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The Tahoe Heatmap: Where to Eat This Winter

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Lake Tahoe is famous for several things: a lake so clear and clean you can see up to 70 feet underwater, untold natural wonders, and amazing skiing. By and large, though, the food is pretty average, especially when compared with culinary ski town powerhouses such as Aspen. However, spread out around the lake and up in Truckee are a host of fine-dining standouts. Most are pretty intimate. Several have amazing lake views. All of them will be worth your while. Here they are, in 21st-century map form. (Don't see one of your favorites here? Drop it in the comments or rage at us by emailing ski@curbed.com.)

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1. Stella

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10918 Brockway Rd.
Truckee, California 96161
(530) 582-5655
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With its own small culinary school in-house, Stella has added some gourmet excitement in a town, Truckee, with relatively anemic offerings. Try to get a seat in view of the kitchen so you can watch Chef Jacob Burton roast up some halibut filet, home-made fettucini, or sous vide short ribs. A tasty amuse bouche or intermezzo will undoubtedly make its presence known in between courses, along with Stella's stellar (pun intended) wine list.

2. Evan's American Gourmet Cafe

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536 Emerald Bay Rd
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

Set in an unsuspected converted Tahoe cabin, Evan's intimate setting and fabulous meat-heavy offerings have been a quiet favorite among the South Lake options. Diners are usually welcomed with warm homemade bread and a pate and get to choose from favorites like duck confit pizza, veal medallions, and white chocolate lemon cheesecake. The chef will usually make an appearance to discuss the prep and approach of their cooking of your meal, as well. This one is high on the intimacy scale.

3. Fire Sign Cafe

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1785 W Lake Blvd
Tahoe City, CA 96145
(530) 583-0871
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Tahoe City's penultimate mountain town diner has been serving some of the best breakfast on the Lake for years. Huevos rancheros, the home-made baked goods, coffee, omelettes and kielbasa hash pop up constantly in diner reviews as favorites. Just be prepared to wait - this cozy spot is packed for breakfast and lunch no matter if it's Christmas week or the spring off-season.

4. Cedar Glen Lodge

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6589 North Lake Blvd
Tahoe Vista, CA 96148
(530) 546-4281
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While hosting a simple menu in a quiet stretch of North Lake Tahoe, The Lounge at Cedar Glen Lodge packs some serious quality and presentation underneath unassuming labels. Chef Ana Bryan and Pastry Chef David Meade have brought in some serious experience from cooking in both LA and DC, and bring that to bear on delicious flatbreads, the roasted chicken breast, flank steak salad and olive oil panna cotta for dessert.

5. Cafe Fiore

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1169 Ski Run Blvd, Toiyabe National Forest, El Dorado National Forest
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
(530) 541-2908
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Cafe Fiore is another intimate and excellent Tahoe restaurant tucked into a small, cozy space. Fiore packs only 7 tables, ensuring attentive service and a quiet atmosphere as you enjoy adventurous Italian-inspired dishes like eggplant crepes, carmelized onions and ricotta cheese raviolis appetizers, a famously tender veal and great seafood. Home-made white chocolate ice cream to cap it off, anyone?

6. Sprouts Cafe

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3123 Harrision
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150-7925
(530) 541-6969
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Despite being vegan and cash-only, plenty of omnivores find an excuse to make the trip to Sprouts in South Lake for lunch. The fruit and veggie smoothies get high marks along with soups, salads, and sandwiches like the A.T.O.M Melt - avocado, red onion, tomato, melted monterey jack cheese, and green onions served with sesame tortilla chips. If you need a lunch break while skiing at Heavenly, this should be on your radar.

7. Pianeta

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10096 Donner Pass Road
Truckee, CA

Enclosed in a historic brick structure, not a common site in Tahoe's wood frame-dominated architectural landscape, Pianeta also splits in two upon entering. Downstairs a full bar awaits with a casual appetizer menu, while a full dining room is set on the upstairs mezzanine. Pianeta has a classic Italian menu with seasonal items, including pastas, copious salads, and seafood risotto. Most of the menu is homemade and sourced locally, giving you plenty of reason to enjoy the rustic interior.

