“It was always my dream to have my own place. I still pinch myself once in a while,” says Douglas Dale, chef and owner of Wolfdale’s Cuisine Unique in Tahoe City. After 43 years serving the community, Dale is still in the kitchen every day, offering his original take on Asia-meets-California fare—and Wolfdale’s remains one of the premier restaurants on Tahoe’s North Shore.
Dale credits Wolfdale’s enduring success to staying in harmony with the rhythm of the lake, while adhering to the tradition and perfection-seeking that’s central to Japanese culture. While studying at Tokyo's Waseda University in his early 20s, Dale helped a local chef with her restaurant and became enamored with Japanese cuisine. He says, “Americans always want to renew and invent, while [the Japanese] are more than happy to carry on tradition.”
Dale carries this through in his own cooking: “We’re still a little bit inventive, but we’re also not shy to do something we know works. I go back to dishes like a musician would play a classic they wrote 20 years ago.” He focuses on seasonality too, incorporating Braeburns from nearby Apple Hill in fall and the “unbelievable” Sweetie 82 corn in summer.
Dale says Tahoe-bound travelers will enjoy the same seasonal splendor. “Every season offers something exciting to do,” he says. “You can do everything: hike, ski, swim, or sail. It’s recreational heaven.” Upon arrival, a good first stop is the Tahoe City Visitor Information Center. “They can set you up with everything from Mackinaw fishing to historical walks,” Dale says.
In the colder months, Dale says that the Tahoe Cross-Country Ski Area is not to be missed: “It’s a giant, remote area that’s amazingly well-maintained.” For a downhill fix minus the crowds, try Alpine Meadows, “a friendly mountain with lots of locals.” Keep cozy at Rosie’s Cafe, where you’ll find an under-the-radar bar. “That’s your place late at night to meet for a nightcap before you go home. We call that an after-shifter,” says Dale.
When the weather turns warm, the lake comes to life. Dale says you can’t go wrong with renting a boat and heading to one of the more remote beaches. “Throw an anchor and spend the day diving off the boat. The water is turquoise like you’re in the Bahamas,” he says. Golfers will love the area’s stunning greens. Step back in time at Old Brockway, “a historic, 9-hole course where Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack used to play.” For an easy-but-beautiful hike, Dale recommends the Lakeside Trail.
No matter when you visit, Tahoe will impress. Dale says, “It’s an international destination for a reason: fresh air, clean water, and the ability to enjoy outdoor living.”
FIVE MORE FAVORITES
Dale’s long history in the region makes it easy for him to list favorite experiences and attractions. Here are a few more top choices.
Romantic getaway: “When my wife and I look at each other and are like, 'Oh my gosh everything is driving us crazy,' we go to The Cottage Inn. It’s little separate cabins, all circular with a centralized lodge. You get beach privileges and you can just park your car when you get there—everything is within walking distance and yet you feel like you’re hours away.”
Museum: “Tahoe was the summer residence of the Washoe Indians. When it got hot down in Nevada, they would come here for the summer. Gatekeeper’s is a great museum full of mostly Indian artifacts. The grounds are pretty extraordinary, and they are all walkable. You can see Fanny Bridge, which spans the only place the water gets out of the lake and flows down the Truckee River. It’s right at the junction between North Shore and South Shore—just awesome.”
Natural wonder: “Emerald Bay State Park is one of the wonders of the world. It’s a huge bay with high mountains all around and an island in the middle. At the top of the island, there’s a tea house you can hike to. There’s also camping nearby that’s only accessible by boat.”
Kid-friendly activity: “The ropes courses at Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks are unbelievable. You have numerous obstacle rope courses for kids and it’s super safe, but super exciting. We went to a birthday party for a 7-year-old there last year and she kept calling herself 'Baby Ninja.' She was braver than I was!”
Farmers Market: “We have a farmers market, Tahoe City Farmers Market, Thursdays on Commons Beach (May through October). Everyone should check it out—it’s pretty amazing. The Foothills Farmers are somewhat renowned for their stone fruits, peaches, and plums. Then there’s the extraordinary corn called Sweetie 82. It’s just unbelievable.”