THE LATEST SCOOP
Keeping you informed of local food and drink news.
WRITTEN BY MICHAEL TRAGASH
ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BRADY
Our local food-and-drink community is evolving at an absolutely astounding rate. More than seven new openings have caused a lot of excitement in the past few months, not to mention several big reasons to celebrate as well as to pause and remember where much of our love for local food originated. Keeping up with our ever-expanding scene is a challenging task, but it’s one we’re up for!
In Reno-Tahoe, trends need not apply. Despite all the casinos, we don’t really like risk when it comes to our food. We want to know we’re getting a great product, serious value, and a consistently excellent experience before we even think about bringing anything to our scene. So we let other cities prove new concepts are not fads for us. Case in point: bowls, specifically açai and poke.
After success in Kona, San Francisco, and Hood River, Ore., Basik Açai Cafe opened its fourth location in Midtown’s Sticks shopping center this July. The menu is centered on the açai berry, which is the fruit of the açai palm touted as a superfood high in antioxidants. The açai is frozen and blended to a sorbet consistency and then served as either a smoothie or in a bowl topped with combinations of nuts, fruits, and honey. The entire menu at Basik Açai Cafe is raw, dairy free, and plant based, and many items can be vegan, too.
Across the street, poke is making an appearance in Midtown, both in bowls and sushi burritos, at Finbomb. Yes, sushi burritos. The name is a bit misleading. Think of an oversized sushi roll you eat like a burrito. Whether you’re after a poke bowl or sushi burrito, at Finbomb you have your choice of a combination from the menu, or you can make your own by choosing a base (sushi rice, black rice, or spring mix), protein (such as yellowtail, tuna, tamago, and salmon), toppings (including edamame, seaweed salad, and avocado), and house sauces. This is the first location, but owners already have plans to open their second in Baton Rouge, La.
Finbomb’s Poke Bowl
Now it’s time for dessert. How about gelato? Bibo Coffee Co. has been handcrafting this richer, creamier Italian cousin to American ice cream under the Bibo Freddo name for many years. It has become so popular that freezers have been added to all of its coffeehouses, and the Bibo team has brought this sweet treat out to events such as Food Truck Fridays and Reno Aces games so people can get their fix. In August, the Bibo Freddo location opened on Center Street, next to Calafuria and Mountain Music Parlor, offering nine flavors of gelato and sorbetto daily. This is the perfect post-dinner stop, as the Center Street location is open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
If cakes and cocktails are more your speed, then make haste to The Cake and Cork by Custom Cakes by Kitchen in the shopping center at the corner of McCarran and Fourth Street in Reno and next to Full Pedal Indoor Cycling. Michelle Kitchen has made a name for herself by creating custom cakes for all occasions completely from scratch. Kitchen had been serving individual versions of her cakes, known as Kleinkuchen, from a small café in her bakery and, seeing the popularity, decided to expand this offering by opening The Cake and Cork in late August. This is a dessert lover’s paradise, with cakes by the slice, cake tastings, dessert-inspired cocktails, and a full list of wines, craft beers, and coffees. The Cake and Cork is the oasis that those of us with a sweet tooth have been seeking.
No night out is complete without the perfect nightcap, and Lounge is just the place. Don’t let the strip-mall location or the sign outside fool you: This new South Reno bar is modern, upscale, and sophisticated. The back bar is the focal point — it’s made of custom backlit shelves hung on a slant, which houses craft spirits to be enjoyed in creative cocktails or neat. And the wine list, selected by the owners, both sommeliers, will entice and intrigue wine lovers and aficionados alike.
From left, bar manager Josh Cutts, and co-owners Patti Kuhl and Dan Karpy, at Lounge
For locally brewed craft beer and live music, head to Alibi Ale Works’ Truckee Public House. This new addition to Downtown Truckee opened in June, boasting 22 rotating taps, live music, and, unlike its Incline Village Taproom, a full food menu, too. What goes better with beer than nachos? Not much. Remove any notion of canned cheese sauce from your mind, though. For the menu, Alibi Ale Works teamed up with longtime friends and Culinary Institute of America trained chefs Aubrey and Tyler O’Laskey of Butter + Salt Gatherings. The nachos are internationally inspired, based on seasonal ingredients, and available in a single or shareable size. For those who prefer something more traditional, try the Classic with ground beef, pico de gallo, sour cream, pickled jalapeño, and beer cheese. If you’re a bit more adventurous, then check out the Korean with Korean-spiced, beer-braised pork, white queso, kimchi, cilantro, and ssäm sauce. Or try a dessert nacho dish called S’mores, with Graham crackers topped with bruléed marshmallows, chocolate sauce, and smoked salt.
