I love burgers of all shapes, sizes and varieties. Burgers go so well with outdoor activities, which is likely why there are so many outstanding choices of hearty meals in the Tahoe Sierra. I sampled nine patties from eateries around the lake last summer (at TheTahoeWeekly.com); I’m continuing my quest this summer to find more. Here are some of my newest favorites.
Carnelian Burger at CB’s Bistro | Carnelian Bay
CB’s is best known for its pizza, but also serves a mean burger. After spending a morning hiking and biking, my cousin and I went to CB’s Bistro hungry. She chose a pizza and I instantly decided on the Carnelian Burger, a turkey burger with mixed greens, tomato, red onion and chipotle sauce nestled in an onion bun and served with a side salad.
The Carnelian Burger came out looking incredible and tasted as good as it looked with a mildly spicy chipotle sauce that paired nicely with the juicy turkey patty. The mixed greens salad side spilled over into the open-faced burger and I was equally impressed with the tangy housemade goddess dressing that came with it. However, I think that half of what makes CB’s so good — no matter what you order — is the friendly service and local vibe. | cbsbistro.com
Farm House Lamb Burger at Fat Cat Bar & Grill | Tahoe City
In the heart of downtown Tahoe City is Fat Cat Bar & Grill, which I always associated with a late-night music and cocktail scene. However, I discovered it offered a full burger menu with interesting selections that included the Famous “Fat” Cat Burger made with 1½ pounds of Bently Ranch Beef on a bun with cheddar cheese, housemade onion rings, avocado and smoked cherrywood-smoked bacon.
But what caught my attention was the Farm House Lamb Burger. The Northern California lamb is combined with brie, arugula and a housemade roasted red-pepper aioli. Biting into the center, several distinct flavors all came together in a crazy good combination that could rival any burger from Fergburger’s in New Zealand. | tahoefatcat.com
Caprese at California Burger Co. | South Lake Tahoe
Two things about the California Burger Co. menu impressed me right away: the price of a delicious burger comes with a choice of 10 sides and the fact you can substitute any third-pound beef patty for a chicken breast free of charge. The restaurant hosts local musicians and exhibits local artwork 365 days a year.
The most popular burger on the menu is the Californian, a beef patty with spinach, pesto, jack cheese, tomato, red onion, housemade roasted garlic aioli and a good amount of avocado. But since it was morning when I went, I opted for the lighter Caprese and substituted the beef patty for a chicken breast with tomato, basil, mozzarella, mayonnaise and sweet balsamic reduction. I chose squash, which was seasonal at the time, for the side dish.
Within 10 minutes or so, the strong scent of basil and balsamic reduction sauce came wafting over the table. The chicken breast was served open-faced in an artful spread. The tender thick chicken breast was complemented by the bright taste of basil, Roma tomatoes and a copious string of mozzarella oozing out. The side dish of warm, buttery yellow and green squash was a nice addition. It melted in my mouth and was perfect on a chilly morning. Light yet hearty, the Caprese was worth the drive that was made even better by a guitarist singing “Brown-Eyed Girl” out front. | caburgerco.com
Inclined Burger at Inclined Burgers and Brews | Incline Village, Nev.
This restaurant just opened last fall and immediately started making waves. After hearing from several trustworthy sources that it had the best burgers in Tahoe, I had to go check it out for myself — and I was not disappointed.
Inclined Burgers and Brews has everything going for it: cheerful and passionate employees, a straightforward menu and burgers made with fresh and locally sourced ingredients at an affordable price; locals and visitors alike feel they’re getting their money’s worth.
What sets Inclined Burgers and Brews apart is the love and care put into their cooking process. The quarter-pound patties are sourced from Sierra Meat and Seafood in Reno, Nev.; chefs mash thinly sliced onions into the beef then season and cook it on a flat-top grill, which creates a nice crust.
I ordered the Inclined Burger topped with cheddar cheese, grilled onions, lettuce and special sauce — and I asked them to add a fried egg. The burger was flavorful and wholesome. I could taste the tweaks in the cooking process shining through. I think I inhaled it in less than five minutes, then started in on the garlic fries, another story in terms of deliciousness. | inclinedburgersandbrew.com