THE LATEST SCOOP
Keeping you informed of local food-and-drink news.
WRITTEN BY MICHAEL TRAGASH
ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BRADY
The summer heat didn’t slow down our food-and-drink scene in Reno-Tahoe. While our favorite areas undergo some renovations, new neighborhoods are coming alive with exciting concepts and experiences for us to enjoy. Keeping up with it all has become quite the task, but don’t worry, we’re serving Edible Updates on a silver platter. So when your friends ask, you’ve got the answers they want.
Midtown is business as usual
The second phase of the Regional Transportation Commission’s Virginia Street transformation is underway, and construction crews are working hard to create a more beautiful and pedestrian-friendly Midtown neighborhood. It’s more imperative than ever for locals to show support for the businesses in the affected areas. Through the end of this fall, Virginia Street will be closed to northbound traffic from Plumb Lane to Mt. Rose Street; side streets in the affected areas, including Cheney Street, St. Lawrence Avenue, and Martin Street, also will be closed.
Virginia Street road construction in Midtown Reno
Don’t be deterred or inappropriately detoured. Accessing great local businesses such as Bricks, Moo Dang, Poke King, Chicago’s Pizza With A Twist, Arario, Noble Pie Parlor, Perenn Bakery, El Adobe Café, Chapel Tavern, and Craft Wine & Beer won’t be difficult at all. Take Lakeside Boulevard north and use Mt. Rose Street to easily access Virginia Street southbound. Use either Arlington or Holcomb avenues to head north to your destination. For the great local businesses in Midtown, it’s business as usual, despite the construction. As a community, let’s show our support.
Wells Avenue is experiencing an awakening. If you haven’t driven down this major corridor recently, you may have missed all of the updated commercial spaces and new businesses that have opened, including Plaza Maya Restaurant, Pantry Products, Code Coffee, and, in mid-June, Von Bismarck.
T. Duncan Mitchell, pioneer of Reno’s craft cocktail scene and owner of Chapel Tavern and Shawarmageddon, has a way of creating concepts that respect and honor the past while making them relevant today. At Von Bismarck, Mitchell has created a dining experience that melds traditional German food and drink with modern aesthetics and cooking techniques to create a wholly new experience. The restaurant is open and bright with warm accents, and it is set entirely for communal dining.
The menu follows suit, offering an array of comforting salads, sides, and entrées, all simply described yet anything but simple, and all are designed for sharing. From Plastered Potatoes (roasted fingerling potatoes topped with a rich, spicy garlic oil and fresh herbs) to the house-made quark (soft cheese) and bone-in elk jägerschnitzel, the food is prepared with a deft hand and unmistakable attention to detail. The bar menu offers an eclectic array of German wines, beers, and spirits, all curated by Mitchell and his team to highlight the exciting range of German producers. Von Bismarck’s opening on Wells Avenue is a major achievement for Mitchell and the entire neighborhood. Wells is definitely a neighborhood to watch.
Back to the Infirmary
On California Avenue, the lights are back on at St. James Infirmary after it closed in March for a pretty extensive renovation. Inside, the cool, monotone color scheme has been traded in for a look that can only be described as your grandfather’s ridiculously rad basement bar, the one you were never allowed to enjoy as a child.
The new and improved St. James Infirmary in Reno
Bright red leather cushions atop polished walnut make the perfect setting for enjoying classic craft cocktails such as Singapore slings and whiskey sours, served in retro glassware. St. James Infirmary’s remodel has brought the classically cool vintage vibes of yesteryear back to Reno, and it’s something you should experience.
Community rallies for food truck
On June 10, Nom Eats, one of our community’s most beloved food trucks, unexpectedly burst into flames during a routine service at Reno Public House. The fire tore through the interior of the truck, leaving a sooty mess, an unusable kitchen, and broken hearts in its wake.
This couldn’t have come at a worse time as owners Ian McIntosh, Carly Gurinskas, and Robyn Gurinskas were gearing up for their fifth year on the truck and a busy season of summer events. But, in typical fashion, they demonstrated a healthy sense of humor, setting up a GoFundMe page titled “Nom Eats — a little too hot in the kitchen,” with the goal of raising $10,000 to get the truck rolling once again.
