Spoiler alert: Azul Latin Kitchen is the best place to eat in South Lake Tahoe. It’s great for a number of reasons, but first we need to get to Lake Tahoe.
We left Sacramento bound for Lake Tahoe after taking a 10k walk on a 107 degree day in August (well, we walked in the morning when it was much cooler). We picked up Liza, Michael, Ella, and Lily at 7:00 or so in the evening and I drove us all up to South Lake Tahoe in the Suburban I had rented. Have you ever driven a Suburban? Over winding two-lane mountain roads with no streetlights but plenty of signs saying “Narrow Road Ahead”? All roads are narrow to a Suburban. But we made it, parked the blessed thing, and enjoyed a week in South Lake Tahoe.
The big attraction of Lake Tahoe when you’re baking in Sacramento is Tahoe’s perfect weather: temperatures in the 70s and clear blue skies. Once you’re there, the most important thing about Lake Tahoe is that the scenery is absolutely gorgeous wherever you look.
We stayed at the Grand Residences, a Marriott Vacation Club property in South Lake Tahoe. It’s a nice place, with a nice view of mountains over the courtyard.
Grand Residences is set right in Heavenly Village, a unified commercial development between the mountain and the lake, centered on the gondolas going up to the top of the mountain. There are a lot of shops and a bunch of restaurants in Heavenly Village, most of which are medium-good. The best is Azul, and it is very good indeed.
We all went there for lunch after Liza and Mike had brought back a glowing report from their night out while Nancy and I watched Ella and Lily. Azul has a large outdoor dining area, which is as pleasant as can be on a nice day.
We’d had a busy morning in the sun, so I immediately ordered a Revision IPA. It was delicious, citrusy with a nice but not overwhelming hop taste. Michael ordered a Deschutes Fresh Haze IPA. After tasting it, he had no interest in trying another beer on Azul’s extensive beer menu. Liza ordered a Lovers Leap Wheat by South of North Brewing there in South Lake Tahoe. My follow-up was a Megathrust IPA by Seismic Brewing. It was good, but not up to the Revision.
Someone — I guess Liza (my notes can be incomplete when I’m having a great time with a 2 1/2 year old and an infant) — ordered a salad
and a cheese and chicken quesadilla
partially deconstructed by Ella. The salad was all one could hope for in a salad that contained no bacon, and the quesadilla was quite good: very good chicken, which is rare.
Nancy ordered a half portion of cheese quesadilla.
That’s a half portion? Nancy loved it. You will note the toasted cheese on the rim of each quesadilla. I love toasted cheese. It came with green rice, the color of which comes from poblanos and cilantro.
Mike (after a beer he’s Mike, not Michael) ordered the three taco plate, and there was no problem with his request to mix two fish tacos and one carnitas taco.
He really liked the fish tacos. The fish was crisp and fresh tasting, and the ingredients all melded well together. He noted that the carnitas taco was quite spicy, which goes with the jalapeños.
I ordered a Classic Burrito with carnitas.
It looks pretty blah, doesn’t it? But wait. You are aware, of course, of the problematic nature of judging a book by its cover. The burrito was enlivened, as if the carnitas needed enlivening, by jalapeños, and balanced by green rice, black beans, jack and cheddar cheeses, lime, and sour cream. What a combination! The meat was full-flavored (I call spicy full flavored) but, as I say, balanced. Each ingredient was good and they all worked together. Delicious.
I promised at the outset that there were multiple reasons for liking Azul, and I’ve delivered on food, setting and scenery — and I might add, price. Here’s another, and it’s a big one: Azul boasts a bandstand at which they have live music 365 days a year. Really. It’s best in the summer. I’m not sure about ski season, but then I grew up in Alabama. The type of music changes from day to day, but the music was good — very professional. Black Oaks was the band playing while we were eating, and they were excellent — good songs played by real musicians. (They could use a webpage.) Michael took Lily, who was wearing a Onesie that said, “Silent in the Morning”, and requested that they play “that” — the Phish hit. The band duly announced that they were about to play “our first ever request from a baby in a onesie.”
Go to Lake Tahoe. Stay at the Grand Residences, or wherever you like. But be sure to eat at Azul. It’s a great, great place.
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