Lake Tahoe / Nevada—Best Restaurants in Reno & Incline Village

Diamond Peak Ski Resort

“Have you skied Colorado?” snowsports enthusiasts ask each other. “How about Utah? And B.C.?”

They never pose the question, “Have you skied Nevada?”

Everyone knows Nevada—or so they think. Casinos. Mohave Desert. Aliens in Area 51. But an alternate truth hides in plain sight, right in the state name. Nevada means “snowy” in Spanish—a name bestowed by early 19th-century explorers in recognition of the 14,000-foot peaks of the Sierra Nevada range that runs 400 miles…

… Which is exactly why Nevada should interest skiers and snowboarders.

Nevada is home to five ski areas, of which three lie in the Lake Tahoe region: the Nevada (east) side of Heavenly on the South Shore; and Diamond Peak and Mt. Rose on the North Shore.

Diamond Peak Ski Resort

Awesome views of Lake Tahoe abound at Diamond Peak, a resort owned by the community of Incline Village, Nevada. Take Crystal Express quad to the 8,540-foot summit, carve halfway down Ridge Trail, and you’ll be gobsmacked by the big-blue vista.

In contrast to the corporate megaresorts, Diamond Peak feels laid-back and friendly. And very, very uncrowded. Midweek, maybe 350 people might be schussing its 1,840 vertical feet. People often describe the mountain as a “hidden gem”—and regulars want to keep it that way. “Bring your friends—but not TOO many,” said one local.

Diamond Peak Ski Resort

With its uncongested slopes and welcoming vibe, Diamond Peak makes an especially good place for kids to learn to ski/board. The Child Ski & Ride Center for youngsters aged three to six has a dedicated learning area with a new, magic-carpet-style surface lift. Not only that: kids aged six and under ski free. Meanwhile, parents soon discover that the mountain is no wuss, with 500 acres of off-piste tree skiing and riding in addition to its cruisers.

For lunch with a view, head to the wrap-around deck at Snowflake Lodge, open daily for sandwiches, salads, and chili. On weekends and peak periods, they fire up authentic barbeque with slow-smoked tri-tip, ribs, and pulled pork served with homemade sauces. Finish off your snow-play day with the Snowflake Snuggler: hot chocolate with vanilla vodka, Baileys, and Rumple Minze, topped with whipped cream.

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe

Mt. Rose has the highest base elevation of the Lake Tahoe resorts: 8,260 feet. “Not only that, our base is higher than the top of KT-22 at Palisades Tahoe,” points out Mike Pierce, marketing director. Thanks to its elevation and north- and east-facing slopes. Mt. Rose enjoys some of the earliest, best, and longest-lasting snow conditions in the Tahoe region.

Gnarly or cruise-centric: take your pick. For experts, the notch-in-the-belt runs are The Chutes, with 200+ acres of double-black-diamond dares pitched from 40 degrees to 55 degrees. Alternatively, you can ogle the thrills from the comfort of the Northwest Express chair as you head to the wide-open, blue runs of Slide Bowl and Kit Carson Bowl.

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe

New for 2022–2023, the Lakeview Express chair makes sensational Lake Tahoe views accessible to even novice skiers/boarders. Gentle green runs curve two miles from summit to the base.

Mt. Rose is located just 25 minutes/22 miles from Reno. “You know the bar from the TV show ‘Cheers’? This is our ‘Cheers,’” one local explained. My favorite blast-from-the-past artifact is the decades-old yellow sign at the entrance that lists “Rose No’s”: “No dogs / No alcoholic beverages / No sledding / No mullets.”

Downtown Reno / Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is the only place in the U.S. where you can combine big-mountain skiing with high-stakes gaming… trade in black-diamond runs by day for blackjack bets at night. Calling itself “The Biggest Little City in the World,” Reno offers jackpots even for non-gamers. The casinos bankroll dozens of upscale hotels and restaurants at cheaper-than-you’d-expect prices.

Caesars Entertainment / Roxy

Roxy [Reno] Sure, Reno abounds with outposts of famous nationwide steakhouses. But for an only-in-Tahoe experience, head to Roxy, the top choice for Renoites when they want to celebrate. The night I dined, one nearby table blew out birthday candles while another group toasted a job promotion.

Roxy is spread across a series of rambling dining rooms in the Eldorado Resort Casino. Some chambers evoke the gilded allure of a grand hotel, while others feel like a cellar in a castle keep. Knowledgeable and gracious servers guide you through a menu that delivers all the steakhouse classics.

Starters feature oysters from the raw bar, a blue-cheese wedge, and fried calamari with lemon-pepper aioli. Meats and seafood are top rate. One specialty is the ribeye cap steak, with marbling that makes it tender and tastilicious. Along with filet mignon and New York cut, it can come with béarnaise, peppercorn, or chimichurri sauce. Other choices range from day-boat scallops and salmon to pork chops and Thai chicken.

Plan ahead and order one of the soufflés—the eggnog one with spiced anglaise caps off a day on snowy summits.

Located next to a grandiose Fountain of Fortune, Roxy’s Bar and Lounge is known for its 100+ martinis (shaken, stirred, or swizzled) and live entertainment.

