Long days on the slopes on family ski vacations are bound to make you and the kids starving. If you are headed to Northstar California Resort in North Lake Tahoe, you definitely won’t have a hard time finding great food. Californians know their food and wine, but Northstar’s dining choices are the most extensive and the best quality of all the ski resorts in Tahoe. Luckily, the dining options also strike the right balance for families, with kids being welcome nearly everywhere.
My family has skied Northstar with kids dozens of times over the years, with plenty of visits this year as I served as an ambassador for Northstar for the ski season. As a result, we have tried nearly all the restaurants in the Village, at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, and on the mountain. Here’s our family-friendly guide to help you make the right dining choices for your next North Lake Tahoe ski vacation.
Northstar Dining at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe
The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe is located at mid-mountain and has a wide variety of dining options, from grab-and-go to one of the finest restaurants on the mountain. Even if you aren’t staying there, consider stopping in for lunch while skiing or planning a dinner out. If you drive up to dine but aren’t staying at the hotel, ask for parking validation which makes valet parking only $10.
Living Room at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe
The lobby area of the Ritz, called the Living Room, does double duty as a restaurant. It is definitely a favorite for families. Some of the area has tables, but you can also relax on couches and eat your food casually from the large coffee tables. Ski clothing is acceptable so no need to dress up, especially for lunch. Food options include burgers, salads, appetizers, pizza, and more. Best of all, the kids menu is reasonably-priced with generous portions. Sometimes on busy weekends the Ritz may reserve most of its tables for guests so if you aren’t staying at the hotel, try to dine early or late.
Manzanita is the flagship restaurants at the Ritz with some of the best food in Tahoe. The decor is stylishly rustic and the menu offers gourmet twists on ski resort comfort food along with fresh California cuisine. I ate at Manzanita for lunch earlier this season and what surprised me was that it wasn’t that much pricier than the Living Room for lunch. While some families may not want a fancier dining experience with young kids in tow, there’s no need to worry about bringing your little foodie along if you crave a nicer meal. The atmosphere is ultimately casual and inviting for families, with a kids menu too.
The Ritz has a cute cafe right off of the lobby that is a smart stop for breakfast or a quick lunch. Grab a bagel or a breakfast sandwich just in time to drop the kids at ski school. It isn’t always open for lunch during the week or during lower season, so plan accordingly.
Dining in the Village at Northstar
The Village is the center of the action at Northstar and dining choices abound. You’ll find everything from kiosks to grab a snack or cocktail to fine dining, with plenty of choices in between for sit down but casual meals for families. Here are the highlights.
Mikuni is the restaurant my family has visited most at Northstar over the years. It serves Japanese cuisine of all types with an extensive sushi menu. It’s also one of the best fits for families, with reasonably-priced kids bento boxes and coloring books to keep kids busy. It can be a bit loud and chaotic but that is all the better if you are worried about your children disturbing other diners – they won’t! Try to dine around 5:30 pm to beat the dinner crowds.
Rubicon Pizza Company
Pizza is some of the best comfort food after a long day on the slopes, and Rubicon does pizza very well. Families flock to it. The prices make it one of the best values at Northstar (both for the quantity and quality of the food). Single-serve pizzas on the kids menu are nearly big enough to feed an adult and are just $9.
Rubicon is also the best spot for larger family groups to dine as it has several tables that are easily joined together. One thing my family loved about Rubicon was that you can explore the Village while you wait for a table – the restaurant host will text you when your table is ready so you aren’t waiting at the host stand with antsy kids.
Tavern 6330 is the other high-end restaurant at Northstar California Resort. Just as with Manzanita, kids are welcome and will find something they will like to eat while parents enjoy a finer dining experience and maybe a signature cocktail or two. Fresh California cuisine abounds, with plenty of seafood and steak to fill you up after a long day skiing. Tavern 3660 is open for both lunch and dinner, with a special apres appetizer menu from 3:30-5:00.
The Village has a number of other restaurants and eateries perfect for quicker bites. There’s of course a Starbucks for a coffee or pastry before hitting the slopes. Alternatively, grab your coffee right by the gondola at Inxpot Cafe. For a treat for the kids, Euro Sweets & Treats and Euro Gelato are smart stops, along with Euro Crepe where you can get both sweet and savory crepes. Other eateries include Tacos Jalisco, Copper Lane Café and Provisions, TC’s Pub, and Frites.
Dining On the Mountain at Northstar
Last, but certainly not least, where should you eat for breakfast or lunch on the mountain when you need a break from skiing and boarding? If your kids are in ski school, they’ll have lunch separately in the ski school building (it’s included), but if you are dining with your family on the mountain, there are several choices too.
On-mountain dining at nearly every ski resort is expensive and Northstar is no exception, so prepare for a bit of sticker shock. That said, Northstar also has much better mountain food quality across the board than at most Tahoe ski resorts. At least you won’t find yourself choking down a dry burger that cost you an arm and a leg!
Lodge at Big Springs
The most-visited lodge at Northstar is undoubted the Lodge at Big Springs, located right at the top of the Big Springs Gondola. The lodge is starting to show its age, which is rare for anything at Northstar which is all fairly new and impeccably maintained. But it has the advantage of location. Due to its location, the Lodge at Big Springs gets very crowded during the lunch rush. Eat early or eat late if you want indoor seating. It’s multi-level so you may have to climb a lot of stairs in ski boots to find a table, which can make it a bit hard with young kids. The best value I’ve found is the huge breakfast burrito offered in the mornings – large enough for a family to split.
If you don’t want to battle the crowds inside, there are a few eateries outside the lodge on the deck, including a Thai food truck new this year and Chilly Peppers Mexican Grille. There’s a lot of deck seating to enjoy on nicer weather days.
For on-mountain dining, Zephyr Lodge strikes the right balance between quality and crowd management. It is more spacious than the Lodge at Big Springs and has a wider variety of food choices. My favorite is the teriyaki rice or noodle bowl which is fresh and loaded with plenty of veggies. It also comes in kids sizes at a reduced price. Located at the top of Tahoe Zephyr lift, the only negative about this lodge is that is can only be accessed on blue and black ski terrain. Wait until your kids are intermediate skiers to make it your go-to lunch spot.
Summit Deck & Grille
The smallest of the on-mountain dining destinations, Summit Smokehouse is another place to escape some of the crowds. The menu is more limited, but includes plenty of family-friendly comfort food like chili, a tri-tip sandwich, salads, and fries. Kids meal choices include corndogs, hot dogs, and a turkey sandwich.
Backyard Bar & BBQ
Technically, this restaurant belongs on the Ritz dining list because it is located on the sun deck at the Ritz slopeside. But it’s also a favorite stop for on-mountain lunches for skiers and boarders. On warm and sunny spring skiing days, there are few places better to dine together as a family. Ribs, brisket, and barbecue make this Southern girl (and many a hungry skier) happy. It closes on bad weather days for obvious reasons so wait for blue skies and enjoy some serious comfort food.
Have you dined at Northstar California Resort? Where are your favorite spots for kids?
This is sponsored content written by me on behalf of Northstar California. The opinions, text, and photos are all mine.