Many Bay Area visitors have a preconceived notion about the Biggest Little City—casinos, grime and buffets. While, yes, some of that is still around, there's also an artisan grassroots movement happening in Reno. If you have not been to Reno in the past few years, you might be surprised at what’s turning this Bay Area neighbor upside down.
Let’s start with a drink.
Over the past few months, several new craft brewing restaurants, whisky distilleries, and (dare we use the controversial term) mixology-tinged bars have popped up around the city—many of them located in refreshed buildings dating back to Reno’s railroad days. Reno’s bar scene is a mix of dive bars with twinkling patio lights, mixology bars serving aromatic concoctions and brew pubs with a distinct western Nevada flavor. Bars like Chapel Tavern and Brasserie St. James have been featured in The New York Times, all of them located within a few miles from from each other—ideal for monthly wine walks and themed beer crawls.
Craft Cocktail Bars
The Cala Varques at Death & Taxes Provisions and Spirits inflames the senses with Thai chili roposado tequila, green chartreuse, honey, lemon, lavender bitters and a flaming sprig of thyme. This is just one passage of the bar’s “bible” which also includes the Queen Margarette II with Heering Cherry and walnut bitters, and the Steel Magnolia with Weller bourbon and pineapple honey. Other high-end bars stirring things up are the Monolith Bar, with its cassette tape decor and drinks topped with candy; the Z Bar, with its generous half off happy hour; and 1864 Tavern, a celebration of Nevada's birth year.
While the longtime local favorite, The Icky, is still being served at the Great Basin Brewing Company, Reno now has a mass of new local beers. These include Brasserie St. James' Red Headed Stranger, which is made with the water from a lake 285 feet below the bar (which used to be a former icehouse). Other Reno brews include The Emigrant at The Depot, made with wheat from Northern Nevada and California orange peel; and the Sneak Attack IPA at the Stoneyhead Brewing Company tasting room. The Brewer’s Cabinet serves pretzel bun topped burgers alongside brews like the Dirty Wookie and the Tahoe Amber Ale. Don't miss the Ol’ Bridge Pub on the Truckee River, which allows you to relax outside during warm Nevada nights.
In Nevada, it’s illegal for a craft distillery to use neutral spirits from anywhere but their own stills, so the art of distilling is still a new yet booming industry in the Silver State. In just the last year, three new distilleries have opened, including The Depot on 4th Street. This former Nevada-California-Oregon railroad headquarters is now used to make local whiskey. Seven Troughs Distilling Co. in Sparks uses local corn from Winnemucca and Woodland, California for its Black Rock Rum and Recession Proof Moonshine. Even the small town of Verdi is in on the action with the Verdi Local Distillery, where you can taste Yeti Jackalope Gin.
Photos by Death & Taxes, Brasserie St. James, The Depot and The Brewer's Cabinet