THE LATEST SCOOP
Keeping you informed of local food and drink news.
WRITTEN BY MICHAEL TRAGASH
ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BRADY
As the year winds down, we have plenty to celebrate: an ever-expanding culinary landscape, local chefs gaining national attention, and our collective increased interest in learning about where our food comes from and just how it’s made. Here are the most recent highlights.
Longtime local ’cue
The owners of BJ’s Nevada Barbecue Co. in Sparks celebrated the restaurant’s 30th anniversary this August, and the story behind their success is a good one. Peter and Roberta Rathmann made their way west after 14 years of successful restaurant ownership in Warsaw, New York. BJ’s — which then was located in a small storefront on the corner of Prater Way and North McCarran Boulevard — became a regular lunch stop for Peter and his brother-in-law. One fateful day, he came across a newspaper ad showing the business for sale, and in 1991, Peter purchased it from Al Norman. In 2011, Peter moved the business to the current location, right off of I-80 on Victorian Avenue. The Rathmanns still use Norman’s original recipes for sauces, smoke, and rubs. Although the menu has expanded, all of Norman’s original dishes/offerings still are available, including brisket, ribs, chicken, and house-made hot links. Oddly, there was no pork on the menu, but the Rathmanns quickly added it. Through the years, with the help of their son Jay and daughter Kelly, they’ve created a number of signature from-scratch dishes that have helped define their success. Today, Jay commands the kitchen and also runs BJ’s catering and events business, which started in 2002. BJ’s is celebrating 25 years of participating in the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off, 16 years at the Reno Rodeo, 10 years at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, and catering for upwards of 1,000 guests a week.
In early September, Reno’s Midtown Eats made its long-awaited move to the building its owners purchased on Cheney Street in Reno. Local artisan woodworker and furniture maker Zac Bryson, who handcrafted key design elements for Derby Supply Co. barber stations and created the custom wood wrap that houses the cash register at the new West Elm in downtown Reno, helped with the interior design on this project. He took influences from Midtown Eats’ original location around the corner on South Virginia Street, and warmed it up with intimate lighting and dramatic copper accents. The new Midtown Eats has double the former seating capacity, at 69 seats, including community tables and expanded bar seating, as well as double the number of staff members. Initially, kitchen staff members are keeping it simple by offering the original menu, but will expand it in the near future. The bar program has undergone incredible improvements and has grown into what we have come to expect from owners Ivan Fontana and Sadie Bonnette, who also own Death & Taxes next door. The new location boasts an extensive wine list with several higher-end bottles and a wide selection of dessert wines. On draft, you’ll find 13 beers, four wines, and cocktails made and kegged at the restaurant, including an old-fashioned and a Midhattan, a riff on a Manhattan.
Reno Supper Club
In case you missed it, Bowl, in Reno’s West Street Market closed, much to the disappointment of diners who have loved the Larry Dunning-owned restaurant. A sign left on the door and a Facebook post in June let everyone know that the space wouldn’t be vacant for long, indicating a supper club would soon occupy it. Months passed with no real action until late in August, when the lights turned back on and the smells of garam masala and curry wafted into the air on West Street. Thali, a pop-up restaurant previously run out of the former Café Deluxe, set up shop in the open kitchen, bringing a distinct dining experience and organic vegetarian and gluten-free Indian cuisine. Thali, open 6 – 9 p.m. Sat. – Mon., is the first of several popups and special food-centric events that will comprise the Reno Supper Club, which should be announced soon. If you’re curious, we encourage you to visit http://www.Thatbowlrestaurant.com or Bowl Restaurant on Facebook.
