South Lake Tahoe — Restaurant Recommendations
Note: I’m visiting South Lake Tahoe for the next two weeks. It’s going to be a busy weekend with the World Series of Poker Circuit in town. The Heavenly Ski Resort is also opening up sometime next week. So let’s talk about one of my favorite subjects — great food!
South Lake Tahoe is blessed to offer many outstanding dining options. Moreover, the area offers an extraordinary number of excellent ethnic restaurants, especially for a small town of only about 60,000 residents.
Here’s a short list of my personal favorites. Having spent perhaps 150 or so days and nights staying at South Lake Tahoe over the past eight years, I’ve dined out at all of these places numerous times. I’ve posted my favorite restaurants where anyone can come and enjoy a good meal, either dining alone or with a group. So, most of these places are not fancy, but more casual.
Listed in no particular order, here are my personal favorites:
ORCHID THAI CUISINE — Never a dull meal at this excellent establishment, a local’s favorite. Sometimes busy with a wait list — always a good sign of great food. Generous portions, varied menu, casual atmosphere. My Recommendation: Cashew Chicken for $11.95.
HEIDI’S PANCAKE HOUSE — Heidi’s has been a local institution for years, but it’s also popular with tourists. Part of a small franchise, it’s only open for breakfast and lunch, closing at 2 pm daily. Excellent variety of entrees — including assortment of crepes, Belgian waffles, pancakes, Mexican breakfasts, healthy entrees, and stick-to-your-ribs specials. I’ve never had a bad meal here and never spent more than $20. I often walk out stuffed and can’t eat for the rest of the day. My Recommendation: Florentine Omelette (made with eggs whites) together with waffles on the side at $12.95.
CHEVY’S FRESH MEX — I’m not a big fan of chain restaurants, especially serving Mexican fare. But this location is excellent. Warm tortilla chips with a fresh salsa (about as good a salsa as I’ve had anywhere) comes as the starter. Excellent drink specials, and margaritas served the right way (with fresh lime juice instead of the powdered mixer so many places now use). Best deal — either lunch or dinner — is the mix and match special, which allows diners to pick and chose from a variety of items to create their own special dish. Then, there are the fresh-made flour tortillas made right on the restaurant floor. Very good food at an affordable price. My Recommendation: Pick Three (enchiladas, tamale, taco with rice and beans) for $13.95.
RED HUT — This is more of a sandwich and soup shop / diner. But I end to go there for the adjacent ice cream shop. Some of the best ice cream in Lake Tahoe — which is served the old fashioned way. My Recommendation: Hard to chose between the triple-scoop hot fudge sundae ($5.50) or the fresh pumpkin ice cream (two scoops for $4.50). Order both.
NIKKI’S CHAAAT CAFE (INDIAN) — One of the best Indian restaurants I’ve ever eaten at — and that includes a lot of places all over the country. A Warning — Food is spicy. Excellent dinner specials, but I tend to go for the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at $11.95. Generous sampling of dishes, salads, and dessert. Again, if you like spicy food, this is the place to go. My Recommendation: Chicken Tikka Masala at $14.95 (dinner), but the Lunch Buffet ($11.95) is a steal. Last time I went (today), I wolfed down four full plates of food. My mouth is on fire right now.
TAJ MAHAL (INDIAN) — Not quite as good as Nikki’s but it’s close. Located in the Quality Inn Hotel, don’t let the odd location fool you. Usual variety of Indian fare and a full lunch buffet priced at $12.95.
NAKORN THAI — I absolutely love this restaurant. I could eat here seven nights a week. Never had anything less than an outstanding meal here. Slightly more upscale than Orchids (which is a quarter mile away). This is the furthest away from the casino area at Stateline, at about a ten-minute drive, but it’s worth it. Spectacular food and excellent service by the owner and chef. As good a Thai restaurant as you will find anywhere. Recommendation: Any of the Curry Dishes (Red, Yellow, or Green) at $10.95 and/or Pad See Ew with Chicken ($9.95). I believe this is dinner only. Inside looks like a log cabin.
TEPES VILLA ROMA — Old-style restaurant right in the center of town which has an extensive menu of steaks, seafood, and Italian classics. Salad bar included with all entrees. Has an East Coast feel. Cozy atmosphere inside with stone fireplace in center of the room. Recommendation: Chicken Francese on Bed of Capellini with Lemon Butter Sauce ($16.95). I’ve had this dish ten times, always terrific.
SAGE ROOM — If you don’t care to venture outside the casino area, the upscale restaurant inside Harvey’s right off the main floor is outstanding. Poker pal Adam Bachrach turned me onto the place several years ago and now it’s one of my wife and I’s favorite upscale restaurants. The Sage Room is a marvelous steakhouse with all the usual offerings. One suggestion — try the Cafe Diablo presentation at meal’s end which is worth the $29.95 price (great on a date). Recommendation: Beef Wellington in the Pastry Shell ($42.00) — made to perfection.
Note: I posted this column earlier today at WSOP.com — where I’m writing the daily poker blog of action at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe.