Open since 1962, North Tahoe’s Char-Pit keeps serving up summer memories |

Open since 1962, North Tahoe’s Char-Pit keeps serving up summer memories

The Char-Pit in Kings Beach serves up summer memories with its sizzling burgers.
Courtesy Ashley A. Cooper | Lake Tahoe Action

If you go

What: Char-Pit

Where: 8732 North Lake Blvd., Kings Beach

Phone: 530-546-3171


Service: Fun and young

Atmosphere: Laid-back

Drinks: Small, but complete, selection of beer

Price: $

KINGS BEACH, Calif. — Unlike Dungarees, the Confederate flag, flattops and permed bouffants, some things never go out of fashion.

One American tradition we will never see slide into the Google searches of our children’s children is a visit to an old-fashioned burger joint after a long and draining day in the summer sun.

As any good North Shore-goer knows, since the days it opened as a walk-up burger joint in 1962, Kings Beach’s Char-Pit is just the spot to grub after a day in the big lake.

Just pulling into the small parking lot will conjure up childhood memories of guilt-free milkshake slurping and sibling french fry fights.

“Just pulling into the small parking lot will conjure up childhood memories of guilt-free milkshake slurping and sibling french fry fights.”

As you stand up and open your lungs to a deep and greedy breath of grease-and-salt-laden air, the corners of your mouth turn up and your tummy grumbles in sweet anticipation.

In 1977, Char-Pit enclosed its original building and has been a successful year-round operation and a locals favorite ever since.

Char-Pit looks like the food it serves up: straightforward and classic. Inside the squat and humble building, the place can be boisterous during a busy hour and mellow during a lull (when you might get to pass your wait time with a game of sit-down, two-player Ms. Pac Man).

The open air kitchen takes up most of the inside, and the original hanging menus have been added to and covered over with pieces of handwritten revisions over the years.

The beef burgers are served to the quarter or half pound and a Char-Pit regular is slapped between a sesame bun with the “works”: lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, mayo and mustard.

Besides the regular burgers (bacon, cheese, double, avocado and bacon), there are also specially stacked patties. These include, but are not limited to: the Tiki with teriyaki sauce and pineapple, the French with blue cheese on a french roll with bbq sauce and the Mexican topped with cheese, green chili and bbq sauce.

If bloody or beefy is not doin’ it your way, you can substitute a turkey or veggie burger instead. Another absolutely fantastic sandwich option is the grilled portabella.

This is not some wimpy, sliced cap served wet and sad. It’s thick and meaty as a portabella cap should be, grilled with spicy-sweet chipotle sauce and topped with pepper jack, sour cream, lettuce and tomato on a wheat bun.

This creation, along with the stacked garden veggie burger, is how an old-fashioned burger joint adapts to the 21st century. Any and all of these can become a combo with a large fountain soda and salty, classic french fries.

Just like any good beach spot, there is a formidable fried food menu. Baskets of shrimp, breaded clams, fish and chips, onion rings, mozzarella sticks and chicken sticks are enough to make your mouth water and your arteries quiver.

There’s also lamb or mushroom and veggie gyros served in pitas, jumbo hot dogs and chicken and fish-wiches. Something for the whole sandy and sun-burnt gang.

To wash it down, order 24 ounces of imported or domestic draft beer. Better yet, wrap up the whole Char-Pit experience with a nostalgic bow of goodness and treat yourself to a classic milkshake or premium malt. Take it outside to sit and watch the summer crowds ambling by. Char-Pit is the stuff summer memories are made of.

Ashley A. Cooper is a freelance writer residing in Truckee. She can be reached at

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