I scream. You scream. We all scream for tagine! We’re excited to see this iconic Moroccan cooking vessel, and the delicious dishes that are prepared within it, find their way into our community. Abbey Kent and fiancé/chef Abdellah Matboua opened Zayna – Flavors of Morocco in mid-June on West Second Street in Reno, in the former Lanna Thai space. In just a few months, Zayna has drawn rave reviews from Yelpers and community members for its special Sultan’s Feasts, which take place Friday and Saturday nights, offering diners the opportunity to enjoy Matboua’s authentic Moroccan cuisine in a multi-course format. Chef Matboua’s menu, which changes weekly, reflects his North African Berber heritage and the cuisine of his home city of Agadir, a coastal city known for its use of seasonal produce and local ingredients. Lamb, chicken, and goat tagines, classic Moroccan kabobs, as well as pastries and salads have all won favor with a number of diners, who fill the space on a weekly basis. Though the restaurant does not operate Sunday through Wednesday, Zayna is available for private events and chef Matboua is happy to prepare special menus for guests.
Righteous hot dogs
Summer’s long gone, but thankfully sausages are great all year round. Bam!Dog is making sure we’re all well fed with its brand of righteous hot dogs and sausage sandwiches. Even a classic hot dog is a bit more special at Bam!Dog because the base of each sandwich is a house-baked bun topped with a locally made Flocchini sausage and at least one specialty item made in house. The owners, Joanne and Stephen King, have some clever and quirky combinations, such as the All-American Picnic, which combines an all-beef brisket hot dog with potato salad, chopped bacon, Roma tomatoes, green onions, and a swirl of barbecue sauce. A favorite of Bam!Dog’s chef is the Aloha Addict, with a chicken kielbasa, mango salsa, and chopped bacon, macadamia nuts, and green onions, all tied together with a little teriyaki. No Bam!Dog dog is complete without a side of its signature chili cheese tater tots.
With chef David Holman’s departure to Campo from Charlie Palmer Steak in Reno, locals were curious about who would assume the position at the helm of this renowned kitchen. Chef Charlie Palmer looked within his national restaurant group to find a chef with a style and temperament that would suit our city and bring new excitement to the burgeoning culinary scene. Chef Cliff Denny took over Charlie Palmer Steak in August, bringing with him a wealth of international culinary experience. But it’s chef Denny’s humble beginning that really makes him a great fit with our community. He started his career by washing dishes and serving as a prep cook at the Victoria Hotel in England before earning a culinary apprenticeship that allowed him to make the leap over the pond to being an accomplished chef. Denny’s no-fuss style and traditional approach will be right at home in Reno, especially in chef Palmer’s modern American steakhouse.
Chef makes national waves
If you don’t know Chef Joe (Joe Eidem), you certainly will soon, as he recently appeared on Food Network’s series Guy’s Grocery Games. He was invited to be part of a special episode that pit professional chefs who are grandparents against each other in a battle royale. Eidem — a certified executive chef, High Sierra Chefs Association board member, and fellow with the American Academy of Chefs — participated with a goal to make it to the second round, and he did that with ease. While he didn’t win, the judges recognized him with a Plate Award during the filming for his creativity, and they have already invited him back for redemption. If you want to catch up with Chef Joe in Reno, you can find him mentoring students in Hug High School’s culinary program or behind the line at Smiling With Hope Pizza, working hand in hand to help its special needs employees gain valuable work skills.
Clint takes New Orleans
Chef Clint Jolly, owner of Great Thyme Catering and a Food Network Chopped champion, was one of 10 chefs selected to compete in the Farm to Table Chefs Taste Challenge in New Orleans this past August. The competition asked each chef to create an extraordinary dish utilizing farm-fresh ingredients from a pantry of seasonal ingredients donated by state agricultural departments. It was designed to showcase what locavores are eating around the country. The farm-to-table philosophy is nothing new to chef Jolly, who said, “The story of food begins on the farm. As a chef, it’s my job to treat the ingredients with respect to the farmers and ranchers and tell that story in an interesting way.” Chef Jolly was joined by chef Josh Deri, of Blend Catering, as his sous chef for the competition. The duo prepared Gator Poutine, a Cajun-inspired dish comprised of alligator boudin blanc (an interpretation of a tradition Cajun-style sausage), crispy kennebec potatoes, sweet corn gravy, and soft burrata. While the dish did not win, having chef Jolly represent Reno on a national level — again — is a victory for our city and another step toward the culinary recognition this food community deserves.
Our support is what makes this exciting growth possible. We can all play a part in putting the Reno-Tahoe region on the map, and 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.