(Editor’s note: This story appears in the 2021 summer edition of Tahoe magazine.)
Active and health-conscious people tend to gravitate to Lake Tahoe to absorb its fresh air, acres of pine trees, and recreate in and around its big blue beautiful pond, so it makes sense that visitors and locals alike would want healthy and organic meals to keep energy levels up and the stamina needed to get through whatever life throws your way.
Fortunately, no matter if you’re gluten intolerant, your system can’t handle meat products, or you have simply chosen a plant-based lifestyle to feel better, there are some great vegetarian and vegan options available around Lake Tahoe. Here are some restaurants that specialize in healthy vegetarian food and drinks that provide enough sustenance to get you through the day:
Sprouts Natural Foods Cafe, South Lake Tahoe
Right next to the Tahoe Bike Company and a couple short blocks away from Lakeview Beach, Sprouts Café in South Lake Tahoe serves clean, wholesome dishes made primarily of fresh and organic ingredients. With a name like Sprouts (not to be confused with the supermarket), you can bet on finding a large menu containing many plant-based items including tempeh burgers, smoothies, sandwiches, salads, and grain/rice bowls.
On a busy Sunday afternoon, the line of people further attests that this is the place to go for vegan and vegetarian dishes in South Lake. Sprouts Café Owner Tyler Cannon says that the Rice Bowl Cadillac is its signature dish because people love the abundance of brown rice, veggies, cheese, and three kinds of beans. I opt for the Mexican Volcano, which consists of a heaping pile of naturally grown food presented in a cone-like sculpture. This vegetarian dish erupted with tomatoes, onions, scallions, beans, carrots, sprouts, cabbage, and mixed greens that all taste like they were recently picked out of some secret garden out behind the restaurant. And then the whole thing was topped with salsa, guacamole, rice lightly doused in a creamy honey mustard sauce with a few tortilla chips nestled underneath. I forgot that this didn’t have any meat in it, and left feeling pleasantly full and with enough left over for dinner.
The Bee Sting smoothie with apple juice, strawberries, banana, Vitamin B complex, and bee pollen is also amazing, and it’s perfect to enjoy before, after, or during a bike ride on the 3-mile paved path that runs adjacent to the café and the lake.
Simple Bliss, South Lake Tahoe
(Editor’s note: After almost 10 years in business, Simple Bliss closed its doors in June)
Open since 2012, Simple Bliss in the Swiss Chalet Village in South Lake Tahoe touts itself as being the first and only completely vegan café at the lake. Everything on their menu including the Biscuit & Gravy Breakfast Platter to the maca lattes are all 100% organic, soy and gluten free so that people who have trouble with these kinds of food allergies have an easier time finding a safe, delicious, and healthy dish.
Simple Bliss’s coffee drinks, chai lattes, and maca lattes are constructed with house made coconut or cashew milk available in at least 30 different choices, and there’s a whole separate smoothie menu as well. My favorite coffee drink is the Mayan Mocha, a handcrafted concoction made up of cashew milk, chocolate, and espresso with a bit of coconut oil and cayenne powder mixed in with it. The cashew milk makes the drink creamy and nutritious-tasting, perfect to sip on a crisp summer morning or for an afternoon pick-me-up between running errands.
Simple Bliss organic vegan café owner Sandi has brewed up these special vegan portions and dishes when she found herself saddled with serious health problems and was able to reverse her conditions by changing her diet. She shares her recipes (like how to make your own cashew milk) on the Simple Bliss website and My Witchy Kitchen YouTube channel. Simple Bliss also carries a variety of enchanting low-glycemic desserts and pastries like raw peach berry swirl cheesecake, pecan pie, and almond butter chocolates.
Stoney Ridge Uncommon Kitchen, Tahoe City
On the corner of Highway 89 and Granlibakken Road on Tahoe’s northwest shore, New Moon Natural Foods and Stony Ridge Uncommon Kitchen is a popular place for Truckee and North Shore health-conscious locals to go to find organic, unique, and natural foods such as thumb-sized Chilean green grapes, Oaxacan cheese, and everything in between. New Moon also keeps the Uncommon Kitchen, consisting of a deli counter that serves a varied range of eclectic food like sushi, falafels, fish tacos, and Leaf Eater sandwiches.
However, if you happen to stop by when the deli is closed, then don’t worry, there are still plenty of vegan and gluten-free salads, noodles, desserts, and more in the deli case next to the counter. Consider grabbing a cup of Bonzai Beets, 5 “C” salad, bursting-with-flavor Marsala Potatoes, or Thai Peanut Noodle Salad for a quick and healthy meal. And don’t forget to try the vegan Tiramisu to top off your lunch; it’s made with a variety of nuts, raw cacao, agave, coconut milk, coconut oil, dates, coffee, vanilla, soy, a little bit of salt, and Irish moss in this velvety, crunchy, and rich combination.
Thania’s Juice Bar, Incline Village
In the middle of Christmas Tree Village in Incline Village between Crosby’s and Koi Sushi, Thania’s Juice Bar is the perfect place to grab some liquid plant-based sustenance for those on the go. Open since the summer of 2019, Thania specializes in organic energy/immune booster juices, wellness shots, maca/chocolate protein shakes, and smoothie bowls in pina colada and acai versions.
The Detox juice is the one for me…made with carrots, beets, apple, and celery to brighten your skin, cleanse your liver and give you a little more pep in your step, it’s great to grab when I’m in a hurry. Thania has also recently expanded her menu to include quinoa salads, avocado toast, veggie sandwiches, cactus salads, and organic vegan wraps. If you are coming here with meat-eating friends, they are welcome to add shredded beef, ham, turkey, or wild smoked salmon to any dish for an extra charge.
Tahoe Central Market, Kings Beach
In the middle of all the hustle and bustle on the main street of Kings Beach, the Tahoe Central Market is a quaint family-owned grocery with a farmers market feel. It’s also conveniently located across from the Kings Beach State Park Recreation Area. Along with providing North Lake Tahoe visitors and residents with fresh, seasonal, and locally produced vegetables, fruits, dairy items, and craft beer, they keep a nice clean deli and juice bar to grab something quick to take to the beach or enjoy at the counter looking out to the lake.
Tahoe Central Market serves salads, sandwiches, and even breakfast sandwiches made to order with your pick of meats, cheese, and vegetables on bread (sourced by the Truckee Sourdough Company with gluten free options available) along with your choice of 11 different vegetables and avocado and hummus add-ons available at no extra charge.
The juice and smoothie bar sharing space with the deli keeps healthy tonics for those on a liquid diet, and you’re welcome to add aloe juice, flaxseed, green powder, yeast, or other nutritional boosts to your healthy cocktail (or knock back a quick wheatgrass shot for $3-4).
Alicia cheerily prepared The Dankness for me, a smoothie filled with kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, apple, pear, ginger, and lemon juice. It tasted like a sweet and savory meal in itself. It was a nice touch that was served in a Greenware cup with a paper straw.
Eat healthy and support local businesses
Not only does eating well make your body healthy, but you’ll feel good supporting small local businesses who have no doubt been impacted by the pandemic. So eat, drink, and be merry…without having to deal with any nasty hangovers or food comas.
Editor’s note: This story appears in the 2021 summer edition of Tahoe magazine.