edible updates

KEEPING YOU INFORMED
Northern Nevada food and drink news.

WRITTEN BY MICHAEL TRAGASH
ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BRADY

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Spring may just be starting to bloom, but Reno-Tahoe’s food-and-drink scene certainly hasn’t been in hibernation. Exciting new concepts and major developments have continued their steady influx. Keeping up with all the changes is no mean feat, but we’re serving up your Edible Updates on a silver platter, so you’ll stay in the know.

Midtown as usual

The Virginia Street Project is charging ahead. Sierra Nevada Construction is making incredible progress toward a more beautiful and pedestrian-friendly Midtown. While it may seem tough to access your favorite local spots, if you make the trip you’ll find easy detours and extra parking, keeping the challenge to a minimum. Meanwhile, there continues to be more excitement in the area. 

Amid the construction at the intersection of Mary and South Virginia streets, a transformation has taken place inside the spaces that once housed Simple Ice Cream and Visionary, which now are home to The Arch Society, Reno’s one and only dessert bar, which opened in January. Anne Archer, owner of Midtown’s Batch Cupcakery, created this new-to-Reno concept by bringing her beloved baking into a more elegant, evening-appropriate setting, complete with dessert-inspired craft cocktails and boozy milkshakes made with ice cream from Minden’s own Hoch Family Creamery. Reno has longed for a nighttime spot for sipping and savoring something sweet, and The Arch Society delivers that in spades. 

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The Arch Society in Midtown

Arario makes Yelp’s Top 100 in the nation

While some businesses are just gaining their footing, another Midtown business is gaining national exposure. Arario, a Korean-fusion restaurant has rapidly become a locals’ favorite, and those locals have been singing its praises online — so much so that Arario earned the No. 50 spot on Yelp’s Top 100 Restaurants in the United States list for 2020. It’s perfect timing, too, as Yelp’s 2020 Trend Report called out Korean cuisine as one of the top food trends to watch for this year. 

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Arario in Midtown

While Arario isn’t the first Korean restaurant to open in Reno-Sparks, it’s safe to say that Arario was the restaurant that ushered this cuisine into mainstream popularity for the community. Arario’s owners, husband-and-wife team TJ and Hani Cho, are equal parts of this recipe for success. Nearly every guest fondly recalls being warmly greeted by TJ’s unforgettable smile and experiencing his incredible hospitality, while chef Hani’s Korean culinary training and regard for her guests shine through in the food, which keeps guests coming back. The restaurant is modern and beautiful, with a menu that satisfies purists and newcomers to this cuisine all at once. If you’re looking for the classics, try the bibimbap or jjigae, a rich tofu stew, served with a bevy of house-made banchan (Korean side dishes). If you’re just discovering your love for Korean food, check out the modern fusions and try the sweet and spicy K wings, galbi burger, or bulgogi pasta. 

Arario’s spot on this list is a community victory we can all celebrate. At the same time, it’s a testament to the fact that our support and experiences shared on Yelp — good or bad — help businesses attract customers from far and wide and propel this area’s reputation as a foodie destination. 

Remember, Reno started as dusty dirt roads. Embrace our pioneer spirit and make your way to Midtown, where, regardless of construction, it’s business as usual. 

Old Trestle is coming down the tracks

Truckee’s first distillery, Old Trestle Distillery, produces three craft spirits that are now available in the state of Nevada. Jake Holshue, Old Trestle’s master distiller, comes to us by way of Rogue Spirits in Oregon, where he created spirits that blazed trails in well-established categories. Holshue has been considering new approaches to spirits for years, and Old Trestle’s Theory 001 and 002 gins bring these ideas to life. Theory 001 explores the flavors of the Sierra using locally foraged botanicals, such as California rose hips and western juniper, to create flavors reminiscent of our region yet familiar to gin drinkers at the same time. Theory 002 goes a completely different direction, taking inspiration from the flavors of traditional Chinese cuisine. It combines the traditional gin base botanicals of juniper and coriander with ingredients such as Sichuan peppercorn, five spice, Yunnan black tea, and ginger for a new gin-drinking experience that’s a lot more savory. 

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Old Trestle Distillery’s Theory 001 gin

The industry already is taking notice. Old Trestle has earned gold and double gold medals at global competitions and new placements on bar menus and retail stores regularly, and when some lucky locals got a sample of Old Trestle’s first dark spirit, a double-barrel bourbon, at Yelp Reno’s celebration of International Whiskey Day in May 2019, the response was phenomenal. The owners hope to release that one later this year, and whiskey fans should get excited for that. Until then, try Old Trestle’s products at Chapel Tavern, The Emerson, Twisted Fork, The Loving Cup, and many other great bars and restaurants in Reno. Once you fall in love, head to Craft Wine & Beer, Whispering Vine Wine Co., or Ben’s Fine Wine & Spirits to take home a bottle or two. 

And here’s a fun fact: Old Trestle’s products aren’t master distiller Holshue’s first products to come to Northern Nevada. He previously collaborated with Whispering Vine to create a Rogue gin that was aged in Whispering Vine’s own pinot noir barrels. Look for it at Whispering Vine locations in town. 