Nom Eats’ food truck was destroyed by fire
Fortunately for them, when tragedy strikes, Reno-Tahoe rises to the occasion. As news of the fire spread quickly across social media, Nom Eats’ loyal fans, along with local news outlets, business owners, the food truck community, and event organizers, all showed their support. As of July 5, the GoFundMe page had been shared more than 2,100 times, generating nearly $20,000 from the community, all provided in $5 increments and up. With that check in the bank, the owners should have their wheels under them soon, but the page is still active, so if you’d like to support Nom Eats and its mission of bringing vegan food to the masses, head to Gofundme.com/nom-eats-a-little-too-hot-in-the-kitchen.
Give ‘em the Axe
Though the names Phil Frayssinoux and Chris Utgaard may not be immediately recognizable, they belong to two people who are behind some of Reno-Tahoe’s most innovative and exciting recreational experiences — Frayssinoux as an owner of Break Through Reno and Puzzle Room Reno escape rooms, and Utgaard is owner of Need 2 Speed, an indoor go-kart racing venue. They’ve teamed up to open Reno Axe, the area’s first axe-throwing bar, and Dark Pursuit, a horror-themed experience combining elements of escape rooms, haunted houses, and mazes, all in the 10,000-square-foot space next to Liberty Food & Wine Exchange.
Reno Axe Bar
The axe-throwing arena and bar are separated by a rebar partition, both for safety and aesthetics. The bar boasts a selection of wine, craft beer, and cocktails meant to help bring out your inner lumberjack. A service window into Liberty and a special menu of selections from Liberty’s kitchen allow guests to sate the savage hunger they work up while hurling axes. Reno Axe’s six lanes each can handle groups of two to 12; groups of six to 10 can book online, while smaller groups are for walk-ins only. There’s also a private room for larger parties, with catering available from Liberty as well.
Fish bar reels in fans
Jon Smee, a former seafaring fisherman and owner of Alaskan commercial fishing boats, made a big splash when he brought his high-quality seafood to The Biggest Little City and opened his food trailer, Smee’s Alaskan Fish Bar & Marketplace, in 2015. Smee’s scallop sliders and fish and chips, made with Alaskan cod caught on Smee’s own boats, gained lots of local love on Yelp and social media and earned him legions of loyal fans who followed the trailer all over town to get their fix.
In 2016, Smee retired the trailer and tested the brick-and-mortar waters with a location at Meadowood Mall in 2017. In May of this year, he opened an upscale version of the eatery on the banks of the Truckee River, in the heart of Reno’s Riverwalk District. At lunch, Smee’s Alaskan Fish Bar offers a wonderful, casual riverfront dining experience, serving signature fish and chips, sliders, and salads; at dinner, the expanded menu includes higher-end offerings, including roasted Alaskan halibut, rich seafood cioppino, and Dungeness crab-stuffed prawns. If you’re craving those fish and chips at dinnertime, belly up to the bar; Smee’s also has a limited menu available there from 2 to 9 p.m. as well.
New faces on Fourth
Reno’s Brewery District continues to come together as business owners breathe new life into the historic buildings along the Fourth Street corridor. Many in the community still consider Fourth Street a risky proposition, but it’s changing in the blink of an eye. Chris Shanks and Brandon Wright saw the potential when they opened The Depot Craft Brewery Distillery, and Justin Owen and Ryan Gold did, too, when they opened Lincoln Lounge, across from stalwart Louis’ Basque Corner. Now Piper Stremmel; Will Truce and Jake Conway (Black Rabbit Mead Co.); and Joe Cannella (Ferino Distillery) — we’ll review Black Rabbit and Ferino in the next column — are part of the next wave of entrepreneurs thinking beyond the stigma, bringing completely new concepts to Fourth Street and reviving this much-maligned neighborhood. Among these is Stremmel’s The Jesse, a boutique hotel and bar that opened in June in the former Lincoln Lounge space on the corner of Fourth Street and Evans Avenue.
Stremmel, inspired by her lodging experiences while traveling abroad, has been dreaming of this concept for more than 10 years. She says the quality of her accommodations had the greatest impact on how she experienced a destination and that she set out to create a space that could serve as the ideal jumping off point for an “authentic Nevada experience,” including urban exploration and deep dives into our incredible natural surroundings.
