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It’s a little like a calzone. It’s vaguely Mexican. It’s a lot like a Hot Pocket. Jessi Stapel serves up Stuffies’ house specialty, the stuffie.

It’s a little like a calzone. It’s vaguely Mexican. It’s a lot like a Hot Pocket. Jessi Stapel serves up Stuffies’ house specialty, the stuffie.

Photo By David Robert

Stuffies Café

585 E. Moana Ln.
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 826-1991

“It doesn’t feel too stuffy in here,” my sister, Brenna, said as we sat down in this quaint little café. It’s right next to the busy and accident-prone intersection of Kietzke and Moana lanes, but inside, it feels like a remote, small-town diner or the breakfast room of an elderly relative’s cottage. The walls are a calm, light blue, and there are plenty of plants and badly rendered landscape paintings.

The food is rather eccentric. The ambiance suggests classic American diner fare, but things feel slightly distorted—like having favorite family dishes cooked by someone other than mom. The results aren’t quite charming, but they aren’t off-putting, either, just a little confusing.

My sister and I started out with a cup of the soup du jour ($2.25, or $.50 with an entree), a creamy potato broccoli. It had a strikingly pepper-heavy potato flavor. The flavor was bold but, after the first few bites, monotonous. It might just have been that the ingredients didn’t mix well with the espresso smoothie ($3.50) I was drinking. The smoothie was really more of milkshake, heavily topped with whipped cream, with a surprising caffeine quotient.

My entree was Stuffies Cafe’s signature dish: the stuffie ($7.25). It’s basically a meat-filled pastry served with oversized side helpings of sour cream, guacamole and salsa. I had mine with chicken, bell peppers and onions. It was smaller than I expected but fairly good. Our waitress accurately described the stuffing as “almost Mexican"; the flavor was savory and Southwestern.

Brenna asked me if it was like a calzone.

“More like a Hot Pocket,” I responded. “But a good, homemade, freshly baked Hot Pocket.”

It was served with lettuce, tomato and way more of the aforementioned condiments than needed. The neon, mayo-like guacamole (with just a vague hint of actual avocado) and the weak salsa were especially unappealing, though the stuffie itself wasn’t bad. If you’re a big fan of Hot Pockets, you’ll probably be blown away.

Brenna ordered the veggie pasta salad ($6.75), supposedly a plate of “marinated veggies,” and pasta. What she was served was unlike any pasta salad I have ever seen: basically an iceberg salad with Italian dressing and macaroni sprinkled on top. It was a big plate, with plenty of fresh, crisp vegetables. (Stuffies’ motto is “freshest food in town!") She enjoyed it, though it was vastly different from what she thought she was ordering.

The service, like the ambience, was excellent: polite, friendly, casual. Our waitress was always right there when a coffee or water refill was needed.

The other diners were mostly elderly, and this reinforced the impression that we were eating food from a different generation.

If the true test of a restaurant is whether the customer leaves in a better mood than he or she arrived with, then Stuffies certainly passes. I left in a great mood, in part because one gets the unmistakable impression that everyone involved with Stuffies has nothing but the best of intentions—even if they fall a bit short of the mark. It’s like visiting an aunt who loves kids but doesn’t quite know how to relate to them.