Aloha from the North Valleys

With Swan Lake brimming, it’s not so hard to imagine the North Valleys as a Hawaiian paradise, right? OK, it’s a stretch, but the area definitely is feeling a bit warmer these days, thanks to the ono grindz served up with aloha spirit by the Luke ohana (family) at Aloha Shack. Theresa and Christopher Luke started Aloha Shack as a food truck in 2016, offering a culinary fusion from their respective Hawaiian and Vietnamese heritages. Fans lined up weekly at Food Truck Fridays for their classic ahi poke and plate lunches while daily specials kept the community in constant search of where they’d pop up next. In 2017, the couple started making waves on the festival and award circuit, taking top honors at Reno’s Biggest Little City Wing Fest, at the Grand Sierra Beer & Chili Festival, and on the Reno News & Review’s annual Best of Northern Nevada poll, which helped propel the Lukes on their journey toward opening a restaurant, which became a reality in September 2019. All of the Aloha Shack favorites grace the menu, including the award-winning wings, kalua pork, and Shack chicken, but thanks to a much larger kitchen, many new items have been added, too. You won’t want to miss the pineapple upside-down pancakes during brunch, served every Sunday, or any of chef Chris’ or chef Theresa’s daily specials (which are shared on social media), such as their now-famous barbecue ribs and saimin, a classic, comforting Hawaiian noodle soup. Between its hearty plates and ohana hospitality, Aloha Shack offers the warmth of the Hawaiian sunshine right here at home! 

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Aloha Shack in Reno

Regional Chinese, if you please

Chinese cuisine is one of the most diverse in the world, with a nearly infinite number of regional variations, influenced by geography and culture. What we know as Chinese food across the U.S. really only is representative of one region, leaving a great deal that’s unexplored by most diners. From 2011 to 2015, Reno was fortunate to have 168 Café, owned and operated by Ellen Woo and helmed by chef Hong Li, who introduced many to this great culinary diversity. As a former chef to government officials in China, chef Li is well versed in several regional Chinese cuisines, which allowed him to serve an array of traditional regional Chinese specialties not found anywhere else in the area. His food won 168 Café great favor within the local Chinese community and attracted adventurous foodies alike, all of whom mourned its closing.

A lot has changed in Reno since 2015. Our food interests have grown more diverse, as evidenced by the massive popularity of Kwok’s Bistro, Arario, The Wok, and 101 Taiwanese. The climate was right for Woo and Li to rise again, and in October 2019, they partnered to open Shanghai Bistro. Li’s menu features highlights from his time spent in Shanghai, with lion’s head meatball and red braised pork, a favorite of Chairman Mao and popular in the Guangdong province, and even Sichuan-style hot pot, with the classic, numbing heat of Sichuan peppercorns. The menu is as broad a representation of Chinese cuisine as Reno has to offer, allowing for an exciting dining experience for adventurous foodies while still satisfying those seeking the familiar. 

A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Carson City is growing and changing rapidly, and over the years it has attracted the interests of restaurateurs from all over the area looking to bring diverse new dining experiences to the community. Mark Estee and the Reno Local Food Group saw the opportunity in the developing Downtown Carson City area and opened The Union in June 2017, then added the attached Old World Coffee Lab in 2019. Then when The Martin Hotel, a well-regarded Basque restaurant in Winnemucca, closed in 2019, leaving a prime restaurant location vacant, the Reno Local Food Group once again seized an opportunity. The company’s new Cucina Lupo brings elevated Italian cuisine to Carson City.

Lupo means “wolf” in Italian, and with purple walls accented by red and adorned with gold abstract interpretations of the namesake animal, Cucina Lupo will have you feeling as if you’re anywhere but Carson City. There’s a large bar area with high-top seating, a craft cocktail menu, and a collection of Italian amaros, or bitter spirits, curated by Steve Sanchez, the former bar manager at Café at Adele’s. The menu focuses on chef Luis Fragoso’s daily handmade pastas and modern takes on Italian American favorites, including chicken Parmigiana, all with the Liberty Food Group’s locavore touch we’ve come to know and love. 

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Spaghetti with clams at Cucina Lupo

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Chicken Parmigiana at Cucina Lupo

The Grill celebrates 20 years

No matter how much new growth we experience, something that makes the Reno-Tahoe area special is its residents’ respect, love, and reverence for those who shaped its history. The Grill at Quail Corners is undoubtedly one of those institutions, and in November 2019, the owners and staff celebrated the restaurant’s 20 years in business. 

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Owners and staff at The Grill at Quail Corners gathered in November to celebrate the restaurant’s 20th anniversary

It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation about our food-and-drink community without mentioning Sam and Diane Francovich and their late daughter, Marisa, who have lovingly run this community staple for two decades. Sam still greets guests by name daily — just one of many special touches that have made The Grill more than just a restaurant. It’s been the site of first dates, a location for ladies to lunch, and a community gathering place where city officials and business leaders have discussed major issues over lunch, dinner, or drinks. Happy anniversary to this beloved establishment!

Our patronage at longstanding local institutions and all of the new concepts and cuisines that have arrived support the growth we’re seeing in Reno-Tahoe. Sharing these stories and your own experiences with others will inspire them 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 a local food influencer and a 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.

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