As you step inside The Jesse, you’ll have a hard time believing this is a 100-year-old building. Stremmel has seamlessly brought together elements of rich history and classic aesthetics in a modern context. Her design transports you to a time and space all its own; it sits squarely between the past and future of Downtown Reno.
The six boutique guest suites are comfortable and stylish, with a midcentury-modern aesthetic that keeps in mind both the business and leisure traveler. The lobby bar/lounge shares this vibe, with large windows that bring the outside in and beautifully frame the surrounding neighborhood. The authentic Nevada experience extends to the bar itself, where one of Reno’s most award-winning bartenders, Ilona Martinez, has created a seasonal cocktail program that tells patrons stories of Reno and The Silver State. Take a seat on a camel-hide stool and enjoy a cocktail with a sidecar of history. Take, for instance, the Camel Race Hoax, a drink whose name hearkens to the origin of this local event; it contains Fortaleza tequila and cantaloupe, a nod to Fallon’s own hearts of gold variety.
The Lover’s Lane cocktail at The Jesse in Reno
The bar is open to the public and serves coffee and cocktails beginning at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends.
The Jesse is joined by Estella – Tacos y Mezcal, a lively modern Mexican cantina that occupies the former Hub Coffee Roastery just off the patio behind The Jesse. The restaurant is managed by Diana Peschel, former manager of Michelin-starred restaurant The Progress in San Francisco, and running the kitchen is chef Harrison Cooper, who comes to Estella from The Progress’ sister restaurant and next-door neighbor, James Beard-award-winning State Bird Provisions. Chef Harrison’s menu delivers an authentic Nevada experience as well, highlighting seasonal bounty and incorporating ingredients from local farms and ranches.
Tacos at Estella
The Jesse is the juxtaposition of the past and present that Reno needs, and it should serve as a shining example to others who want to be a part of revitalizing Reno. For locals, this is a place to watch, celebrate, enjoy with family and friends, and send visitors.
Knife maker takes a slice of Reno
A good knife is a chef’s most important tool, which is why passionate home cooks across the country pine for the perfect professional set of their own. While options abound, if you’re not working with these tools daily, how would you know which one to choose?
It’s that exact question that motivated Carson City native and former chef Galen Garretson to start Town Cutler in San Francisco in 2011. Town Cutler is dedicated to crafting professional cutlery and handmade culinary goods. Its products are made to exacting specifications and designed to build long-term confidence and enjoyment in the kitchen for both professionals and passionate home cooks. Town Cutler is a hub uniting these two groups through their shared passions for cutlery and cooking.
Town Cutler owner and founder Galen Garretson. Photo by Alison Christiana
Town Cutler knives. Photo by Alison Christiana
An anniversary to taco 'bout
Every big brand started small and local somewhere. It was 1954 when Jim “Jimboy” Knudson opened a food trailer to serve “The Original American Taco” on Kings Beach at Lake Tahoe. At the time, tacos weren’t commonly found in the U.S., but that didn’t deter locals or visiting celebrities — including Rat Pack members and the cast of Bonanza — from stopping by for his crisp-shelled, Parmesan-cheese-dusted beef tacos. Sixty-five years have passed since then, and in that time, Jimboy’s Tacos has grown to encompass more than 40 locations across California and Nevada.
Jim “Jimboy” Knudson’s original taco trailer
To celebrate its 65th anniversary, Jimboy’s Tacos remembers the good old days with a rebrand and remodel that brings back the vintage vibes, lively authenticity, and charm of the original metal trailer for today’s customers to experience and enjoy. The new Lemmon Valley store was one of the first in the nation to be built with the new brand in place. Pay a visit and take a taste of local nostalgia.
Reno city streets were rumbling toward the end of July when Flavortown Express rolled into town. Citizens all over reported sightings of Guy Fieri and his signature candy apple red Chevy Camaro SS as he visited six local businesses for an upcoming all-Reno episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Fieri visited Washoe Public House, Full Belly Deli, Butcher’s Kitchen CHAR-B-QUE, Noble Pie Parlor, Yosh’s Deli, and Carolina Kitchen & Barbeque for this episode. You can tune in to the Food Network to find out when it will air.
Until next time, remember to eat, drink, and support local!
Michael Tragash is a local food influencer and the 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.