8. Fireside Pizza Company

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1985 Squaw Valley Rd #25
Olympic Valley, CA 96146
(530) 584-6150
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Fireside is one of the highlights of the Squaw Valley base village, and one of the few in the village open year-round. A family-friendly atmosphere dominates the casual interior, and the highlights coming out of the wood-fired pizza oven include the Fireside and Thai Curry pizzas, as well as a great Greek salad. Gluten-free pies are even available. If you're up in Truckee and in the mind for pizza, Tahoe Donner's Pizza On The Hill is another great family-friendly option with severely underrated pizza.

9. River Grill

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55 W. Lake Blvd
Tahoe City, CA 96145
(530) 581-2644
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The River Grill, situated across the babbling Truckee River from the Bridgetender's awesome backyard patio, is famous both for its location and its excellent happy hour specials, which run seven days a week from 5:00-6:30. The burgers, jumbo shrimp dynamite, turkey & shitake meatloaf wrapped in bacon, and ribeye steak are all hits, and chances are you'll be enjoying dinner with the accompaniment of lots of goggle tans and some live music - this is a great stop on the way back to Tahoe City from Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows.

10. Chart House Restaurant

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392 Kingsbury Grade
Stateline, NV 89449
(775) 588-6276
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Chart House is yes, a chain restaurant, but it has the unique benefit of an amazing view that catches the sunset from the East side of Lake Tahoe. That means that while you chomp on baked stuffed shrimp, lobster spring rolls, chicken romano, or a great filet mignon, you can watch the sun fade into the orange horizon as it sets over the peaks of the the popular backcountry skiing areas that stretch North from Emerald Bay to Rubicon Peak. Only a few minutes from the casinos closer to the lake, the Chart House nonetheless gives you a chance to enjoy the pure natural beauty you should be coming to Lake Tahoe for in the first place.

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1. Stella

10918 Brockway Rd., Truckee, California 96161

With its own small culinary school in-house, Stella has added some gourmet excitement in a town, Truckee, with relatively anemic offerings. Try to get a seat in view of the kitchen so you can watch Chef Jacob Burton roast up some halibut filet, home-made fettucini, or sous vide short ribs. A tasty amuse bouche or intermezzo will undoubtedly make its presence known in between courses, along with Stella's stellar (pun intended) wine list.

10918 Brockway Rd.
Truckee, California 96161

2. Evan's American Gourmet Cafe

536 Emerald Bay Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

Set in an unsuspected converted Tahoe cabin, Evan's intimate setting and fabulous meat-heavy offerings have been a quiet favorite among the South Lake options. Diners are usually welcomed with warm homemade bread and a pate and get to choose from favorites like duck confit pizza, veal medallions, and white chocolate lemon cheesecake. The chef will usually make an appearance to discuss the prep and approach of their cooking of your meal, as well. This one is high on the intimacy scale.

536 Emerald Bay Rd
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

3. Fire Sign Cafe

1785 W Lake Blvd, Tahoe City, CA 96145

Tahoe City's penultimate mountain town diner has been serving some of the best breakfast on the Lake for years. Huevos rancheros, the home-made baked goods, coffee, omelettes and kielbasa hash pop up constantly in diner reviews as favorites. Just be prepared to wait - this cozy spot is packed for breakfast and lunch no matter if it's Christmas week or the spring off-season.

1785 W Lake Blvd
Tahoe City, CA 96145

4. Cedar Glen Lodge

6589 North Lake Blvd, Tahoe Vista, CA 96148

While hosting a simple menu in a quiet stretch of North Lake Tahoe, The Lounge at Cedar Glen Lodge packs some serious quality and presentation underneath unassuming labels. Chef Ana Bryan and Pastry Chef David Meade have brought in some serious experience from cooking in both LA and DC, and bring that to bear on delicious flatbreads, the roasted chicken breast, flank steak salad and olive oil panna cotta for dessert.

