The Gold Rush-era hamlet of Truckee, California, is nestled in a High Sierra meadow at the top of Donner Pass, right before the Nevada border.
Donner Lake, now a thriving mountain resort with year-round outdoor activities including hiking, camping, boating, skiing, and wildflowers in June, is just around the corner, and beautiful Lake Tahoe is just a half-hour away.
The stars shine without the glare of city lights at night, and the breeze flows through the woods. And with the stars illuminating your route, it’s simple to find your way to many of Truckee’s greatest eateries.
Established in 1863 on what was once the Trans-Sierra wagon path, Truckee was nicknamed after a Paiute chief, Tru-ki-zo, who welcomed the first European settlers with screams of Tro-kay! Paiute for Everything is well.
The Central Pacific Railroad, which would eventually reach 690 miles across the steep mountains and into Nevada, commenced construction in Sacramento the same year.
The steep road over the pass required two years of backbreaking effort, mostly performed by Chinese migrant labor. Here is also where the Donner party died horribly.
Truckee is still an outdoorsy, blue-collar community, buried away in the mountains where fleece, jeans, and hiking boots rule supreme.
On a recent road trip, old friends provided me with wisdom insider tips to help me navigate the ins and outs of some of Truckee’s top eateries.
I spent a great time discovering everything from tiny, local treasures to the busy downtown restaurant and bar scene. These are seven Truckee eateries you should try on your next visit.
- 1 Truckee’s Top 6 Restaurants
- 2 Which of these Truckee restaurants do you want to try the most? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below!
Truckee’s Top 6 Restaurants
The Original Coffeehouse
Jibboom Street, +1 530-587-200010120 Jibboom Street
Coffeebar has become one of my frequent visits in Truckee for superb coffee, tea, and a nutritious light meal.
This mentality comes through in the tastes and fineness of the cuisine, as they take pride in tight ties with their suppliers, both local and worldwide. The Italian coffee bar-inspired location is located just off of downtown’s main boulevard.
You can’t go wrong with anything in their pastry case, which is brimming with delicacies made precisely as they do in France.
The morning burrito is wonderful, with a sweet potato hash that lends a unique twist to the traditional elements.
A parfait of granola or heated oats with chia seeds, goji berries, and local honey collagen is also available.
Lunch options include a great Cobb salad with arugula and all the fixings, a super-healthy paleo bowl, and chive ricotta toast on house-made sprouted wheat bread.
My espresso macchiato was great, creamy and robust, with a lovely foam top.
The Rotisserie Gold
Donner Pass Road +530-587-484711357 Donner Pass Road
In a hurry yet still want to experience one of the greatest Truckee restaurants? The Golden Rotisserie is a Mexican fast-food institution. On Donner Pass Road, across the highway from downtown, in a commercial mall beside the Dairy Queen Grill & Chill.
Although chicken and tri-tip are their lunch and dinner mainstays, they also offer a delicious al pastor tortilla as a hidden surprise. They didn’t include it on the menu that hangs in the front, so it’s not marketed! It’s a popular spot, and it was absolutely filled at 1:30 p.m. on a Sunday.
You place your order ahead of time and then take a seat at one of the little tables that along the left wall. The kitchen team lines the other wall, a frenzy of hands efficiently churning out client orders, beside a massive rotisserie packed with chicken, beef, and hog that is gently cooking away.
The beef tri-tip is marinated in a particular honey soy lime mixture, and the soy lime chicken is another unique combination; both are succulently moist and tender, as well as highly addictive!
Order your meat or vegetables in the form of a taco, burrito, tostada, or quesadilla.
Whole chicken and tri-tip dishes come with two sides, tortillas or bread, and salsa. The Golden Rotisserie is family-friendly, with a nice kids menu and a discount family pack.
I adore a nice al pastor burrito (spit-grilled pork), and this one was huge and brimming with flavors, including a touch of cardamom.
The burritos come with black beans, rice, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and chopped red onion in addition to the pork. This was the ideal way to fuel up for the long drive home.
You’ll be exclaiming Tro-kay! as you leave this Truckee eatery.
The Runway’s Red Truck Café
Phone: +1-530-587-139410356 Truckee Airport Road
Try the Red Truck Caf on the Runway for a healthy, very excellent Truckee lunch. That’s correct, at the private Tahoe-Truckee airport.
It’s one of those hidden jewels popular with locals that you’d never know about without some insider knowledge. The Red Truck is also a popular food truck at local events.
A medium-sized, modern-decor caf with expansive views of the private runway, it is available for breakfast and lunch and offers daily specials.
The Red Truck Caf serves high-quality meals with substantial contents, large quantities, and quick service. Its speciality is toppings with Indian themes delivered in taco, burrito, or bowl shape. The spicing and spices impressed me.
Choose a daily quiche or a staple like the breakfast burrito or egg sandwich for breakfast.
Lunch included bowls and burritos, naan dogs served on naan bread rather than a hotdog bun, and a gyro that looked amazing.
Their soups are excellent and had other people praising the day we visited.
The coconut curry lamb dish was incredible. It includes a variety of fresh ingredients that are piled from bottom to top, beautifully complimenting one another.
The yogurt-marinated ground lamb was seasoned with onion, garlic, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and jalapeo. It’s tossed with fresh, crisp cabbage, sliced cucumber, quinoa, and tahini sauce, and it’s all anchored with warm, nutty Garkhi dal.