Caesars Entertainment / La Strada

La Strada [Reno] With marble columns, arched brick walls, and paintings of vineyards, La Strada feels like a palazzo in the Tuscan countryside… not a surprise once you learn that the restaurant celebrates the Italian-American heritage of its founders.

Don and Rhonda Carano built the Eldorado Resort Casino in which the restaurant is ensconced, and the family now owns Caesars Entertainment, which operates more than 50 hotels and casinos around the world. The Caranos also established Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma, California.

“Let me tell you about the mushroom ravioli,” your server will say before you even peruse the menu. Creamy and porcini’d, these pillowy poufs became famous in 2019 when Food Network ranked them among “Best Pasta in the Country.” They’re a must.

After that, the menu will keep you oscillating among the choices. Pastas are made in house, assuring al dente perfection for pappardelle Bolognese and seafood linguine. Carne selections range from veal scallopini to ossobuco, steak Fiorentina, and lamb chops marinated in fig and balsamic vinegar. Ocean-swimmers are well represented, with lobster, salmon, and Hawaiian snapper.

For dessert, cajole a friend to share the gigantic tiramisu—or keep an entire cannoli (ricotta with candied orange zest) for yourself.

The Shore Room [Reno] With a large deck overlooking the Truckee River, this restaurant lives up to its name. The kitchen is helmed by Jason Burton, a nominee for Best New Chef from both Food & Wine Magazine and the James Beard Foundation. He showcases local, seasonal ingredients in a Mediterranean-style menu that encompasses small plates as well as full-on entrees.

Diners embark on a culinary journey. Starters and small plates globetrot from Greek meatballs to Spanish octopus to duck enchiladas with pear and apple salsa spiked with Middle Eastern sumac.

Main courses bring together the comforting with the creative. Seared flatiron steak ups its umami with shiro-miso butter. Meanwhile, ricotta gnocchi bring together a wintery harvest of chanterelles, brussels sprouts, squash puree, dried cranberries, and candied pecans napped with an herbal pistou. Heritage Rancho Llano Seco pork stars in a revolving roster of dishes, such as a chop partnered with parmesan polenta and blistered shishitos.

The restaurant is also open for breakfast (yum… brioche French toast) and lunch (go for the crispy chicken sandwich with harissa aioli).

Wild River Grille [Reno] History and scenery come together at Wild River Grille, overlooking the Truckee River from the Riverside Hotel building. Considered Reno’s birthplace, the site has offered some form of lodgings since 1859 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

While brick walls and wooden tables stay true to the past, the menu conveys a modern and exploratory outlook, putting new twists on favorite dishes. Most appetizers are shareable and nibble-able, like the glazed Brussels sprouts flecked with seared pancetta, crab and salmon cakes, and butternut squash hummus garnished with feta cheese and pepitas.

In addition to steaks, winter-cozy specialties include slow-braised short ribs over creamy polenta, meatloaf (this one mobilizes fresh-ground beef and Italian sausage), and elk medallions garnished with Port-shallot demi-glace and seasonal mushrooms. The seafood catch is strong, bringing in choices like salmon, trout, and mahi-mahi.

End on an ooey-gooey note with Truckee River Mud: a composition of warm brownie, Klondike bar, caramel, chocolate, and fresh whipped cream.

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe—Lone Eagle Grille

Lone Eagle Grille [Incline Village] You’ll feel like you’re living in a picture-perfect postcard at Lone Eagle Grille, set lakeside at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino. At sunset, the lake mirrors the red-violet sky surrounded by snowy summits.

Decor evokes High Sierra chic with soaring wood-beam ceilings, log dining chairs, and a two-story river-stone fireplace. Likewise, the menu showcases alpine favorites as well as cozy flavors from around the world. Starters include a Thai-style pumpkin and banana soup, Hungarian goulash, and French onion soup as well as ahi tuna poke and seared scallops.

Think big when it comes to the mesquite-grilled entrees, especially the Angus beef tomahawk ribeye that weighs in at 32 ounces (and $165, but you can share). Game figures prominently, including elk strip loin with blueberry gastrique, and bison tenderloin with bone-marrow butter and mushroom jus. But it’s not all about hearty meats. Choices also include seared seabass with quince-tomato compote and roast chicken atop cranberry bean and rosemary ragout.

For dessert, the signature Baked Tahoe (a riff on the Alaska archetype) mounds buckwheat cookie crust with vanilla-toffee ice cream and toasted, spiky meringue, surrounded by swirls of chocolate sauce.

Big Water Grille [Incline Village] Set on the north shore of the lake on the way to Diamond Peak, Big Water Grille is known for tree-framed lake views, great food, and attentive service.

Earthy and eclectic, the menu explores flavors and cuisines. Tastes and textures contrast happily in the frisée and mixed greens salad enlivened by Gorgonzola, Fuji apples, smoked bacon, pecans, cherry tomatoes, and raspberry vinaigrette. KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower) awakens the palate with house-made spicy chili sauce.

Changing with the seasons, entrees range from fancy to familiar, all while paying attention to details. For diners who want to keep things simple but tasty, there’s a half-pound burger (the cheese is Gruyère, the sauce an herb aioli) or fish and chips (made with mahi-mahi and fresh-cut fries). More elaborate offerings include pan-roasted salmon with citrus beurre blanc, and a grilled pork chop with sweet potato purée and Granny Smith apple chutney.

— Risa Wyatt