This list used to be much easier to write.
But as Northern Nevada’s food culture has flourished in recent years, it’s become more challenging to boil down a year’s worth of stories to my top 10 or so: There’s simply too much good eating going on.
But my mandate was clear — get boiling! — and so I’m sharing my top 12 food moments (I couldn’t cook down to just 10) of 2016, in no particular order.
There’s a chef’s triumph, a scientist’s discovery, a big anniversary, a fond farewell and a host of openings. In 2017, I hope the area sees less AYCE sushi, more fast-healthy spots and the opening of high-end restaurants.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at the year that was in food.
Clint Jolly for the win. In January 2016, the owner of Great Thyme Catering won Food Network’s “Chopped: Impossible Restaurant Challenge,” besting 400 other U.S. chefs. Folks immediately began asking if Jolly would be the next chef to break out from the Biggest Little City.
Campo heads east. Seven months after purchasing Campo restaurant, an anchor of the downtown Reno renaissance, Sanjay Lillaney opened Campo Sparks in July 2016. The debut brought Campo’s Italian-inspired food to a city craving dining options that weren’t national chains.
Authentic Calafuria. After cooking for more than 15 years in Italy, chef Tim Magee opened Calafuria in spring 2016. The menu celebrates Tuscan food, including the cuisine of Livorno, a style never before offered as a mainstay in Reno. Calafuria is a region on the Tuscan coast.
New cut of beef. Amilton de Mello, assistant professor of meat science at the University of Nevada, announced in late summer his discovery of the bonanza cut, a tender piece of the flat-iron that’s currently used for ground beef. Will de Mello make the bonanza cut the new tri-tip?
GourMelt gets grounded. Jessie Watness and Haley Wood made their names with GourMelt Grilled Cheese Truck, a local mobile food pioneer. In August 2016, the former truck went bricks and mortar with GourMelt Grilled Cheese Shop on University Terrace. Cue the crowds.
Morgan’s does lobster. Shawn and Heather Whitney opened the first Morgan’s Lobster Shack in Truckee. They came to Midtown in November 2016 to supply the seafood dishes they grew up eating in the Northeast. Morgan’s joins Reno’s handful of seafood-focused restaurants.
Gold ‘N Silver anniversary. When this iconic coffee shop opened in 1956, Eisenhower was in the White House. Sixty years later, it still draws a cross-section of Reno for omelets, biscuits and gravy, and late-night grub. The restaurant marked its 60th birthday with dishes at 1950s prices.
Midtown Kauboi. Chef Troy and Coleen Cannan, owners of LuLou’s, moved up South Virginia and across the world to debut Kauboi Izakaya (“Cowboy Tavern”) in late spring. Japanese taverns that serve grilled foods and other small plates inspired this first-of-its-kind spot in Reno.
Smile, hope, pizza. Smiling With Hope Pizza makes pies that make a difference. The pizzeria, opened early in the year by Walter and Judy Gloshinski, pays people with learning disabilities while they train to help make thin-crust pies, calzones, pizza rolls and other Northeast standards.
Lavish Atlantis buffet. In March 2016, after 11 weeks of down-to-the-studs renovation, the Atlantis unveiled a sleek multi million-dollar refashioning of Toucan Charlie’s Buffet. The buffet is Vegas-snazzy, with marble, soft leather, custom pho, cotton candy and 38 wines by the glass.
Ijji goes Korean. Four a fourth location, the owners of Ijji swapped all-you-can-eat sushi for AYCE Korean barbecue. Ijji 4 is the first restaurant in Northern Nevada to serve mainly Korean barbecue. The bar area is especially attractive.
Dandelion Deli closes. In a Thanksgiving Day Facebook post, owner Anthony DeMasi announced the closing of Dandelion Deli, a pioneer of vegetarian and vegan dining in Reno, after more than 20 years. Walden’s Coffeehouse recently opened a second spot in the Wells Avenue space.