If Truckee’s marquee landmark is a tad confusing, it’s understandable: Lit up at night above downtown in glowing red letters is a can’t-miss sign — “HILLTOP LODGE.” But if someone suggests having dinner and drinks at Cottonwood you’ll still aim for those neon lights. The Hilltop Lodge sign sits atop Cottonwood Restaurant & Bar, which is perched on one of California’s original ski hills (hence the old lodge sign). In summer the Cottonwood deck offers by far the best view of Truckee, and the restaurant includes entrees created with locally sourced ingredients and differing nightly specials. During a hearty Sierra winter nothing beats passing through walls of snow into the inviting warm glow of the rustic restaurant and bar. Forget today’s faux Euro ski conglomerate resort lodges; Cottonwood is the original Sierra après-ski spot. Thursday and Friday evenings during winter, live acoustic music plays in the cozy fireplace room. When warmer weather arrives the music shifts to the expansive deck. And if the mountain air gets a little chilly out there, just ask for another drink and a blanket to keep warm.
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