a vacation morning without a good cup of coffee and something to fuel your day? First and foremost, we recommend heading to any of Lake Tahoe’s coffee shops and bakeries before heading out on a morning lakeside stroll. Many places are even within walking distance of the lakeshore itself, such as Coffee Connexion, a tried-and-true Tahoe City cafe that has been serving up some of Lake Tahoe’s finest roasted coffee since 1990. Or, over in Kings Beach, you can stop by Java Hut, which offers a menu of exquisitely crafted specialty coffee beverages, as well as some seriously good house-brewed blends.

During the sunnier periods of the year, you can’t go wrong with a patio lunch overlooking the sparkling waters of the lake. Head to Waterman’s Landing in Carnelian Bay to enjoy a truly excellent lunch that perfectly positions you to rent a watercraft immediately after and hit the lake. Their menu boasts a wide array of gluten-free, vegan and paleo-sensitive options, so they’ll have no problem accommodating for any dietary preference you might have. Za’s Lakefront Bar & Grill is another great spot for a casual patio lunch. Known throughout the Lake Tahoe region for their cozy atmosphere and an extensive menu of mouthwatering eats, Za’s is perfect for families or anyone looking for a more laid-back approach to their midday meal break.

Photo Credit: Old Range Steakhouse

Even as the weather turns chillier, the lake offers the perfect venue for finding a lakeside firepit to curl up and enjoy a drink or two, such as at Lone Eagle Grille, a locally favored Lake Tahoe fine dining restaurant that offers an extensive wine list as well as fireside service by the lake. For a meal that’s sure to leave you feeling warm inside and out, Old Range Steakhouse in Tahoe Vista is the perfect place. Enjoy lakeside views from their cozy redwood dining room as you indulge in a beautifully charred steak paired with a lush glass of wine or creative cocktail. You can even go all out and opt for surf-and-turf by adding a side of king crab legs to your meal.

As the day winds to a close, you won’t have to leave the lake views behind to continue your evening. Plenty of dining options provide incredible views of the lake’s picture-perfect surface — and if you time it right, you can watch the sunset as you indulge in some of the best culinary creations Tahoe has to offer. The oldest bar in Lake Tahoe, Chambers Landing, features a large menu with a focus on blending global flavors. You’ll find Asian-inspired dishes, fresh fish dishes, classic American fare and much more, all cooked with expertise honed over decades of incredible service. Be sure to snag a table on the deck so you can get the full experience of Chambers Landing’s lakeside gourmet. If you’re a fan of rum, you’ll also have to try the Chambers Crush, a frozen rum drink so good it landed this restaurant a spot on Lake Tahoe’s Rum Trail. For a further look into what Lake Tahoe’s lakefront has to offer, check out our blog on the best spots to dine with a lake view.

Day Two: Mountainside Dining

To truly experience Lake Tahoe’s foodie oasis, we recommend working up an appetite right away. Grab a sturdy pair of hiking boots and embark on an unforgettable morning hike. If you’re an early bird, one of the best ways to catch the sunrise is by strapping on a headlamp and embarking on a hike up to some of Lake Tahoe’s most breathtaking views.

For experienced and ambitious hikers, Tunnel Creek Trail is a moderately difficult hike, but well worth the effort. The view from the top of this 4.7-mile hike is widely considered the absolute best panoramic view in Lake Tahoe. You can perch atop Monkey Rock, a boulder that bears a striking resemblance to a gorilla head, and watch the sun slowly inch over the horizon and illuminate the entire lake spread out before you. Not a bad way to start your day, if you ask us. As a bonus, once you’ve taken in the views, your route back will land you right at Tunnel Creek Cafe, where you can treat yourself to a sumptuous brunch as a reward for all your hard work.

As the sun climbs higher in the sky, there’s plenty still to explore. The best way to experience the mountains is up close and personal — so for lunch, opt for a grab-and-go, do-it-yourself picnic. Head to Tahoe Central Market to stock up on all your provisions. They offer a wide variety of fresh produce and snacks, and their deli counter serves up some of the best sandwiches in the region. Customize your sandwich exactly how you like it, and on your way out, snag a local beer or wine that catches your eye to pair with your meal. If you prefer something a little lighter, they also make fantastic smoothies. Once you’ve secured your midday meal, you’re set for an afternoon of hiking, biking or any mountainside activity that strikes your fancy. Just remember to throw away any trash and food waste into designated garbage receptacles and keep the mountain pristine for the guests enjoying them after you.

