Around the world in a gravy boat

There’s a whole world of food out there. Here’s the best of what’s available around Reno.

Graphic By Don Button

This story is also available as a PDF.

As often as not, when you get a group of people together—be it friends or family—to go out for a meal, there’s an inevitable lengthy discussion about where to dine. And the conversation usually sounds something like this:

“How about Italian?”

“No, I’m more in the mood for Mexican.”

“What about Thai?”

“Does anybody know a good Indian restaurant in town?”

We often use nationalities as shorthand reference points to decide where to dine. But what international cuisines are available in Reno? And what are the best restaurants for each cuisine?

Before becoming the RN&R arts editor a year ago, I spent five years as the paper’s restaurant reviewer. Here are some of my favorite local restaurants with food from around the globe.


575 W. Fifth St., 324-0632

I know what you’re thinking. In a town full of Mexican restaurants, Beto’s, the perennial winner of the RN&R reader’s polls, might seem like a pedestrian choice. Shouldn’t I dig a little deeper and unveil some undiscovered gem—some amazing hidden taqueria that nobody’s heard about? Doesn’t everybody already know about Beto’s? Here’s the thing: Sure, there are a lot of good, obscure Mexican joints throughout the region, but none of them can match Beto’s for consistency. The food’s always great, the prices are always cheap, and everybody likes it—from gringo grandmothers to Hispanic families to jaded hipsters. This is the restaurant that all of Reno can agree upon.

El Salvador:El Salvador Restaurant

517 Forest St., 329-3022

Just a couple of doors down from California Avenue and only a block from Virginia Street, the remoteness, tranquility and verdancy at El Salvador Restaurant always impresses me. Maybe because it’s located on a shady lane called Forest, but I think it’s the relaxed pace of the joint and the equatorial flavors of the food. The iconic food item of El Salvador—the country and the restaurant—is the pupusa, a kind of fat, cheese-stuffed tortilla. Great stuff. My only complaint about El Salvador Restaurant is that the menu is vague and confusing.

Ireland: Foley’s

3655 S. Virginia St., 829-8500

There are a lot of Irish pubs around town, many of which offer some questionably Irish cuisine. This one does serve some traditional Irish fare: shepherd’s pie and the like. But all that really matters is that they serve Ireland’s single most important contribution to world culture: Guinness Stout.

Germany: Bavarian World

595 Valley Road, 323-7646

Man, this place is a little weird, but you just have to love it. The atmosphere seems slightly outside the normal stream of time. The wait staff can be feisty and eccentric. The interior is cavernous and partly decked out like a faux beer garden. But it can be great fun to linger over a pitcher of Spaten Optimator and eat various Schnitzels and sausages. At Bavarian World, it’s October all year round. France:

Beaujolais Bistro

130 West St., 323-2227

I’ve only eaten at this place once. I really dug it, but I haven’t been back because of one reason: I’m too poor. It’s hard to budget for a normal evening out with French food—it’s often a choice between dinner or the mortgage payment. It’s not just the entrees, which are $25 or $30 apiece, but then you have to get an appetizer and a salad, and you can’t very well leave a French restaurant without dessert. Then you decide to splurge on a nice bottle of wine, and one bottle of wine has a way of begetting the next. It adds up. But if you feel like splurging on a nice meal, with its excellent food and remarkably cozy atmosphere, you can’t do much better than Beaujolais Bistro.

Basque: Louis’ Basque Corner

301 E. Fourth St., 323-7203

For the most part, Reno has less culinary diversity than the larger cities of the left coast. But we’ve got them beat when it comes to Basque food. A traditional Basque dinner is one of the top five most essential Reno meals. There a few good places in the area, but I like the classic old-Reno ambience of Louis’. The meat-and-starch food is served family-style and with chilled red wine, so you always end up making some new friends.

Italy: Mario’s Portofino Ristorante

1505 S. Virginia St., 825-7779

It’s always kind of confused me that people tend to cite Italian food as the best in the world. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked it, but I think it’s suffered some because of overexposure: pizza joints on every block, Garfield chowing on lasagna, Chef Boyardee’s grinning mustache. And then there are a lot of mediocre Italian restaurants with exorbitant prices. Mario’s Portofino Ristorante flies in the face of these trends—it’s fairly reasonably priced, the wait staff is friendly and entertaining, the food’s great, and the atmosphere is perfect for a long, lingering meal.

Greece: Nick’s Greek Deli

600 S. Virginia St., 786-9613

Nick’s Greek Deli is a delicious little hole-in-the-wall on the corner of Virginia and Moran streets near the Wild Orchid. It’s a part of that rash of great luncheon spots just south of downtown, none of which are open for dinner. It’s tiny and very casual, but you can get a great gyro sandwich—rotisserie meat with veggies, feta cheese and that tangy, tongue-titillating tzatziki sauce. They usually give you a ton of food, and it’s always cheap.

Austria: Franz’s Backstube

3882 Mayberry Landing, 624-2921

My mom loves this traditional Austrian bakery. It’s adorable inside, and they offer all these delicious little central European pastries and sweets and things. Mom talks about how good it is and how it’s inspired her to take a trip to Vienna.

Mediterranean: Naan & Kabab, Etc.

2740 S. Virginia St., 825-3113

This place presents itself as a “Mediterranean Restaurant”—which I think is a total misnomer because the Mediterranean Sea is a big freaking place that includes the coastlines of Italy and southern France, and nobody would call this food Italian or French. The flavors are slightly east of Greek, and the chef is Persian. The food is heavy on the letters K and B: kebab and koobedeh are the central entrees—grilled or ground meat on a stick. In my experience, the servers are a little over-enthusiastic, and the food is pretty good, if slightly inconsistent. That said, it’s still a new restaurant and could mature into a place worth visiting regularly.

