Question of the Day June 22, 2011
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We won't be getting to Las Vegas this year, but will be going to Reno for Worldcon in August. Other than Louie's Basque Corner, what restaurants can you recommend?
We turned this question over to Deke, the Reno expert on the staff. Here are his recommendations.
Since you mention Louis’ Basque Corner, which is one of Anthony Curtis’ favorite Reno restaurants, I’ll mention the other: John’s Oyster Bar at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks. This is an old-school seafood restaurant with nautical décor, waitresses who’ve worked here for decades, and expert line cooks behind the 20-or-so seat counter preparing pan roasts, cioppino, louies, cocktails, and more, served with Basque bread and side salads. The Oyster Bar has been here since 1959 (the restaurant was relocated and expanded once, in 1979) and Anthony’s been eating the oyster pan roast since he was around 10 years old, when his family started taking road trips west through Nevada.
Another classic Reno restaurant is Harrah’s Steakhouse downtown, a dark little joint in the basement, reminiscent of Hugo’s Cellar at the Four Queens, with the vibe of a mob movie: waiters in red jackets, butter carved into blossoms, flaming desserts, and superb lunches and dinners, including everything from lobster bisque and ravioli to a 24-ounce rib eye and tournedos of buffalo Rossini topped by foie gras. It’s Reno’s only fine-dining restaurant to receive a AAA four-diamond rating for 10 years in a row. Bring your credit card with the biggest credit line.
On the other side of the downtown scale is Golden Flower, a big plain restaurant across from Circus Circus at the corner of W. 5th and West Street, two blocks west of Virginia Street. Best Vietnamese by a long shot in Reno, the place is packed for lunch, and usually for dinner, with Asians. The typically huge menu has hundreds of choices "pho sure"! I always order the sweet-and-sour vegetarian soup and rice-noodle bowl with barbecued flank steak and imperial rolls. Two of you’ll escape, after soup, entrees, and drinks, for less than $30.
Another little hole-in-the-wall favorite of mine is Opa Greek Deli, located at the busy Costco strip mall near Plumb Lane and Kietzke Drive. It’s open mostly for lunch, though you can get dinner if you go early enough. It’s the only place in Reno for avgolemono soup; also great are the lamb gyros, cheese pie, and of course the Greek salad. Don’t be put off by the owner/cook; he has a gruff exterior, but a heart of gold. And two of you’ll be stuffed pitas for less than $20.
If you’ll be spending time at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, take the overhead pedestrian bridge to the Atlantis for the closest thing you’ll get to Jewish deli outside of Vegas. Manhattan Deli near the sports book has good matzoh-ball soup, pickled herring in a sour-cream sauce, crisp latkes with applesauce, potato knishes, bagels and lox, and big fat pastrami, corned beef, and brisket sandwiches that you won’t be able to finish.
Reno’s best buffet, in my opinion, is at the Peppermill. But you won’t go wrong at the buffets at Atlantis, Harrah’s, the Eldorado, Silver Legacy, or the Grand Sierra for quantity (Reno’s versions of the superbuffet), or at John Ascuaga’s Nugget for quality.
Speaking of Nuggets, the one in downtown Reno has the venerable Nugget Diner, which would be a retro throwback to the ‘50s – except that it’s been there since the ‘50s and hasn’t changed a bit! It serves up the Awful Awful burger, an awesome meal that still comes in a red basket with a full pound of French fries. The burger is a half-pound ground-chuck patty, seasoned with special spices and hand-formed; the special sauce has a Russian-dressing, buttermilk, and Tabasco base. You’re outta there after two burgers and drinks for under $15.
For Mexican, the El Borracho at 1601 S. Virginia, just south of downtown, has been operating since 1960, one of the oldest restaurants in Reno (dating from a time when this cuisine was known as "Spanish"). El Barracho is good for a little trip through time, but for the best Mexican in Reno, head to Murrieta’s, with three locations around the valley; the one I like is at 8195 S. Virginia Street, though the original is at 3060 Vista Blvd. in Sparks.
There’s the usual good salad bar at Whole Foods on South Virginia at Neil Road; for Thai try Bangkok Cuisine at 55 Mt. Rose Street right off South Virginia and right on South Virginia (5851) at the Super 8 Motel; for Italian, I recommend Pierino’s at 575 Keystone Avenue and Johnny’s at 4245 West Fourth; and for an all-around gourmet seafood or beef experience, you’ll do well at the two Charlie Palmer restaurants at the Grand Sierra, Fin Fish and Steak.
UPDATE: 06-22-2011 A reader elaborates:
Deke hit it on the mark. Here are a few other suggestions from a regular Reno visitor:
India Kabab & Curry - one of the best Indian restaurants I have been to in North America
Baldini's in Sparks for cheap breakfast (2 breakfasts for $4.99 before 10 am)
Western Village in Sparks still has $1 craps and $2 or $3 blackjack, as does the Cal-Neva downtown sometimes