The 25 best burgers in Tahoe

Burger at Rocker. | Patrick Lacey, Palisades Tahoe.

Burgers are the perfect thing to eat after a long hike, bike ride, skiing, snowboarding or golfing. Burgers can be a hangover cure, gut bomb or protein-packed patty sandwiched between a bun that fuels you through the day. A burger can be so big that it carries you through more meals or something that just hits the spot.

There is so much labor that goes into making a burger– from the animal or plant protein, to the chef, to the accompaniments like the sauce, the pickle, the fries. Here’s a recap of the best burgers I’ve enjoyed in Tahoe.

South Shore’s best burgers
There are so many great burgers in South Lake Tahoe, it’s hard to know where to start.

The buffalo sauce and sheer amount of meat in a Frank’s Burger at The Getaway Café is the thing to get after a day of mountain biking at Kirkwood Mountain Resort. The Western Bacon Burger at Casey’s in Zephyr Cove is a nice way to enjoy a meal, watch a sports game on one of its big screen TVs and meet people. Or get a whiff of nostalgia with a local’s favorite Tahoe burger at Sno-Flake Drive In, on Highway 50.

I’ve enjoyed the Caprese burger at California Burger Co., substituting the beef patty with a chicken breast and not only does everything on the menu look incredible but the place always seems to be going off with live music. I’ve also indulged in the burgers at Lucky Beaver and the Desert Burger at Burger Lounge, a black bean patty with a hearty piece of cactus nestled in a bun.

Izzy’s Burger Spa is one of those places that always has smoke coming out of the flue and a hint of what South Shore was like in the 1980s. Big Daddy’s Burgers is a place where you can get a good burger at a decent price, which is probably why it is packed with blue collar workers at lunchtime. |,,,,,,,

North Lake Tahoe’s best burgers
Char-Pit in Kings Beach is another burger joint with smoke coming out of the top whipping up 30-plus combinations of burgers, and the Western burger at Spindleshanks is incredible with its big fat onion ring and barbecue sauce sharing space with the patty and inside a thick bun. The Grid Bar & Grill in Kings Beach also has a full menu of burger selections; I recommend the Southwest version.

Find a list of local ski resort opening dates in this edition or at

Inclined Burger, with Tahoe locations in Incline Village and Northstar, has a unique process for cooking patties. Jim Kelley’s Tahoe Nugget Awful Awful Burger gained notoriety years ago. The Village Pub’s burgers are well-known among locals. One of my good friends regularly drives up from San Diego to have a Village Pub burger.

In Tahoe City, the 2-inch tall lamb burger at Fat Cat Bar & Grill and the elk burger with its blueberry barbecue sauce at Bridgetender are memorable.

In Truckee, The Dirty Bird at Burger Me! and the Cajun Blackened Burger at Jax at the Tracks are favorites.

The turkey burger at CB’s Bistro in Carnelian Bay is hearty and healthy, especially with a nice side salad. |,,,,

Best ski resort burgers
From bluebird powder days at Palisades Tahoe to snowy fresh powder days at Tahoe Donner, biting into a scrumptious burger makes it instantly obvious why a burger is one of the top selling items at Tahoe ski resorts.

I love biting into a signature Rocker burger with its brioche bun and rosemary aioli after the lifts close at the Village at Palisades Tahoe or hiding out in the Ski Grill + Bar at Tahoe Donner with a traditional cheeseburger in the middle of a snowstorm. The vegetarian burger at 22 Bistro in Olympic Valley is worth mentioning, too.

The burgers at Donner Ski Ranch and Boreal are tall and full of toppings and served at lodges overlooking the slopes. And the Wagyu burger at Bourbon Pub at the Village at Northstar? Woo wee, my mouth waters just thinking about it. |,,,,,

More burgers to try

Over the last five years, I’ve tasted a lot of burgers and people are always suggesting new burgers to try.

Tahoe Guide Food & Well Being Editor Priya Hutner raves about Cult Burger on the West Shore and I want to eat one of the burgers at Classic Cue Sports Bar & Grill in South Shore simply because everything else on the menu is so delicious.

I’ve always been a fan of Chef Smitty’s recipes that were published in Tahoe Guide for many years and like to follow his Juicy Burgers recipe to make my own (available at

It’s comforting to think that as much as the Tahoe Sierra has changed over the years, you can always find a good burger. |,