Review by: Jess Dawson

At the edge of Kings Beach in Lake Tahoe, California, is a tiny, unassuming burger joint called Char-Pit. You’ll see the smoke before you see the restaurant; and you will smell it. That summer backyard-BBQ smell that makes your mouth water before you even know what to order.

Burgers are the main attraction, where no ingredient overpowers another; it’s a verified symphony of well-layered flavors. Fresh tomatoes and lettuce—but not too much—sit atop perfectly seasoned meat, which boasts a hint of smoke. The lightly-buttered bun is soft and slightly charred, smeared with mayo and mustard. I usually love ketchup, but this burger doesn’t need any. If you’re not a purist, the burger menu features options with grilled pineapple, American cheese, thin and crispy bacon, green chiles, homemade 1000 Islands dressing (in the Swiss burger, a local favorite), and melted blue cheese. 

For a roadside joint, Char-Pit is anything but greasy. All ingredients taste fresh; even onion rings escape over-frying. They’re crisped up and ready to dip into a light, homemade ranch. Fries could use a bit more salt but serve their purpose as the burger’s trusty sidekick.

For the burger-averse, Char-Pit’s got an arsenal of tasty options. Ribs are simple and straightforward, with tangy BBQ sauce and a tender meat that holds the trademark char. The dark horse of the menu is a lamb Gyro, packed to the brim with well-spiced lamb and topped with shredded iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, onions, and a dill-cucumber yogurt sauce. The steak sandwich comes highly recommended, and there are a few vegetarian options. If your sweet tooth feels left out, shakes are thick and topped with whipped cream.

Opened in 1962, Char-Pit brings you back a few decades with a menu that’s barely changed and walls covered with images of vintage Americana. Locals and tourists visit at a steady pace, with weekends and holidays drawing the biggest crowds. Find a red picnic table outside and enjoy the crisp Tahoe air while you wait for your named to be called over the drive-thru-esque speaker. Then grab a bunch of napkins and dig in.

What To Eat

Swiss Burger

Lamb Gyro


Char-Pit Recipes


What do you think of Char-Pit?

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