6589 North Lake Blvd
Tahoe Vista, CA 96148

5. Cafe Fiore

1169 Ski Run Blvd, Toiyabe National Forest, El Dorado National Forest, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

Cafe Fiore is another intimate and excellent Tahoe restaurant tucked into a small, cozy space. Fiore packs only 7 tables, ensuring attentive service and a quiet atmosphere as you enjoy adventurous Italian-inspired dishes like eggplant crepes, carmelized onions and ricotta cheese raviolis appetizers, a famously tender veal and great seafood. Home-made white chocolate ice cream to cap it off, anyone?

1169 Ski Run Blvd, Toiyabe National Forest, El Dorado National Forest
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

6. Sprouts Cafe

3123 Harrision, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150-7925

Despite being vegan and cash-only, plenty of omnivores find an excuse to make the trip to Sprouts in South Lake for lunch. The fruit and veggie smoothies get high marks along with soups, salads, and sandwiches like the A.T.O.M Melt - avocado, red onion, tomato, melted monterey jack cheese, and green onions served with sesame tortilla chips. If you need a lunch break while skiing at Heavenly, this should be on your radar.

3123 Harrision
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150-7925

7. Pianeta

10096 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA

Enclosed in a historic brick structure, not a common site in Tahoe's wood frame-dominated architectural landscape, Pianeta also splits in two upon entering. Downstairs a full bar awaits with a casual appetizer menu, while a full dining room is set on the upstairs mezzanine. Pianeta has a classic Italian menu with seasonal items, including pastas, copious salads, and seafood risotto. Most of the menu is homemade and sourced locally, giving you plenty of reason to enjoy the rustic interior.

10096 Donner Pass Road
Truckee, CA

8. Fireside Pizza Company

1985 Squaw Valley Rd #25, Olympic Valley, CA 96146

Fireside is one of the highlights of the Squaw Valley base village, and one of the few in the village open year-round. A family-friendly atmosphere dominates the casual interior, and the highlights coming out of the wood-fired pizza oven include the Fireside and Thai Curry pizzas, as well as a great Greek salad. Gluten-free pies are even available. If you're up in Truckee and in the mind for pizza, Tahoe Donner's Pizza On The Hill is another great family-friendly option with severely underrated pizza.

1985 Squaw Valley Rd #25
Olympic Valley, CA 96146

9. River Grill

55 W. Lake Blvd, Tahoe City, CA 96145

The River Grill, situated across the babbling Truckee River from the Bridgetender's awesome backyard patio, is famous both for its location and its excellent happy hour specials, which run seven days a week from 5:00-6:30. The burgers, jumbo shrimp dynamite, turkey & shitake meatloaf wrapped in bacon, and ribeye steak are all hits, and chances are you'll be enjoying dinner with the accompaniment of lots of goggle tans and some live music - this is a great stop on the way back to Tahoe City from Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows.

55 W. Lake Blvd
Tahoe City, CA 96145

10. Chart House Restaurant

392 Kingsbury Grade, Stateline, NV 89449

Chart House is yes, a chain restaurant, but it has the unique benefit of an amazing view that catches the sunset from the East side of Lake Tahoe. That means that while you chomp on baked stuffed shrimp, lobster spring rolls, chicken romano, or a great filet mignon, you can watch the sun fade into the orange horizon as it sets over the peaks of the the popular backcountry skiing areas that stretch North from Emerald Bay to Rubicon Peak. Only a few minutes from the casinos closer to the lake, the Chart House nonetheless gives you a chance to enjoy the pure natural beauty you should be coming to Lake Tahoe for in the first place.

392 Kingsbury Grade
Stateline, NV 89449