Basque in the glory
I’ll flatter myself with the assumption that everyone remembers when I first started writing restaurant reviews for the RN&R. I was a vegetarian, but I made exceptions for special occasions, so it was fairly easy when, due to the rigors of this writing gig, I gave up vegetarianism entirely.
And boy, am I ever glad.
As part of my renunciation of a misguided culinary practice, I went out and ate as much meat as possible in order to develop a better taste for it. This was documented in “One meat to rule them all” (RN&R, Jan. 30, 2003). I went to 10 restaurants in one day and ate the weirdest, meatiest thing on each one’s menu. Here, for your consideration, is all I had to say then about Louis’ Basque Corner, my last stop of the day: “By this point, I was starting to get delirious. I was confusing colors with tastes. And all the food at Louis’ Basque Corner just tasted brown. The oxtail stew was pretty good.”
Quite stylish, to be sure, but still rather negligible. Here, at long last, is a more extensive examination of Louis’ Basque Corner.
We waited a long time to be seated. This was the only unpleasant part of the meal because we had to stand next to the smoky bar and listen to intergenerational flirting.
Dining at Louis’ is done family-style; you sit at long tables and pass dishes around. I was there with just one member of my family—my brother, Cameron. Our family for the evening included a trio of National Guardsman from the Midwest and two solo diners: an effeminate, foppish black guy from Oakland, dressed all in black leather, and an Oregon retiree touring the country via RV, wearing a NASCAR hat and a humorless expression.
Those two guys couldn’t have had less in common, but they both attested to a deep love of Basque food, and the repartee, fueled by chilled red wine, was friendly and easy.
The family-style dinner is $19.99 per person and includes the soup du jour, salad, bread, beans, french fries, a glass of wine, a first course, an entree and a dessert. A fair amount of food. The soup on the day we went was a tasty, beefy split pea. The salad, beans and especially the fries all earn high marks as side dishes.
The first course is a set part of the daily menu. On Wednesdays, it’s beef tongue—a surprisingly delicate dish so sensual it makes you wonder just how good kissing a cow might be.
You have your choice from among four or five entrees for the main course. I had the very tasty roast pork loin, topped with an absolutely delicious mushroom gravy. My brother had the lamb chops, which were pretty darned bloody for “medium,” but quite good. They’re served with that gross mint jelly that tastes like menthol cigarettes, but that’s on the side, so you can just ignore it.
Louis’ has matchbooks that boast "Where the locals go," odd since we were the only locals at our table. But the menu claims "Reno’s most unique dining experience," which is closer to the truth. As one of our friends from the National Guard said, "This is something you can’t find everywhere in the country."