Iran: Parisa’s Fine Cuisine

380 Freeport Blvd., No. 2, Sparks, 359-5545

You’ve got to look for this place—it’s in an industrial Sparks location that you probably wouldn’t just stumble upon unless you happened to work in the area. And when I visited, all the other visitors were solitary diners who looked like people who worked nearby and went there on their lunch breaks. They also mostly seemed to order from the “American favorites” section of the menu rather than flipping the menu over to discover the excellent Persian grub, kebabs and other skewers of savory meat.

Ethiopia: Zagol

855 E. Fourth St., 786-9020

This is one of my favorite restaurants in town, but I almost never get to eat there because my girlfriend, Sara, doesn’t like to get her hands dirty. For Ethiopian food, eating with your hands is a must. You tear off pieces of this great sourdough flatbread called injera and use it to scoop up the entrees, usually heavily-seasoned lamb or beef or lentil or chickpea dishes. As far as I know, Zagol is the only Ethiopian place in town, so they could try to coast by on mediocrity, but instead it’s well above average, comparable to some of the Ethiopian restaurants I’ve tried in bigger cities, like San Francisco and Atlanta. A couple words of advice: You usually get a better deal at dinnertime, and bring friends, because it’s fun to share injera with a big group.

Russia: Moscow Deli

465 E. Plumb Lane, 329-2633

In my experience, this place is a better market than it is a deli, but it’s a nice option to be able to pick up some atypical ingredients and other novelties—including unusual Russian vodkas. And if you ever find yourself craving borscht in the middle of the day, this is the place to go.

Mongolia: Wong’s Genghis Khan

5485 Equity Ave., 857-3388

I just discovered that, according to Wikipedia anyway, “Mongolian barbecue” did not actually originate in Mongolia but instead began in Taiwan. So where on our map should we put a restaurant like Wong’s Genghis Khan? I’d still argue in favor of the Mongolian connection if for no other reason than because of the prevalent association with a certain 13th century Mongolian emperor. This place also serves up some sushi and salad options, but it’s really only worth it for Mongolian barbecue. You pick out your own meat and veggies, and they stir-fry it right there in front of you. That’s right, stir-fry—so technically “Mongolian barbecue” is neither.

China: Caie’s Oriental Cafe

770 S. Meadows Parkway, No. 101, 853-9668

You know the best cure for a hangover? Sucking down a deep-fried chicken foot. Caie’s serves up a complete dim sum menu on the weekends. Dim sum is Chinese brunch, served hors d’oeuvre style, and perfect to share among friends and family. The food’s all great—shrimp dumplings, steamed buns filled with pork, spare ribs and more—but my favorite is the chicken feet, deep-fried and then marinated in a semi-sweet sauce. There’s almost no meat on them, it’s all just skin and tendon, but they’re addictive as all hell. If you like chicken wings, then this is the next step.

India: India Kabab & Curry

1091 S. Virginia St., 348-6222

All the local Indian restaurants do lunch buffets, but this is the best place to get your chicken tikka masala fix. The problem with Indian food is trying to decide whether to go for the lunch buffet, where you can pile on the food for cheap, but the options and spiciness are limited, or for dinner, when you can order a wider ranger of food with a higher degree of spiciness, but you might end up paying three times as much. It’s a quantity versus quality quandary. Either way, India Kabab & Curry is a good choice.

Thailand: Bangkok Cuisine

55 Mount Rose St., 322-0299

I didn’t really think about food too much as a child. I mean, I didn’t like to be hungry, and I enjoyed Cheerios and ice cream, but eating was something I did because it was necessary, not because it was something I really loved. If I didn’t have to eat to stay alive, I probably wouldn’t have done it. That all changed when I was 13 and had pad Thai for the first time. That was the moment I realized that food could be a magical experience, something that could instantly whisk you away to a foreign land. In the years since that first eye-opening experience, Thai food has become irritatingly ubiquitous. There are now dozens of Thai joints in town; Bangkok Cuisine is the only one that still gives me that magic feeling.

Vietnam: Pho 21

10580 N. McCarran Blvd., 424-2121

Nothing erases the stresses of a shitty day like pho—the Vietnamese beef and noodle soup that, when done right, is as close to a perfect dish as I’ve ever had. It’s some powerful, restorative grub. Pho has gotten really popular in the last few years, and there are a lot of really good places around town. This joint up in Northwest Reno is one of the best and not as well-known as it ought to be.

Japan: Sushi Club

294 E. Moana Lane No. 1, 828-7311

There are newer sushi restaurants. There are bigger sushi restaurants. There are cheaper sushi restaurants. There are sushi restaurants with flashier menus. But Sushi Club, one of the first local places to do all-you-can-eat sushi, is still the best.

The Philippines: Pearl of the East

3004 Kietzke Lane, 825-8399

You know my favorite thing about Filipino food? They really use every part of the pig. If you’re into eating unusual pork dishes, then Filipino cuisine is for you. Pork’s blood stew, for example, is a popular favorite—and with good reason. It has an excellent ruddy, tangy flavor. This small, family-owned diner on Kietzke serves up some nice examples of Filipino food, as well as some familiar Chinese favorites.

Australia: Outback Steakhouse

1805 E. Lincoln Way, Sparks, 358-2700

Here’s the transcription of my call to the Outback Steakhouse in Sparks:

“G’day, mate. Outback Steakhouse.”

“Hi! So, Outback … that’s an Australian themed restaurant, right?”


“Do you serve kangaroo?”


“What about dingo? Anything like that?”

“No, we don’t.”

“So, what makes that place uniquely Australian?”

“Um … the name.”