-FRIENDLY DINING IN THE TAHOE AREA (check back for updates):
Blue Water Bistro at 3411 Lake Tahoe Boulevard in . The Blue Water Bistro is located on a boardwalk in what would otherwise be a “meh” location, but it is the perfect spot for happy hour drinks on the balcony or down below on the boardwalk while enjoying the sunset, especially during the off-season. The owner is vegetarian and the menu reflects it. The meatless options, however, all contain dairy, except a few salad and vegetable side dishes and one very tasty tofu appetizer. The homemade bread is simply wonderful. Recommended for ; but vegans will have few options. The Blue Water Bistro is dog-friendly, too.
Dandelion Deli & Cafe at 1170 South Wells Avenue in Reno, Nevada. Famous as the place “where vegans and carnivores can come together to dine”. The breakfast, lunch and dinner menus offer many vegan and vegetarian choices. Be sure to check out the desserts in the cold case. The black forest cake (vegan, of course) is beyond GOOD. Relevant blog post: Veganism Is Deprivation.
Fifty Fifty Brewing Company at 11197 Brockway Road in Truckee. Honestly, I didn’t think this restaurant would make the list. I scanned the menu and wasn’t initially impressed (from the leaf-eater point of view). But, what the heck; we happened to be in the area and we wanted a couple of beers and maybe some french fries, too. Their beer selection is great and the garlic fries (hold the Parmesan cheese) are perfectly satisfying. The caprese pizza (hold the mozzarella cheese) is phenomenal. It’s so good that the addition of cheese seems completely unnecessary. I’ve never seen so much roasted garlic and fresh basil on a pizza before. The balsamic reduction makes the pizza sauce something special.
Free Bird at 2753 Lake Tahoe Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe. The Free Bird offers organic and eco-friendly goodness on the fly: organic coffees and teas, homemade Chai and fresh smoothies as well as in-house baked goods and a few other portable breakfast and/or lunch items. The soup of the day is always vegan or vegetarian. Outdoor seating is available or you could take your to-go items behind the parking lot to the trail bordering the Upper Truckee meadows. The Free Bird closes mid-afternoon, so get there early. Relevant blog posts: Finding Vegan / The Tahoe Road Trip and The Celebratory Cacao Smoothie.
Freshies Restaurant & Bar at 3330 Lake Tahoe Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe. Freshies is a wonderful gathering place that is reminiscent of a Hawaiian plate lunch café. The offerings are mostly organic and are very vegan/vegetarian friendly; they use separate fryers for meat items. Most of the regular menu items offer tempeh, tofu and/or Portobello mushroom substitutions with your choice of grilled, fried, blackened, Jamaican Jerk or very hot buffalo style. Freshies is famous for their fish (or tofu, tempeh or Portobello) tacos, and the My Tri Fries are a must-have appetizer. They even offer a vegan dessert: chocolate peanut butter mousse pie. Outdoor lake view dining is available on the upper deck from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but be prepared to wait for it. No worries, the friendly wait staff will bring you a cold beer while you wait (and they have a great beer and wine selection). Before you go, check the waiting room cam to see how busy they are. Relevant blog posts: Finding Vegan / The Tahoe Road Trip and Imitation And Flattery.
Lake Tahoe Pizza Company at 1168 Emerald Bay Road in South Lake Tahoe. They’ve been voted “Best Of Tahoe” several years in a row; and for good reason.Their doughs are homemade (one is gluten free) and their many sauce choices are homemade, too. It thrills me that Daiya mozzarella is the one of the many cheese choices that they offer for their pizzas and calzones. They even offer two “lean calorie” pizzas if that’s your thing. The salad bar is typical and I would describe it as “meh”. But, with the many tasty pizza and calzone choices on the menu, why fill up on salad? I suggest dining fireside in the bar for a cozy experience on a snowy night.
Los Mexicanos at 1000 Herbert Avenue in South Lake Tahoe just west of the Super 8 Motel. Los Mexicanos may be a hole in the wall, but the food is good and satisfying (love the salsa bar). The portions are generous and the prices are more than reasonable. The service is prompt and friendly; the staff are always very helpful with our “no dairy” requests. Although the menu doesn’t offer a lot of vegan/vegetarian options, it’s worth the trip if you are craving an authentic Mexican burrito. We usually take ours to go – and we always order our favorite, the Super Veggie Burrito. It can easily feed 2 people.
Samurai Restaurant at 2588 Highway 50 in South Lake Tahoe. I can’t say enough nice things about this restaurant. It is one of my favorites in the Tahoe area. I’ll go out on a limb and call it authentic Japanese cuisine, judging by the credentials of the owners and the chefs. The interior of the restaurant is cozy and welcoming; the seating around the central fire pit is the place to be if you can get it. The waitstaff are very helpful when choosing vegan items from the menu and the choices are plenty, from appetizers to rolls to entree items. The vegetarian udon is downright soul satisfying (and just the perfect thing after hitting the slopes). Trust me on this: the Monk’s Curry is a life-changer. You will want to eat it every day.
Sierra Pizza at 1034 Al Tahoe Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe. Sierra Pizza boasts Tahoe’s largest pie: the 24″ extra-large. No matter what size you order, this is the kind of pizza that you fold in half to eat. You can dine-in (outdoor seating is available) or have it delivered. They offer a homemade whole wheat pizza dough, build-your-own calzones and pies if the specialty veggie pizza options don’t appeal to you, a variety of fresh vegetable toppings and sauces, a few salad choices and a good beer and wine selection. At this writing, Sierra doesn’t offer a vegan cheese option.
