The most exciting Reno food stories of 2018
In 2018, it was the biggest word in food and drink in the Biggest Little City: openings.
This past year, more than 60 restaurants of note debuted in Reno, not counting sports bars or most chain locations.
That figure — 60 — is calculated through Dec. 15, so the opening of a restaurant like Zeppelin at the Loop, while significant, won’t be counted until next year because Zeppelin isn’t scheduled to launch until just before Christmas.
Other stories in our top nine of the year range from a peek inside the eats at Tesla to the Door Dash delivery debacle to a pair of unexpected closings in Midtown.
How have detours, roadblocks and a thicket of construction cones affected restaurants in Midtown, the city’s buzziest precinct? That’ll be a story for 2019.
RESTAURANT AND BAR OPENINGS
Diversity describes the noteworthy Reno restaurants that opened in 2018.
Haru brought exemplary Japanese, Kwok’s Bistro sent out superlative Chinese and Café de Thai moved from its wedge-shaped space in South Reno to the Sticks development in Midtown. Ăn - Asian Kitchen & Bar replaced Café de Thai.
Perenn Bakery (kouign amann worth a wait), Rue Bourbon (a small New Orleans menu), Pizzava (try the Turkish breakfast pie), a branch of Whispering Vine (taking pours to millennials), and the much-anticipated Homegrown Gastropub also set up shop in Midtown.
Great Full Gardens headed south for a grab-and-go-spot, the old Wedge Cheese Shop went mobile as Wedge on Wheels cheese truck, and Pine State Biscuits, a flaky buttery patch of PDX, came to town.
Perhaps the biggest opening of the year, at least as far name recognition, was Ruth’s Chris Steak House, which replaced longtime (and beloved) Sterling’s in the Silver Legacy.
GIGAFLAVOR FOR THE GIGAFACTORY
In September 2018, @RGJTaste became the first journalist to receive an in-depth look at the culinary program at the Tesla Gigafactory east of Reno.
Tesla is remaking an old idea — the company cafeteria — with a new economy spin, helping local food and drink vendors with the cost of set-up so they can feed 7,000 employees at the complex that produces batteries and drive units for Tesla's electric vehicles.
Tesla's culinary program encompasses 20 food trucks (12 to 15 on any given day), nine markets run by Rounds Bakery of Reno, an outpost of Roundabout Catering of Sparks, cafés from Sakana Sushi and Bangkok Cuisine of Reno, and a 19,000-square-foot main cafeteria.
HOW CLEAN ARE RENO RESTAURANTS?
Prompted, in part, by several national food recalls, the Reno Gazette Journal undertook a monthslong investigation into the cleanliness of Reno restaurants and how they’re complying with food handling regulations.
We analyzed thousands of restaurant inspections, revealed the restaurants that were closed because of food safety violations, created a searchable database of the inspections and offered expert tips on how to eat safely in restaurants.
We also followed up on the lawsuits arising out of Reno’s worst E. coli outbreak and invited Washoe County officials to inspect the home kitchen of an RGJ editor. One takeaway from our investigation: The clear majority of Washoe County restaurants are safe places to eat.
SAYONARA, (MOST) SCOLARI’S
Raley’s, a family-owned grocer with roots going back more than 100 years in Reno, purchased six of the eight remaining Scolari's Food & Drug Company stores in Northern Nevada this past spring.
Raley’s president said the company would expand food categories (including health and wellness items), lower the prices on staples and make improvements to store décor.
Scolari’s now operates only two local stores, one in Sun Valley and one on Holman way in Sparks.
The Scolari family started in the grocery business in California in 1947. In 1982, the family purchased an interest in a group of supermarkets based in Reno. In 1991, the trade name Scolari's Food & Drug company was adopted.
DOOR DASH DONNYBROOK
Door Dash, the online restaurant delivery service, offered an object lesson in how e-commerce disruption doesn’t always go as planned.
Consider the company’s Aug. 1 debut in Reno. That same day, the company began receiving a lambasting on social media from some local restaurant owners angry their restaurants were listed on Door Dash’s website and app — without their permission.
The restaurant owners also were concerned their establishments could be blamed for errors made by Door Dash or for delivery delays — especially when the restaurant never agreed to be a Door Dash partner.
Much of the drubbing took place in the influential (9,000-plus member) Reno Foodies Facebook group, with hundreds of comments expressing anger, criticizing the use of restaurant logos on the Door Dash website and vowing never to use the delivery service.
It turned out Door Dash had been sued in other markets for trademark infringement, and some Reno restaurants had themselves removed from the website.
ANDREW ZIMMERN COMES TO TOWN
Andrew Zimmern, the celebrated chef, author, teacher, James Beard Award winner and TV personality, visited Reno earlier this year for an episode of “The Zimmern List,” one of his four Travel Channel shows.
Zimmern filmed at Kwok’s Bistro (as first reported by @RGJTaste) and at Liberty Food & Wine Exchange, among other places. The “Reno” episode airs 10 a.m. Pacific Time on Dec. 22.
A LEAK FROM THE VILLAGE
The Village at Rancharrah, the public mix of retailers, restaurants and office space at the east end of the estate, has begun signing tenants for its 20 or so spots.
We know that because Süp restaurant of Midtown Reno let slip on Facebook that it was coming aboard. That post has since been removed because Rancharrah wants to keep other tenants confidential for now.
In 2019, @RGJTaste will have an exclusive first-look at businesses confirmed for the village, which overlooks Rancharrah lake and the Club at Rancharrah mansion.
GREAT BASIN REACHES A MILESTONE
Great Basin Brewing Co., Nevada's oldest brewery and a pioneer of the state's craft beer culture, celebrated its 25th anniversary in November 2018. Tom and Bonda Young helped found the brewery in 1993 and still own and operate it.
Great Basin began with its Sparks brewpub on Victorian Avenue. In 2010, the Youngs debuted a Reno location on South Virginia Street amid the increasing popularity of local craft beer. In 2012, Taps & Tanks opened as a Great Basin production facility and taproom.
Over the years, Great Basin has brewed hundreds of distinctive and imaginative craft beers — including signature Ichthyosaur “Icky” IPA, named for Nevada's state fossil — and has served millions of pints and won a host of awards.
Along with Reno restaurant openings inevitably comes the passing of Reno restaurants, some of which we note below.
In 2018, Newman’s Deli on California Avenue closed after almost 30 years; we still don’t know what’s next. After more than 20 years, Sterling’s in the Silver Legacy made way for Ruth’s Chris, as discussed above.
Lincoln Lounge had a 10-year run on East Fourth Street; it’s going to become the Jesse hotel and bar.
West Street Wine bar in downtown Reno also ended the pours after a decade; it’s now Esoteric Wine Bar at Thali, with one of the most compelling wine lists between here and San Francisco.
In early November, Under the Rose Brewing Co., once on East Fourth Street, announced it was shuttering the Midtown brewpub it had only opened this past spring. A few days later, Morgan’s Lobster Shack acknowledged it was ending the lobster rolls after two years in Midtown.
We’re going to watch closely the challenges facing Midtown restaurants in 2019. Stay tuned.