Pioneer Cocktail Club

Review by: Jess Dawson

Pioneer Cocktail Club owners Savren Thompson and Brian Nelson met working in craft cocktail bars and fine dining restaurants, and have managed various establishments in San Francisco both together and separately. They took two years to find the perfect Tahoe spot for the PCC, and finally opened their doors last year in the heart of Tahoe City.

Inside, the decor is intentionally minimal and rustic, with wooden accents. Outside, picnic benches in various sizes offer al fresco spots to enjoy your meal and people-watch. Across the street, beautiful Lake Tahoe majestically sits under a perpetually blue summer sky. 

Cocktails are made with artisanal spirits (including Tahoe Blue vodka), fresh juices, and house-made syrups. One of our favorites is the Fumo de Tigre with La Luna mezcal, cilantro-lime cordial, fresh lime, and a spicy-salt rim.

To start, Vietnamese caramel popcorn is chewy and sweet, with a slight spice and hint of lime. It doesn’t seem as fresh as it could be, but the flavor is there. Curry bacon cashews are unlike any other I’ve tasted: they’re topped with spicy-sweet bacon crumbles, cayenne, and brown sugar. They are weirdly addicting. 

We don’t miss meat in a cauliflower street taco that also holds mushrooms and slices of radish.

“That damn chips and dip” features a cup of crunchy thick-cut chips and French onion-style dip.

An item called “Dirty Birdy” is surprisingly big for a “snack,” and could easily be an entree. Lightly breaded chicken tenders sit around an orange-tinged sauce that is surprisingly laced with blue cheese. It’s good, this “dirty sauce,” just unexpected.

We also get blistered shisito peppers with cashews, furikake, and charred lime. A little salt makes them right.

The Derby burger is delicious. Two small but ample beef patties sit atop a soft bun layered with creamy pimento cheese, house pickles, and garlic mayo.

Hot chicken and waffles has an Asian influence, with a spicy, syrupy sauce. The waffles are fluffy, and do a good job soaking up the sauce and complementing the crunchy chicken.

Finally, despite its great name, the “Bitches Love Buratta” pizza doesn’t have enough buratta. Its basil pesto is good but slightly overpowering; its wood-fired crust is thin and chewy. 

Though the PCC is still working through some kinks in terms of execution and timing (one of our starter tacos came out 10 minutes after the final entree), it is an excellent spot to enjoy a creative cocktail and delicious food with a view of the lake. 

What To Eat

Veggie Street Tacos

Blistered Shisito Peppers

Dirty Birdies

Derby Burger

Vietnamese Caramel Corn

Bitches Love Burrata

That Damn Chips and Dip

Spicy Curry Bacon Cashews


Pioneer Cocktail Club Recipes


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