Breakfast in Lake Tahoe

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Rosie's Cafe, a Tahoe City institution

Lake Tahoe is, for many a Bay Area resident, a beloved vacation spot. A mere few hours in the car and you trade the traffic (kind of) and gridlock of day to day life for clean air, endless trees, the sound of boat motors in the distance, and an inviting (albeit rather cold) crystal blue lake. My family's been coming up to Lake Tahoe ever since I was three years old. We have a modest cabin on the North Shore where, growing up, my sisters and I and made Log Cabin Ice Cream, Kings Beach, the Mini Golf Course and 7-11 (best slurpee in town) our home throughout the summer months. Today, my sisters and I are grown adults and rarely all get up there at the same time. The house has been renovated recently and is much less modest. And of course, our priorities have changed. No longer do we jump at the chance to go mini-golfing or score a cone of blue bubblegum ice cream. Nowadays, there is a lot of beach lounging, novel reading, hiking, and late breakfasts.

Last weekend, I drove up to the cabin to spend some time with my dad. We barbecued, took the boat out, did a lot of dock-sitting, and went to breakfast. As the years have passed, our favorite breakfast spots change and revolve like new gym shoes. But the current favorite (for the last few years now) is Rosie's in Tahoe City. I was actually first introduced to Rosie's by a few of my students when I was teaching college composition in--of all places--Boston. I'd assigned an essay where students were asked to write about the one place they felt truly at home. Two students wrote about Rosie's: a breakfast spot all the way across the country that their family had been going to since they were little. It turns out Rosie's was a mere fifteen minute drive from my family's cabin and I'd never even been. How could this be? I asked each student to elaborate: what was so great? What's your favorite thing to order? The resounding answers to the latter were the pancakes: the fluffiest they'd ever had. Hands down.

So next time I was up at the cabin, over a year later, I was training for a marathon. After a grueling 18-mile run, I came back starving and suggested we all head out for breakfast. Rosie's popped into my mind. And because I'd run for virtually three hours that morning, I ordered two breakfasts. I haven't looked back since.

My students were right. The pancakes basically rock. Rosie's specializes in Swedish Oatmeal Pancakes topped with applesauce, imported lingonberries and sour cream. They also do very traditional buttermilk pancakes. While you may be tempted to go the Swedish route (as was I), I'm here to advise you to go traditional this time around. I found the Swedish pancakes to be quite flat, a bit soggy, and rather flavorless. They're a little too gloppy for their own good. But the buttermilk pancakes are another tale altogether: they're uber-light and fluffy yet substantial enough to hold large pats of butter and long pours of syrup. If you're coming to Rosie's for the first time and you're a pancake person, this is your order.


Now, if you tend more towards the egg side of life, the Green Eggs and Ham is one of my favorites. It's a scramble with spinach, avocado, green onions and jack cheese served with a side of ham. Everything's in proportion, there's not too much cheese and the eggs are cooked perfectly (often my complaint with scrambles). The Eggs Benecado is another favorite: a benedict with an english muffin, sliced tomato, guacamole, and poached eggs.

Eggs Benecado
Eggs Benecado at Rosie's Cafe

I always order the Florentine sauce on the side; they can be a little heavy-handed here. And last, the Breakfast Burrito. I wasn't the one to order a breakfast burrito because, well, I usually hate them. I find that they're rarely hot all the way though and often the eggs can be a little runny. But my dad loves the Breakfast Burrito at Rosie's and he's made me an almost-convert. I'll admit it: it's good. Really good. There's really nothing that remarkable about the ingredients. We're talking eggs, beans, bacon, chives, and cheese. But it's thoughtfully put together and cooked perfectly. Those things are important when we're talking about a big jumble of breakfast ingredients.

And a review of Rosie's wouldn't be complete without a mention of the Chicken Fried Steak. Again, this has never been my first choice but my sister swears by it.

Chicken Fried Steak
Chicken Fried Steak at Rosie's Cafe

It's a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast and according to our neighbors on the lake, this is the locals spot for chicken fried steak. With traditional country gravy, fluffy eggs, and crispy hashbrowns--this has been a faithful hangover breakfast in my family in the case that the previous night got a little too raucous.

So, thanks to my students who wrote essays on Rosie's. Thanks to the owners who have maintained the likeable vintage decor (everything from antique bikes and ski equipment to elk horn chandeliers) since they purchased it in 1989, and thanks to the bad diner coffee and good dependable food--we return each year. It's come to signify mornings when all of us are, miraculously, together at the same table up at the lake.

Rosie's Cafe
571 North Lake Boulevard Map
Tahoe City, CA 96145
(530) 583-8504
Hours: Open daily, 7:30am-9pm (although the bar will stay open later if there are folks drinking)

Other Favorite Breakfast Spots Around the Lake
Maybe you've had one too many Rosie's pancakes. Maybe you're just passing through Truckee. Maybe you're looking for something new. If so, here are a few other suggestions of tried-and-true breakfast spots I frequent often when I'm up at the lake:

Tahoe House Bakery: Okay, so it's not technically a breakfast spot--this is definitely more of a bakery. But they do a mean, strong Americano and really lovely pastries. I always get a few raspberry pockets for later in the afternoon, a homemade granola bar for breakfast the next morning, and my morning treat of choice remains the Swiss chocolate croissant. They also have a nice selection of take-out picnic items.

The Old Post Office Cafe: A charming former post office converted into one heck of a busy breakfast spot. Really good coffee, probable waits on the weekends, great build-your-own scrambles and biscuits and gravy.

Fire Sign Cafe: It's been around since the 1970s and in the summer the wait can be pretty long, but it's worth it. I absolutely love their buckwheat pancakes and the salmon omelet. Order the coffeecake of the day and share it with your tablemates (the fresh blueberry is incredible).


Squeeze In: Ah, Truckee. Quaint Victorian houses, surprisingly good restaurants, fun antiques...and a really fine breakfast. Squeeze In is known for their omelets: last time I was there I believe they had 58 to choose from. This makes for a bit of indecision so have one of their strong Bloody Mary's to loosen up first.