The perfect pairing is sometimes the best part of a foodie adventure. How about the promise of a refreshing drink and a quick bite to eat after? Check out the Lake Tahoe Ale Trail, an interactive map and video series that will steer you to a renowned brewery or bar near whichever trailhead you are embarking on.

Photo Credit: Ryan Salm Photography

After a day spent exploring the mountains, it’s only right to close out the evening with a bang. You won’t have to stray far from these majestic mountains to find exactly what you need to satisfy your empty stomach; there is a wide range of mountain-adjacent eateries for all palates, whether you’re after a fine dining experience or looking for something more casual. Plumpjack Cafe, for instance, is widely considered one of the top-tier places in Lake Tahoe to enjoy a truly excellent meal. Their outdoor patio is also a great place to unwind and soak in more of those stunning mountain views. Or, head to Northstar California Resort and grab a bite at one of the resort’s many culinary offerings, such as Bourbon Pub, a San Francisco-inspired spot offering elevated pub fare paired with specialty cocktails.  

Day Three: Dining in Lake Tahoe Towns

With 12 towns to choose from, there’s no way to go wrong in spending your day exploring the best of what our towns have to offer. There’s enough to do that you can even devote a whole day to each town — and don’t worry, we have itineraries detailing how to do that, too.

Start your day with a breakfast that truly tastes like it’s made with love. The Dam Cafe in Tahoe City offers an extensive breakfast menu, serving up burritos, sandwiches, handcrafted lattes, smoothies and much more, all made with organic, fresh ingredients. The owners, Jen and Glenn Campbell, work to create an environment where every customer feels like family — so if you come across them on your visit, be sure to stop and chat. They’d love to get to know you, and you might walk away with some insider tips straight from a Lake Tahoe local.

Once you’re ready to face the day, you’ll find plenty to explore across each of Lake Tahoe’s unique towns. Whether you’re looking to spend an afternoon indulging in a little retail therapy, or you’d like to learn something new about the Lake Tahoe region at a local museum, we’ve got you covered. Before you know it, it’ll be time for lunch. Perfect for discerning foodies and pickier eaters alike, Whitecaps Pizza in Kings Beach is a great spot for a midday refuel. Choose from their list of classics, which includes traditional pizzas such as Margarita, Hawaiian and more, or try one of their expertly made craft pizzas, such as the Arugula Bacon Pear pizza or the Sopressata Honey Drizzle. Wash your meal down with one of their 14 rotating beers on tap, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better lunch.

Photo Credit: Sam Choy’s Ohana Diner

The day’s not over yet. You still have a whole evening ahead of you. What better way to spend it than engaging in a little friendly competition? Bowl Incline and Arcade in Incline Village offers a wide range of activities that are especially suited for families with kids — or for anyone who’s ready to let loose and have a little fun. Aside from state-of-the-art bowling lanes, you’ll also find axe throwing, live music and a seriously cool arcade. The best part? The food there will blow you away, and you don’t even have to leave your game to eat it. Run by celebrity chef Sam Choy, who earned the title of Culinary Ambassador to the Hawaiian Islands and is widely credited as a founder of “Pacific Rim” cuisine, Bowl Incline’s Ohana Diner is a must-try. Enjoy Choy’s famous Shoyu Poke, classic Hawaiian dishes like Spam Musubi and much more.

Plan to Play, Plan Your Stay

Hungry for more? Check out our Tahoe Bites blog and read a little more about some of Lake Tahoe’s best dishes to try during your visit. Or discover all the dining options we have available. There is so much more to explore in Lake Tahoe. Check out all the ways you can play on your trip here, and consider extending your stay to make the most of all the region has to offer. Explore the rest of the Tahoe Trifecta here.

SEE MORE TAHOE TRIFECTA ITINERARIES

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