Fast foods

It happens all the time—that discussion with friends or a significant other where no one can decide where to eat. To help you out on your next date night or evening out with the guys or girls, we’ve condensed the best reviews published in our FoodFinds section this year. Featured here are a variety of restaurants throughout Northern Nevada that our food writers, K.J. Sullivan and Dave Preston, enjoyed the most.

168 Café

2303 S. Virginia St., 622-3098

168 Café is in a strip mall just south of Plumb Lane. The décor is simple but nice and clean, with bright white walls and some Asian inspired decorations. Our waitress, Maryan, was very friendly and made suggestions as to what we should get and tried to steer us away from ordering too many similar dishes, which I really appreciated. She brought out some hot tea and sweet and sour soup to start. The soup was wonderful, with large slices of vegetables and a sweet, tangy finish.

For entrées, we went with dry fried beef Ho Fun ($7.95) and chicken curry ($8.95). We also decided to order from the Chef’s specialties and went with the Shanghai sweet and sour ribs ($10.95). The food took a while to arrive, which made me happy because I knew it was actually being cooked instead of shoveled out of pre-made pans, plus Maryan had warned us that the ribs would take about 20 minutes.

The dry fried beef Ho Fun arrived first, and was the favorite of the night. It had thick noodles, lots of tender beef, and green onions that exploded with flavor in my mouth. The ribs arrived next, and we were both impressed by the large plate of ribs sprinkled with sesame seeds. The ribs had a lot of sauce, but it had a nice tangy flavor, so I didn’t mind the mess. The chicken curry arrived next along with some white sticky rice. The curry had a ton of chicken in it along with some red and green peppers, onions and bamboo shoots.

—K.J. Sullivan

Abel’s Mexican Restaurant

2905 U.S. Highway 40 W., Verdi, 345-2235

Abel Del Real is a cantina-style restaurant. The staff is polite and fast. Breakfast ($4.50-$11.96), lunch ($9.95-$12.95) and dinner ($6.95-$13.95) are served, with a kid’s menu and a variety of American dishes as well.

Fresh chips and two salsas are immediately brought to the table. The red is flavorful with a hint of clove on the nose making it savory with a touch of sweet and mild heat. The green smacks of earthy peppers and the bite will open your sinus. There’s a full bar and happy hour from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. There are several domestic and imported beers ($3.00-$3.50), wine-by-the-glass ($5), and a variety of soft drinks including Jarritos.

Abel’s masterpiece ($12.95), the Apalancate plate, is the chile relleno, a shrimp enchilada and a carnitas taco. There’s a choice of black, pinto or refried beans, and the dish is served with a fresh Spanish rice dotted with flecks of red and green peppers. The chile relleno was lightly breaded and pan-fried with Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese melted inside an Anaheim pepper. It had a mild taste, with the cheeses accenting the green chili flavor nicely.

The shrimp enchilada had plenty of shrimp in a tomatillo sauce, wrapped in a corn tortilla covered with a light green chile sauce and some Jack cheese. The carnitas taco was outstanding in the soft, corn tortilla. The slow-roasted pork was seasoned with just the right amount of oregano, onion and red pepper.

The fried ice cream ($5.25) for dessert is a large scoop of vanilla coated with corn flakes, quickly deep-fried and placed in a fried white flour tortilla covered with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. It was simple, elegant and fun.

—Dave Preston

Aces Ballpark

250 Evans Ave., 775-4700

Food prices at the Aces Ballpark range from $4.75 to $29. A great assortment of domestic, premium, and microbrews are priced at $6.25 to $9.59. My first time up, I chose the Wild Horse Ale-braised Cheddar Bratwurst with jalapeño-apple slaw and horseradish mustard ($10). This one was out of the park. A perfect casing holds in the brat’s natural juices. It’s from the Sausage Factory in Carson City. Executive Chef Billy Deaver said he uses as much local product as possible. The bratwurst was pork and beef braised with the brew from Great Basin Brewing Co., infused with natural California cheddar, has just the right amount of garlic and pepper, and was developed exclusively for the Aces.

My second trip to the plate was for a grilled-cheese Smasher ($7.50). It’s a panini-type sandwich with provolone, good, sharp cheddar, tomatoes and homemade pesto without pine nuts on thick bread grilled to a golden brown. It’s simple, but the two cheeses and pesto gave it a rich flavor, very satisfying and ample for a manwich. I decided to hydrate with an Epic IPA from Mammoth Brewery ($7.25). Not too hoppy for an IPA and a darker color because they double roast the hops, letting the malt bring a little more to the flavor.

For my clean-up spot, I went to the plate for a Smores Smasher ($7.50). a Belgian waffle broken in half, and now comes the triple play: Spread with Nutella, melted marshmallow, sprinkle crushed graham crackers. Decadent, sweet, a hint of hazelnut, coco, and the flavor carried this smack so far, it almost hit the pop-up baseball in right field that sings “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch.

—Dave Preston

Angelica’s Italian and Mexican Restaurant

683 N. McCarran Blvd., Sparks, 351-1750

When the hostess brought the menus, I was impressed by the options. The menu at Angelica’s is divided into sections offering traditional Italian and Mexican dishes ranging from cioppino to chimichangas. A very friendly waitress—who ended up being Beatriz Pico, the owner of Angelica’s—brought us a basket of warm chips and spicy salsa, and took our drink orders. Brett went with Pacifico ($3.50) and I went with a glass of the house Cab ($5).

For entrées, I ordered the gnocchi a la gorgonzola ($11.99). The large serving came with slices of chicken and lots of flavorful mushrooms. The potato gnocchi was soft and filling, covered with a nice layer of rich gorgonzola cream sauce that didn’t overwhelm the flavor of the dish.

Brett ordered the chili verde ($9.99), which arrived with a large serving of pork covered in tomatillo sauce, rice and beans, and a side of tortillas. The sauce had a nice tang and wasn’t overly spicy and the chunks of pork were fairly tender. While the beans were tasty, the rice was undercooked and still crunchy. Still, it was a good dish overall.

We ended the meal with a piece of the flourless chocolate cake ($4.50). The cake was amazingly rich and chocolaty, with a raspberry sauce cascading over the sides. Midway through our meal, the friendly owner came back over and brought more wine for me and another beer for Brett with apologies that the meal had taken so long to come out. I thought it showed how much the owner cared about keeping customers happy.

—K.J. Sullivan

Artisan Café

701 S. Carson St., Carson City, (775) 283-0164

Artisan Café is a cozy space with windows facing onto Carson Street, the main drag through Carson City. My parents went with quiche and a side of Aztec chicken chowder. My dad got the bacon quiche, while my mom went with spinach. The quiches were very pretty and had a layer of toppings on them, but I noticed that the spinach was only on the top and not mixed into the quiche itself. This wasn’t a problem with my dad’s bacon quiche, as it was stuffed and topped with lots of bacon and cheddar cheese. The large serving of chowder had flecks of carrots and whole corn kernels. It was really filling and perfect for a cold day.

I went for the Albany panini and an Aztec chicken salad. The panini was crammed full of chunks of chicken, avocado, tomato and basil spread on a focaccia roll. Everything on the panini tasted fresh and they didn’t scrimp on anything. Despite this being half a sandwich, there was more than enough to fill me up, not to mention the large salad that accompanied it. The Aztec salad was filled with black beans, tortilla strips, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and cheese served with a side of cilantro ranch. I liked the bright green color of the dressing and the cilantro hints in the ranch were nice touches.

—K.J. Sullivan

Bistro Napa

Atlantis Hotel Casino, 3800 S. Virginia St., 825-4700

The room is elegant with comfortable seating, proper linens, exceptional and personal service, and it always welcomes a casual diner. With an extensive menu, you get a remarkable selection of sea foods including oysters ($2.25 ea.), ceviche ($10), king crab legs ($22), Manila clams ($13), and what I had to try, lobster escargot ($17), with Maine lobster, shallot, and Pernod butter. Pernod is the brand name of a liqueur called a pastis. The leading characteristic is the licorice flavor or anise.

The base was a citrus beurre blanc with lemon thyme, parsley and sage. Add the Pernod, chopped garlic and shallots, Myer lemon juice and this sauce coating the meaty lobster bits would bring Neptune to tears of palate ecstasy. Lobster, characteristically, is a sweet meat, so adding the citrus conglomerate, salty herbs and anise creates an unforgettable flavor profile.

For my entrée, I had Colorado lamb chops ($42), pistachio dusted, with a pomegranate port wine reduction. While one of the more expensive items on the menu, it’s worth it. First marinated in fresh garlic and grape seed oil, the chops were coated with the nuts and wood fired to a perfect medium rare. The wine reduction light syrup, with a hint of sweet, complements the wood-smoked flavor and the succulent meat, with a little crunch from the pistachios melting in the mouth.

I had a polenta cake mixed with a little lemon, thyme and rosemary dribbled with a lingonberry, pomegranate port wine gastric for my starch and wood-fired baby carrots, parsnips, beets and turnips as seasonable vegetables fresh with natural flavors.

—Dave Preston


148 West St., 327-4443

Bowl is owned by the previous owner of Sezmu. It’s a self-service kind of place, where orders are placed at the counter at which time you are given mason jars for water glasses. Megan and I took a minute to sit down at a table and go over the chalkboard menu. We decided to start with some pickled vegetables ($4) and a bottle of Zestos Malvar ($20), a Spanish white wine. The vegetables arrived in a small bowl, filled with things like jicama, green beans and cauliflower. They were crunchy with a light vinegar tang and sweet finish. The green beans stood out the most too both of us. The wine was crisp and fruity but had a dry finish.

For entrées, I went with the barramundi ($15), which was served over lentils and topped with asparagus and prosciutto. Barramundi is a white fish that is amazingly buttery and sweet. The serving was large and had an olive tapenade on top that was rich without being oily. The prosciutto was surprisingly tender and flavorful. My favorite part of this dish was the asparagus, which was firm and had a smoky taste.

My friend Megan went with the Mediterranean style “stew” ($11), which was a vegetarian dish. The stew was a bowl of couscous, butternut squash, chickpeas and almonds, with more of that great asparagus on top. This was a great dish with so many layers of flavor. At first it started off rich, but then spiciness crept in. All of the ingredients in both dishes tasted really fresh, which was what stood out the most.

—K.J. Sullivan


Grand Sierra Resort & Casino, 2500 E. Second St., 789-2456

You wouldn’t think of antipasti ($26) unless you were in the mood to take your time and enjoy, and that’s the approach at Briscola—a singular eatery created by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer, known for his steaks—in the Grand Sierra Resort. Four little divots in the plate are filled with a myriad of flavors and textures designed to complement this grande starter. Greek olives are marinated in a sautéed preparation of garlic, shallots, chili flakes, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and lemon zest. The infused flavors are a first bite of this Vesuvian experience and are a bit salty, with an ever-so-slight lift, which starts the mouth watering for more. Next comes the red bell peppers—grilled, skinned, Julienned, and soaked in a bath of bay leaves, capers, honey, red wine vinegar and chopped parsley—robust with a sweet-tart hit.

Then there’s the pickled mushroom in shallots, garlic, basil and white wine vinegar—chewy with a tart, minty, slightly clove-spice taste. And for something sweet, a black raisin jam, with hints of current, port wine, sugar and cinnamon, keeps the flavor-rama going. These are all toppers for the meats and cheese.

The delicate, individual flavors of these meats, including prosciutto, coppa and salami, were astounding when married with the toppers on a crostini. A little black pepper and coriander, giving it a spicy, somewhat nutty and citrus flavor, with a hint of lemon zest—it’s a wower.

Chef Johnson made a crispy Burrata ($14) with beautiful vine-ripened tomatoes. (They use heirlooms in-season.) This Buffalo mozzarella and mascarpone ball is crusted and quick fried, served hot, and drizzled with a little aged balsamic and olive oil.

—Dave Preston

Bronx Pizzeria

7698 S. Virginia St., 853-1111

The place offers pastas and sandwiches, but I was there for one thing: Neapolitan-style pie. Pizza is Greek in origin, but modern pizza originated in Italy as the Neapolitan pie with tomato and herbs. Cheese was added in 1889, the same year Queen Margherita of Italy visited Naples and was served a pizza resembling the colors of the Italian flag: red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). This kind of pizza has been named after the Queen, as Margherita pizza, and is one of the most common types of pizza served today.

Service at Bronx is very good, and all pies are made to order, on-the-spot. These are 18-inch pies, the way it’s supposed to be, and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., you can get slices for $2. A full pie starts at $18 and each topping is $1.50. Their specialty pies run up to $25. This dough is made fresh every day, but is then cold-fermented for 24 hours. Retarding dough is the act of placing it in a cold environment in order to slow down the activity of the yeast. At cool fridge temperatures, yeast behaves differently, producing more of the desirable flavor and texture.

The sauce is also simple, with tasty, homemade ingredients. The tomatoes come from a small, family run farm in Stanislaus, Calif. The garlic is sweated—a sweat is similar to a sauté in that the goal is to cook small, uniform pieces in an open pan at a low heat to preserve the garlic flavor, not making it bitter.

—Dave Preston

Buenos Grill

3892 Mayberry Landing, 787-8226

Greg and Mimi Butler have owned Buenos Grill for the past 13 years, and they have created a fish taco-fresh Mexcomedor that’s authentic with some flair. Cement floors, wood tables and chairs, and outdoor dining make this a casual place for all seasons, seating 120. You order at the counter, and the wait isn’t long. The menu is creative: appetizers ($1-$8.25), soups and salads ($3-$5.75), tacos and burritos ($4.50-$8.60), wraps ($6.95-$$8.60), and children’s plates ($2.25-$4.75) make a cost-effective place for the whole family. Simple desserts with a Mexican flair ($2.25-$5), a salsa bar and breakfast on weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., make up the well-rounded menu.

They offer 30 beers, mostly Mexican (Modelo and Negra Modelo on tap) and micro brews ($3.25-$4.25), Horchata and Jarritos ($1.85), simple wine list by-the-glass and home made Sangria ($4) and Margaritas ($4.75).

I had to try that Brie and mango quesadilla ($6.95). The mango combined with the Brie was an elegant, slightly sweet, rich and savory flavor—a great summer starter.

My fish taco was the Baja San Felipe-style with sour cream chili sauce ($4.95). Beer-battered with tempura, rice flour and paprika and quick fired in vegetable oil making it crisp on the outside, moist on the inside. Then it’s topped with a mixture of lettuce, red and green cabbage, tossed with cilantro, lime juice, honey, purple onion, Buffalo hot sauce, and dill, wrapped in a flour tortilla. Then I had the Del Mar Caesar Wrap ($8.60). It was huge, and what a combination: start with a blackened salmon, add in some Spanish-style rice, toss a Caesar salad with house-made dressing, and wrap it all in a huge flour tortilla. This combination was a fiesta of flavors.

—Dave Preston

Burger Me

6280 Sharlands Ave., No. 101, 737-9404

The interior of Burger Me reminded me of a modern cabin, with stained concrete floors, wooden pillars, wooden furniture and a large window in the back with a great view of Reno. I decided to order a hamburger ($6.50) and add mushrooms and cheddar cheese ($.50 each). Jared was feeling slightly more daring, so he went with the bison burger ($10.95). We decided to share an order of fries ($2 for the regular) and onion rings ($2.50 for the regular). We sat at a high-top table by the large window and enjoyed the view.

The burgers seemed large and the “regular” size order of onion rings was huge, with the pile of onion rings spilling out of the paper container. On my burger, there was a nice layer of cheddar though, and they did not scrimp on the mushrooms. It was topped with shredded lettuce, large slices of tomatoes, and some kind of sauce that seemed to have a Thousand Island base. The tomatoes and lettuce tasted fresh. Burger Me offers a choice of wheat, white or gluten-free buns, and I went with the wheat. The bun was large and soft, but I think it would have been better toasted.

Jared’s bison burger had a rich flavor and was cooked perfectly. Jared didn’t opt for any extras, but the lettuce, tomatoes and sauce did fine on this one. The meat was the standout and was really able to shine.

The onion rings were very tasty: large onion slices that were well cooked, with a good crisp flavor and just the right amount of grease. The fries were thick and crispy but Jared and I scarfed down the onion rings, which didn’t leave a lot of room for fries.

—K.J. Sullivan

Café Alfresco

Atlantis Casino, 3800 S. Virginia St., 825-4700

Executive chef Bob Katausky of Café Alfresco is a master of the menu, and room chef Telma Calderon oversees preparation. The offerings take you around the world in 80 ways from spicy Thai crunch salad ($10.99) to Southwest Santa Fe chicken ($10.99) to Cajun pasta ($14.99) to brick oven pizzas, and then there is plenty of Italian mangiari.

I started with chicken Parmesan sliders ($9.99). Three two-inch-round breasts, lightly breaded and fried, were topped with a house-made Southern Italian-style marinara and mozzarella cheese on fresh buns. Piping hot, the taste of the Roma tomatoes used in the sauce with the usual Italian seasoning suspects defined the bites, and the cheese was the kicker, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The breast was moist with a notable ever so slightly sweet tomato flavor.

The Atlantis Classico ($15.99) is simple but elegant. It’s spaghetti embedded with 50-cent-size shrimp and nickel-size scallop, and they were plentiful. The sauce was white wine, butter, garlic, parsley and was finished with some cream.

Wines-by-the-glass range from $4.50 to $15.50, and one of the best wine guys in this town, Atlantis Sommelier Christian O’Kuinghttons, makes this a fun list with good prices. I went Italian with the Alois Legeder “Riff” Pinot grigio ($11.50).

This Pinot grigio reflects the expertise of acclaimed winegrower Alois Lageder and the wines from vineyards in the northern part of the country. It had a brilliant, straw-yellow color with a subtle green tint, a very fine, fruity nose with apples and peaches aroma, a clean, elegant, grape flavor, a light to medium body and a fresh, mouthwatering finish.

If you’d like a beer, there are 20 to choose from—domestic, microbrews and imported ($4.75 to $5.25)—and a fun selection of Alfresco coolers ($4.00), Italian-inspired cocktails ($8.00) and espresso coffees galore ($2.99-$4.49).

—Dave Preston

CJ Palace

129 Los Altos Parkway, 626-8878

All in the family, Chef Dau Ngu masterfully wields the wok in the kitchen while wife, Kelly Leing, watches the front-of-the-house, and her brother Donne rules the rolls at the sushi bar. CJ’s offers a Chinese menu as long as the Great Wall.

First, the Hunan-style, General Chicken ($10.95) named after General Tso Tsung-tang of the Qing Dynasty, the last dynasty of China, ruling to 1912. Out came a generous portion of boneless, white meat chicken pieces marinated in soy sauce, lightly battered and deep-fried to a crispy, golden brown before being coated with a sweet-hot sauce made with dried chilies, more soy, honey, vinegar, a hint of orange, and a little hoisin sauce.

From the Mandarin region came Mongolian beef ($10.95), a thinly sliced “steak-cut,” stir-fried with vegetables in a savory brown sauce, made with hoisin sauce, soy sauce and chili peppers. The beef was paired with scallions and served over steamed rice. The meat was tender and the flavors of the sauce complemented the beef with a garlic, mild heat, back-of-the-mouth, slightly sweet finish.

Lastly, triple delight ($15.25), a Cantonese dish with shrimp, scallops and chicken with traditional, steamed vegetables, in a light, garlic-lemon sauce then masterfully stir-fired. The vegetables were thoroughly cooked yet firm and full of flavor defined by the sauce and the shrimp, scallops and chicken, not over-cooked and generous on the plate.

They also snuck in a sushi long roll, the Tiger ($9.50): shrimp tempura, crab, avocado, cooked shrimp, two special sauces, and scallions. Lunch prices run from $6.50-$8.95 and dinner run from $6.95-$13.95 for a la carte. There are complete meal lunches ($6.50-$8.75) and dinner specials ($12.99-$15.99 per person). You can get a whole duck for $25.50 and a whole flounder for $20.95.

—Dave Preston

Composition Café

160 W. Liberty St., 329-3323

Composition Café is a small, simple bistro with seating inside for 40 but, adding the atrium of the museum, there’s room for another 80. They offer a small spirits bar and a nice wine and beer list. Everything is house-made, fresh daily, and a cheerful staff and efficient service adds to the overall experience.

My first canvas was the duck consomme ($8): duck confit dumplings, shiitake mushrooms and micro chives floated in a warm, brown broth. Like Gauguin’s still life paintings with thick brushstrokes, the savory dumplings—moist and rich, with broad flavors and soft colors—and the warm broth—serene, tantalizing in your mouth—this is food art. Next, the lobster wonton pouch ($8), red curry coconut soup, blood orange olive oil: the explosion of van Gogh’s “Starry Night” in the mouth best describes this work. Rich, brilliant flavors of spice and subtle coconut burst in your palate with a memorable Milky Way finish.

The zucchini cannoli ($6) is a fine example of Rubens’ Baroque artistic style—exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail producing exuberance and grandeur. The zucchini is hollowed, ricotta and buffalo mozzarella stuffed inside. Then, it’s lightly battered, quickly deep fried, and a pomodoro sauce with shaved asiago cheese brings grandeur to this canvas.

It’s challenging to find a wine to complement these small plates. There’s pairing suggestions on the menu. But a rosé from Southern France, a 2011 Chateau de Campuget, caught my eye. Intense peony pink color, its bouquet is very aromatic, exhaling scents of small red fruits such as raspberries or black currants. The final taste is very long, leaving a delicate impression of fruitiness.

—Dave Preston

Duke’s Steak House

Casino Fandango, 3800 S. Carson St., Carson City, (775) 885-7000

Executive Chef Patrick Nelson and room Chef Matt Tipton pay a lot of attention to the food they turn out. Starting with the Caesar salad ($8), fresh Romaine with a classic dressing and extra anchovies, per my request, this unique offering was served in a molded bowl of Parmesan cheese. Not only was the garlic subtle but breaking the bowl added a crunchy texture with a slight bite from the cheese.