Sprouts Natural Foods Café at 3123 Harrison Avenue in South Lake Tahoe. Fresh, mostly organic food in a casual setting. The café always seems to be busy, but the service is fast. The menu offers enough variety to satisfy both plant and meat eaters alike. Many of the menu items offer tempeh and tofu substitutions. Sprouts has a great fresh juice (including wheatgrass) and smoothie bar plus a decent beer selection, too. One word of advice: ask for “light carrot” in your juice selection, otherwise your green juice will be predominantly orange. Outdoor seating is available for diners with well-behaved dogs. The employees are friendly and very knowledgeable about vegan food items. Bring cash; they don’t accept cards (a cash machine is located in the dining room). Relevant blog post: Finding Vegan / The Tahoe Road Trip.
Stateline Brewery & Restaurant at 4118 Lake Tahoe Boulevard at Heavenly Village. They had me at “We will be happy to substitute Daiya Vegan cheese for no additional charge”. I love this place: they have several vegetarian pizza options that are easily veganized by replacing Daiya cheese for the dairy cheese. The salad offerings are phenomenal (and generous, too) and many of the salads offer the substitution of crispy chili glazed tofu for the meat and/or seafood. The brewery also makes a tasty Portobello burger that can easily be made vegan by substituting Daiya cheese for the dairy cheese. The beer selection is not too shabby, either.
Stony Ridge Uncommon Kitchen at 505 North Lake Boulevard in Tahoe City. The Uncommon Kitchen is a counter-style kitchen in the back of New Moon Natural Foods. A few picnic tables are located outside, too, but your best bet is picking up to-go items and eating along the lake or the Truckee river nearby when the weather permits. The service is adequate on a good day, but the food is always “wow”. If the kitchen is closed, try the prepackaged items in the deli cold case; you won’t be disappointed. There are plenty of wholesome options for vegans, omnivores and everything in between. Strict vegans should pay attention to the ingredient lists, though. Honey is listed as an ingredient in a few of the cold case items that are labelled “vegan”. Relevant blog post: Finding Vegan / The Tahoe Road Trip.
Thai Kitchen at 255 North Lake Boulevard in Tahoe City. It always makes me happy when I find a Thai restaurant that will make me drunken noodles without the fish sauce. I adore those thick, chewy noodles and they were tough to give up when we went vegan. But, Thai Kitchen accommodates my “no fish sauce” request. And the red curry with Asian pumpkin is a must-try. There are other veg options on the menu (and the staff are willing to work with vegan requests), but we seem to be stuck on these two menu items. Sure, the entrees are pricey considering the portion sizes, but the food never disappoints. I suggest dining during “off” hours; the tiny restaurant can make you claustrophobic during the dinner rush hour, especially on the weekends with heavy tourist traffic. Getting stuck at the bar under the neon lighting doesn’t do much for the food pictures!
Thai Nakorn at 2108 Lake Tahoe Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe (they have restaurants in Truckee and Reno, too). The restaurant interior is Asian-meets-mountain-lodge. And it’s cozy and comfortable. Although the menu has many options (they will substitute tofu for the meat items in most dishes), we can’t seem to move beyond the pumpkin red curry with tofu instead of the chicken and shrimp (it’s just that good). The avocado curry (again with the tofu) is fantastic, too. Speaking of tofu, the fried tofu appetizer is almost a religious experience (ask for extra sauce, though, because they are way generous with the tofu portions). The brown rice on the side is steamed with spices that compliment the curries well. Best. Leftovers. Ever.
VEGAN-FRIENDLY SHOPPING IN THE TAHOE AREA:
Grass Roots Natural Foods at 2040 Dunlap Drive in South Lake Tahoe. Grass Roots is a small natural foods store that is big on customer service. They have managed to pack a lot of inventory into such a small space, and if they don’t carry what you are looking for, they will order it for you. The organic produce selection is impressive, given their space limitations, and the cold case offers prepackaged sandwiches and wraps that always disappear quickly. The in-house bakery provides fresh pizza, breads and pastry items daily. Their giant vegan cookies rival any other bakery’s offerings, vegan or not. Grass Roots is moving into a larger space (the former Blockbuster Video) March 2012 at the same site. Relevant blog posts: Finding Vegan / The Tahoe Road Trip and Christmas Dinner In A Kitchenette.
New Moon Natural Foods at 505 North Lake Boulevard in Tahoe City. The wonderful deli in the back of this store makes the trip to Tahoe City worthwhile (not to mention the spectacular view on the drive up). Bonus: the store carries a great selection of vegan/vegetarian and gluten-free foods and it has decent bulk food and organic produce selections, too. Plus, a large variety of natural beauty products and supplements. The man was especially enamored of their beer selection. Relevant blog post: Finding Vegan / The Tahoe Road Trip.
Raley’s Grocery Store has two locations in South Lake Tahoe: 1040 Emerald Bay Road (next to K Mart) and 4000 Lake Tahoe Boulevard near Heavenly Village. Both stores have a great selection (for a standard grocery store) of organic produce and natural food items. The vegan/vegetarian and gluten-free foods offered at both locations makes dining-in at your motel kitchenette or vacation home rental both easy and economical. Relevant blog post: Christmas Dinner In A Kitchenette.