A real post office in the 1940s, the Old Post Office Cafe has been an institution in North Lake Tahoe since 1976. Those driving, biking, or walking from Kings Beach or Tahoe City will often see a line out the door, especially in the summer months. But don’t despair: The waitstaff is efficient about turning tables over quickly, so there’s usually never more than a 30-minute wait.
The interior space is charming and kitschy. Every inch of the walls is covered with signs, old license plates, and photographs. Frank, the owner, has been in the restaurant business since he was 14. Though he always seems a bit ruffled, he’s friendly and knows all the locals, shaking hands and making sure everyone is taken care of.
The Old PO is known for great breakfast. Nothing fancy, though. In fact, you have to request real maple syrup if you don’t want the fake kind (definitely do this). The menu is big, with scrambles and corned beef, waffles, French toast, pancakes, omelettes, and an entire section of potatoes. Note the ALL UPPER CASE warnings about substitutions — a legacy of the previous owner, who had a very specific set of rules, including no cell phones.
We get a couple First Class Specials, which include eggs, our choice of meat, and the restaurant’s fine home fried potatoes. Again, there’s no special ingredient or treatment: They’re just done really well, every time.
The bacon waffle is my favorite. Its crisp edges make way for a fluffy center, just dense enough to soak up the butter and maple syrup. In addition to crunchy bits on top, the inside is filled with bacon. There’s no shortage of the stuff. One waffle may not seem like enough, but it’s very filling. We get ours with a side of chicken apple sausage that’s slightly sweet with bits of apple.
Pancakes — which you can get a la carte or in short and tall stacks — are good, if much heavier than the waffle. They’re like a sponge for the maple syrup.
Don’t ignore the biscuits. They are somehow dense and fluffy at the same time, and melt in your mouth with a bit of butter and maple syrup (again, go for the real deal). Starting at 10am, there are excellent lunch sandwiches — my favorite is the Reuben.
Before leaving, it’s customary to get a Red Vine from the glass jar next to the cash register, where you also pay. Should your four-legged friend be waiting in the car, there’s also a jar of dog bones.
The outside seating area is newer, and a lovely spot to sit on a summer day. To help digest our feast, we take a two-minute walk down to the water after breakfast, admiring the crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe.