Easy as pie
“Best food in town.” Reading this statement on a menu demands judgment from any diner, much less someone intent on writing about the experience. The food is pretty good for diner fare, but I can’t go on record stating that Lili’s Restaurant & Bar is the best in town. For the money, Lili’s is serving decent diner food at affordable prices with excellent service, and perhaps that’s enough.
In a restaurant space that has changed hands several times, Lili’s must be doing something right. On our Saturday brunch visit, the place was packed, yet thanks to ample seating and efficient service, my wife, daughter and I didn’t have to wait a moment to be seated or served. Service was friendly and efficient, with food arriving from the kitchen in quick order, and never a wait for drink refills.
Always in search of an above-par burger, I decided on Lili’s Favorite Burger with roasted Ortega chili and Jack cheese ($9.99), with a side substitution of onion rings ($1.50 extra). Since I hadn’t had breakfast, and I love to try housemade soups, I also ordered a cup of broccoli cheese soup ($2.49). The soup was pretty much perfect, served piping hot with a topping of shredded cheddar, and at a price nearly half that of what I’ve recently paid at other places. I ordered the burger medium rare, and it was actually medium rare. If you like your burgers with a bit of pink, you know how hard it is to receive them cooked to order. The bun appeared to be anything but mass-produced, and the rest of the ingredients and presentation were above average. The onion rings were battered, fresh and done just the way I like them.
In recent years, my wife has acquired a workout addiction, so it’s amusing when she orders the “Big Damn Breakfast.” I knew she’d end up spending a lot more time doing burpees at the gym, but I didn’t stop her because it meant I’d get to taste a decent sample of Lili’s Famous Country Style Breakfast with chicken fried steak ($9.99), including two extra large eggs, home fries, two housemade biscuits and country gravy. The biscuits were fluffy and huge, the gravy was pretty good if a little under-seasoned, the eggs were cooked perfectly to order, and the home fries were best in show. However, the chicken fried steak was something of a puzzle. Fork tender? Close enough. But it had a very eggy flavor, odd breading, and a general lack of seasoning that made it seem like the chef had heard about this dish but never experienced it. It was definitely made from scratch, because no freezer CFS would be like this. I’m going to give it a pass and say it’s the chef’s personal take on an American classic. Not bad, but definitely not the best.
My daughter ordered the vegetarian omelet (zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, $9.99), served with hash browns, wheat toast and a side of ham steak ($2.99). The ham was a bit singed yet edible, but the omelet seemed to do the trick. No complaints from the college student, and the potatoes were again a standout. Good potatoes can be a make-or-break item on any brunch menu, and Lili’s definitely knows that. Extra notice for avocado that was perfectly ripe (added to omelet for an extra $1.50).
As it happened, this brunch occurred on Pi Day (3/14), which meant pie of some sort was in order. We shared a more-than-ample piece of warm apple pie ($3.99) that I won’t say was the best I’ve had—you’d have to try my mother’s pie for that—but it did the trick. Lili’s may not live up to the claim “best food in town,” but it’s certainly one of the best deals on diner food in Reno.