Radical nachos and beer at Alibi Ale Works’ Truckee Public House
After more than a year in the works, one Idaho man’s dream finally became reality as Brewforia Beer Market opened its doors in August. Brewforia started life as a Boise-based online business shipping craft beer to 32 states, eventually leading to a full-fledged bottle shop, restaurant, craft-beer-enthusiast gathering place in downtown. After a short hiatus, Brewforia Beer Market is back, but this time in Incline Village, with 12 rotating taps, craft cocktails, and a full restaurant serving scratch-made bar food favorites, including tacos, flatbreads, burgers, and, yes, a Big A** Pretzel (says so on the menu). The real focus is on the beer, and while 12 taps may seem like a small selection for a bar with beer in the name, Brewforia Beer Market has 10 refrigerated doors that house more than 400 cans and bottles you can enjoy there or take home.
Greek salad and flatbread at Brewforia Beer Market
While new businesses open all around town, it’s wonderful to see so many excellent businesses celebrating important anniversaries and receiving accolades as well.
Change can be a good thing, but when you already have a book full of winning recipes like Süp does, you don’t really need to do much to keep current customers happy and new ones coming in. It’s hard to believe that 10 years have gone by since Kasey and Christian Christensen opened the doors of this popular restaurant. For those who can remember that far back, Süp was one of the first Midtown restaurants, before Midtown was really a word. About six years ago, they moved to their current location, a converted house with a quirky layout across from the Sticks complex, which allowed them to serve up their signature charm; addictively delicious, house-made, white balsamic vinaigrette; heartwarming homemade soups; and, of course, those cookies to more guests than ever. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, Süp has been there for us all, and I’m certain it will for many more years to come.
Grilled cheese and tomato soup at Süp
As our culinary scene continues to evolve, talent is shifting, and that’s bringing new creative energy into the kitchens of some well-loved local establishments.
Joshua Berreman is, and has been, one of the most talented chefs in our city, leading the charge in kitchens such as LuLou’s and Heritage; most recently, he’s the chef behind the Midtown Tacos concept. He’s flown under the radar for far too long, and in August, Berreman became the executive chef of Midtown Eats. His new menu focuses on local, seasonal ingredients with a healthy dose of his signature sarcasm expressed in some unexpected pairings and preparations. Berreman’s whimsy and inspiration can be experienced in dishes such as the Jar-b-que Pork, his take on a classic pork rillette with slow-and-low barbecue flavors served with pickled green grapes and the heirloom tomato salad (in tomato season), which appears simple but surprises the palate with pops of citrus and tajin.
August was a big month for Frey Ranch Estate Distillery, too. Early in the month, the distillery was visited by Bobby Childs, author of the blog Adventures in Whiskey. His write-up detailed the attention Colby and Ashley Frey have put into producing their award-winning products, starting with growing the grain used to make them. In 2016, their gin won a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. In 2017, they entered their second San Francisco World Spirits Competition, where Frey Ranch Barrel Finished Gin received a gold medal in the flavored gin category, and Virginia City Cemetery Gin, which they distill under contract for Virginia City, received a silver medal in the gin category. The Freys also had a chance to share a dram with renowned whiskey historian Fred Minnick at the Peppermill Resort Hotel’s first Whiskey Society dinner. After tasting and talking, Minnick had many compliments for these young distillers and their approach to the art form, which has us excited for what the future holds.
Virginia City Cemetery Gin
Louis Erriguible opened Louis’ Basque Corner in the Lincoln Hotel in Reno with his wife, Lorraine, in 1967, after immigrating to the U.S. from Mauléon, Basses Pyrénées, France. Basque restaurants, typically located beneath hotels, served as homes-away-from-home for newly immigrated Basque people — places where they could enjoy a healthy serving of hospitality and comfort food in a family-like atmosphere. Erriguible’s hospitality was legendary, and that, along with his classic Basque recipes, helped make the restaurant the community staple it still is today. If you ever met him, you can picture his genuine smile and the love he had for every guest who came through those doors. Even after selling the restaurant and retiring in 2010, Louis’ charm and hospitality never was separated from this place. He still came to the restaurant regularly to visit with guests, check on the kitchen, and make sure new owners Chris Shanks and Brian Elcano were carrying on the traditions. Erriguible spent nearly 50 years in this restaurant, and, sadly, in late July, our community lost him at almost 91 years old. While there’s no way to replace his physical presence, thankfully we can all share his legacy and the Basque traditions with many more generations at Louis’ Basque Corner.
Louis Erriguible, founder of Louis’ Basque
It’s our support for longstanding local institutions and all the new concepts and cuisines that’s causing the tremendous growth we’re seeing in our food-and-drink community. Sharing these highlights and other great stories you see throughout the community with friends and family will inspire others to show their support, too. We’re all an active part of putting the Reno-Tahoe region on the map, and in so doing, we’re helping our local food community thrive.
Until next time, remember to eat, drink, and support local!
Michael Tragash is our local community director with Yelp.com. He’s passionate about connecting people to all the useful, funky, and cool businesses and happenings in the Reno-Tahoe region. You usually can find him exploring the local food and drink scene or the natural beauty that surrounds us.