There are several diners in Reno that hark back to a bygone era, and we’ve rounded up a list of local joints that rock that nostalgic vibe on the daily. So shine up your whip, cruise on over and drop a dime in the jukebox for an old-fashioned good time.
The Original Mel’s opened as a carhop in San Francisco in 1947 by Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs, who attracted their first customers by offering great food and showcasing radio personality Wolfman Jack. Fast forward to 1972, when George Lucas set his hit film “American Graffiti” at the San Francisco location. The '50s feel continues today with 13 locations in California and Nevada -- three of which are in Reno. In south Reno, visit the Original Mel’s at 189 Damonte Ranch Road in the South Towne Crossings Shopping Center. Downtown (and close to the HAN action) is The Original Mel’s at 345 N. Arlington Ave. inside the Sands Regency Hotel & Casino. A third location is at 2100 Garson Road in Verdi inside Boomtown Casino Hotel. All locations are open 24 hours (great for a late-night post-cruise snack) and feature classic favorites like the 7-ounce MelBurger and blue plate dinners with a side of mashed potatoes.
Johnny Rockets at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, 2500 E. Second St., is part of a chain first launched 1986 by men’s fashion retailer Ronn Teitelbaum on the famed Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California. So the story goes, Teitelbaum founded the restaurant’s concept on the belief that “everyone deserves a place where they can escape from today’s complicated world and experience the uncomplicated goodness of classic Americana.” The establishment's name is a combination of Johnny Appleseed and the classic Oldsmobile Rocket 88. The chain is widely known for its milkshakes -- served in vanilla, strawberry and chocolate -- and burgers with names like Route 66. Like most diners, this is a great place for families and kids and features upbeat music and singing servers.
The Gold N Silver Inn at 790 W. Fourth St. boasts that it’s Reno’s oldest casual dining restaurant and a local landmark. The Gold N Silver turned 60 this year, so it just might be. Opening in 1956 and operated by the Paine family since 1962, the restaurant offers classic comfort foods like chicken pot pie, chicken fried steak and beef stroganoff over noodles. The restaurant was featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & and Dives” in 2010, giving the business a reported 20-percent boost overnight. In June, the diner celebrated by bringing back 1950s prices, including coffee for 10 cents, Coca-Cola for 15 cents, and entrees for 95 cents to $1. Prices are back to the 2016 rates -- but still reasonable -- with most entrees around $10.
A relative newcomer to the diner scene in Reno is Kimmie’s Coffee Cup, which opened for breakfast and lunch at 6770 S. Virginia St. in 2011 and has been pretty packed ever since. The original Kimmie’s was started in Southern California by Kimmie Vinson, who, at the time, was a single mother of two and battling lifelong complications from a congenital heart disease. By age 40, Vinson had undergone five open-heart surgeries. She waited tables at a popular diner in Buena Park, California, to make ends meet, and with a little help from a friend, opened a place of her own in 2001. Today, there are seven Kimmie’s Coffee Cup diners. Vinson’s sister, Donna Surwillo, opened the Reno location and is joined by her husband, Jon, daughters Kari and Leslie, and nephew, Brandon. Kimmie’s specializes in all-American fare, with items like banana pecan pancakes, French onion soup, burgers and salads.