Have you ever been hiking, biking, paddleboarding, swimming or golfing and then craved a big, juicy patty to fill you up and get you back to your outdoor activities? Whether you are looking for something quick and affordable on your lunch break or you need a grab-and-go meal, there are plenty of accessible burger joints around the lake.
I went on the hunt for Tahoe’s best burgers and patties taking into account price, accessibility, local recommendations and past experiences. I looked for quality, variety of menu options, customer service and how fast the food came out. So after trying a lot of burgers, here are some of my personal favorites.
Burger Me | The Dirty Bird
Burger Me in Truckee has a cool diner-like feel with a modern vibe. I came here after a long day of golfing and thought about getting the Ahi Burger, a seared rare yellow-fin tuna with sriracha coleslaw, wasabi mayo and mixed greens; or the Impossible Burger, a plant-based patty that tastes like the real thing; but decided on the Dirty Bird. This blackened chicken patty that comes adorned with Pico de Gallo, pepper-jack cheese and chipotle mayonnaise was decently proportioned and hit the spot. Burger Me offers fast and fresh with a lot of options on the menu. It’s a good place to take the family, and there’s another location in Reno. | realfreshburger.com
Izzy’s Burger Spa | Izzy’s Special
Izzy’s Burger Spa in South Lake Tahoe has an authentic burger joint look complete with Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man arcade machines. After ordering at the front counter, I grabbed one of the long wooden tables out on the back deck. My Izzy’s Special came out quickly and was a sight to see: a third of a pound beef patty with diced peppers cooked into it served on a long soft French roll with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, ketchup and mayo oozing out of every bite. It was charbroiled to perfection and made me yearn for a nap afterward. | izzysburgerspatahoe.com
Big Daddy’s Burgers | The Veggie Burger
A few blocks down, closer to Stateline, Nev., is Big Daddy’s Burgers. It also has an arcade Centipede machine and a simple menu with five kinds of burgers ranging from a $4.29 hamburger to a $5.79 bacon cheeseburger. Big Daddy’s Burgers offers fast service; order something to go and take it to the beach. I ordered the veggie burger, which came with all of the fixing’s plus a tangy Thousand Island sauce that added a touch of originality. | bigdaddysburgerstahoe.com
Bridgetender Tavern and Grill | The Rocky Mountain Elk Burger
Coming back to Tahoe from the 103-degree F Sacramento Valley was a treat in itself, but I came hungry. I stopped at the Bridgetender in Tahoe City and ordered the Rocky Mountain Elk Burger. Despite the place being totally packed on a Sunday evening, the service was fast and the wait staff friendly. The burger came out, a lean and hearty 6 ounces of meat and Monterey jack cheese served with lettuce, tomato, onion, blueberry barbecue sauce and an orange slice on the side. The burger by itself filled me up, but didn’t feel like a gut bomb. Bridgetender doesn’t do orders to go, so it’s best to hang out on the patio and savor your meal with any of the 15 beers on tap or a glass of wine. | tahoebridgetender.com
The Grid Bar & Grill | The Southwest Burger
Located in the heart of Kings Beach across from the beach, The Grid is best known for its nightlife and its patties of certified Angus beef. The deck area features filtered views of the lake, but many of its customers’ eyes were drawn to the World Cup game playing on the outside big-screen TV. I come to The Grid for the chicken sandwiches, but this time I ordered the Southwest Burger. The thick beef patty came adorned with roasted red peppers, jack cheese, bacon and a generous helping of chipotle ranch sauce. Shoestring fries are included and kids’ burgers come served on a Frisbee so that they can easily be carried over to the beach. | thegridbarandgrill.com
Jim Kelley’s Tahoe Nugget | The Awful Awful
The Awful Awful burger won a special place in my heart from when I visited the downtown Reno Little Nugget Diner joint at about 3 a.m. That kind of environment doesn’t appeal to everyone, but fortunately the famed Awful Awful burger recipe has been shared amongst all of the Nuggets in Northern Nevada, including the one in Crystal Bay. So why is the Awful Awful so popular?
According to The Nugget’s signage, “It’s awful big and awful good for 35 years.” It also comes at an awfully good price for what you get. Eleven dollars buys you two, one-third-pound, steak patties with cheddar cheese melted between them, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, mayonnaise and Thousand Island served on a brioche bun with a generous heap of fries. It’s the perfect thing to eat when you want to take a break from an hours-long slot-machine session and see what’s going on outside. | facebook.com/pg/awfulawfulburger
Burger preferences are subjective and there are dozens of other burger options in the Tahoe Sierra, but I hope this provides you with a starting point. Now, you should go out and try all of the Tahoe burgers for yourself.