My buddy also snuck me a spoonful of chicken tiki masalayum! This is one of the nicest informal lunch spots in Truckee, in my opinion.
Good tip: Arrive early to ensure a seat.
Ritz-Carlton Backyard Bar & Grill
+1-530-562-300013031 Highlands Court at the Ritz-Carlton
Another great spot to dine in Truckee is an expedition up to the opulent Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, which is perched at 6,000 feet above sea level.
You’re taken to a lovely mountain resort on roads twisting up into the Sierra Nevada, astonishingly just a half-hour drive from downtown.
Where else can you ski or trek immediately from your dining experience in the Truckees? It’s a lovely spot for a relaxed day in the strong mountain sun and cool wind.
Sit in the shadows of the Lodgepole and Jefferson Pines and Quaking Aspens that cascade down the mountain slopes.
St. Louis-style barbecue and wood-fired oven-baked pizzas (one of the finest Truckee restaurants for pizza), burgers and smoked kielbasa, saloon-inspired cocktails, and craft beers are on the menu.
The BBQ by the pound is a clear winner here: stacks of fourteen-hour pulled pork, Texan seasoned brisket, and pulled BBQ chicken, mixed with sides of coleslaw and baked beans from Grandma’s kitchen.
Backyard BBQ’s pizzas, however, live up to their heightened northern California reputation.
The full-service bar features saloon-inspired drinks as well as local artisan brews. With a dinner, the Ritz’s obligatory valet parking is discounted to $15.
It’s excellent bar grub. The loaded curly fries were my favorite; you receive a whole plate full of finger-licking goodness. Loaded means lots of delicious pulled pork, pickled red onions, jalapeos, cheese sauce, scallions, and BBQ sauce. This is fantastic. I was prepared for the next three hours with a hoppy IPA.
Good tip: Have your meal served to the fire pit. In any case, this is one of the greatest restaurants in Truckee.
Cottonwood Restaurant and Bar
+1-530-587-571110142 Hilltop Road Rue
For a slice of local history, go to The Cottonwood Restaurant and Pub.
The Cottonwood, erected in 1928 on a hill above historic downtown Truckee, is located in an ancient warming hut along former ski tracks. Charles F. McGlashan, one of the town’s notable men, built it out of recycled railroad ties.
A stunning farm-fresh meal showcases the finest of Northern California cuisine.
Beets three ways with goat cheese, oven-roasted bone marrow, and vegan butternut squash soup are just a few of their inventive small dishes.
A Delta Farms Half Herb Roasted Chicken, stuffed entire Idaho trout, and a pepper-crusted venison chop are among the huge platters.
On a breezy day, we stopped for happy hour at the saloon-style bar. The signature cocktail, the 7th Sense, with Fidencio Clasico mezcal, fresh lime, house-made tamarind syrup, firewater tincture, and a house-made pineapple Szechuan syrup, left me speechless. Wow, just wow.
This rustic old restaurant is ideal for hunkering down with a cup of warm spiced wine on a cold winter day or spending a summer evening on the rooftop terrace taking in the vista.
Pro tip: During the shoulder season, from 5-6 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, The Cottonwood serves an early bird three-course dinner for roughly $30, which is a fantastic deal! If that works for you, you should certainly stop by this Truckee eatery.
Moody’s Restaurant, Bar, and Beats
Bridge Street +1-530-587-86810007
Moodys Cafe, Bar & Beats, located in the busy downtown restaurant sector, is my best dining experience of all the Truckee eateries.
You’re immediately transported to the ambience of an old-school jazz dinner club, complete with floor-length velvet drapes. You may dine at the bar at a table in the front lounge, or in the rear formal dining room.
Thursdays through Saturdays, nationally traveling jazz and other bands perform in the lounge.
My pals recommended this fantastic restaurant, and we all met up for an amazing multi-course supper.
The evening started with appetizers in the lounge. Chickadee drink (tequila, mezcal, fresh lime, strawberry syrup, and Hawaiian black sea salt) comes first. Fresh, smokey, and not too sweet, presented gracefully in a cut crystal glass.
Then there’s the pizza, fresh from the brick oven, with a crispy dough, covered with shredded lobster and wild mushrooms in a bechamel sauce, and arugula for a nuttiness.
We sat near an aesthetically appealing wait station in the dining room, giving us a unique view on the choreography and synchronized dance between the well-oiled back and front of the house. The rhythm of the wait personnel and flawless operation highlighted their overall ability.
I had the spinach salad with pickled red onion, feta, bacon, and strawberry vinaigrette, which was delicious and ample.
My entree was a nicely presented rare prime rib-eye. The blood-red meat was excellent, surrounded by marbled fat. The sauce is amazing. The carrots were crisp, and the garlic mashed potatoes were garlicky and delicious. I can’t wait to return.
Reservations are strongly advised on Saturday nights due to high demand. Nonetheless, this is one of the top Truckee restaurants for formal dining, so make your reservations appropriately.
I provide my opinions on a range of the greatest restaurants to dine in Truckee, knowing that there are many (such as La Pianeta!) that I did not have time to visit on this trip.
This was an excellent introduction to the Truckee bar and cuisine scene, and it left me eager to return and sample more of the top Truckee restaurants, CA. I hope they thrill you as well!