My appetizer was a mini beef Wellington ($10). Flaky crust with medium rare filet inside topped with a classic Bordelaise sauce. A French sauce, made with dry red wine, bone marrow, butter and shallots. It added a savory, rich flavor with a hint of red wine taste throughout your mouth.

My entrée was a steak with a choice of nine different cuts. I chose the six ounce ($22) medium rare. The meat is corn-fed, all natural, Angus Prime dry-aged for 28 days in Duke’s own dry-aging room. Grilled over real wood, a combination of hickory, oak and mesquite, it doesn’t get any better if you’re a carnivore.

All entrées are served with soup or salad, vegetable and starch, but Cardinal pointed me to a couple of epicurean sides—gorgonzola stuffed potato ($4) and Jay’s Iowa sweet corn ($4). The potato was whipped with veined Italian blue cheese made from un-skimmed cow’s and goat’s milk. The flavor profile was buttery and a bit salty, with a “bite” from its blue veining complementing the meat perfectly.

—Dave Preston

El Volcan Taquería

1351 Prater Way, Sparks, 354-0404

A simple but roomy space with tile floors and wood-topped tables, the stand-up order menu offers a nice fare. Traditional breakfasts ($4.99-$5.99), lunch specials ($5.99), and dinners ($7.99-$11.99) come complete with rice, beans and corn tortillas. Seafood from octopus to fish tacos ($2.99- $11.99), and everything from wet burritos to enchiladas to menudo is offered. The meals start with fresh, house-made chips and salsa and the bite of the salsa was just enough, not too much, to get your taste buds going.

I had to try one of my favorites and a true litmus test for me of Mexican restaurant food: a chile relleno ($3.50). This Pasilla chile, larger and less pungent than the typical Anaheim used, was lightly breaded and pan-fried with firm, Cotija cheese inside, not something gooey. Cotija is an artisan cow’s milk cheese made by hand, and is a bit salty, but truly complements this pepper making it a step above the typical relleno. The flavors of the cheese and the lightly Mexican-spiced—common flavors are Mexican oregano, cumin and chili powder—tart tomato sauce carried through with every bite, and this ranks as one of the best chile relleno I’ve had in the area.

Next Esquivel recommended the bistek ranchero ($8.99), a generous portion of thinly sliced top sirloin in a sauce of serrano peppers, onions, cilantro with a tomato base. The heat in this got the attention of my sinuses, and I wasn’t objecting. I like it hot.

—Dave Preston

Franz’s Backstube Austrian Bakery Café

3882 Mayberry Drive, 624-2921

It’s a cozy little place. The inside is warm with wood tables seating about 18, and there’s outside seating for warm weather. You order, and the nice ladies will serve your food at the table. A simple menu that focuses on pastries and coffee or lunch sandwiches ($4.95-$7.25), salads ($3.25), quiches ($4.25) and soups ($4.50-$5.75). Everything is made from scratch daily.

Curiosity about the Austrian goulash (cup, $4.50) got the best of me. While goulash is a Hungarian dish, several central European countries have created their own iterations, and this one proved to be exceptional. Top round in a rich, tomato-based sauce with four Hungarian spices not revealed—it’s a secret recipe. The meat melts in your mouth, and the savory flavor of the thick broth hints of paprika and perhaps cinnamon, and left my sleuth palate rewarded but still curious.

The chicken salad sandwich ($7.25) with berries on a croissant was a simple but elegant delight. Culinary evidence—old cookbooks, menus, etc.—confirms minced cooked meat and mayonnaise-type salads were popular in America beginning in colonial times. These culinary traditions were brought to our shores by European, especially German, settlers.

Apples, celery and blackberries are served on a house-baked, butter-flaked croissant layered with flavors and texture. The berries balanced tartness to the sweetness of the apples and the celery bound the white-meat chicken bites to the fruit all painted with a simple mayonnaise dressing. It was succulent, rich and extremely satisfying, well complementing the goulash. This place has extraordinary pastries, petit fours, streusel, tortes and cakes.

—Dave Preston

The Gas Lamp Café & Bar

101 E. Pueblo St., Reno, 329-5267

It’s not a big menu, and Chef Danny Augello changes it to highlight seasonal foods. It lists first, second and third to separate appetizers ($5-$9.50) from soup and salads ($5-$16), and entrées ($10-$23). The offerings are a la carte. To start, I went with the ahi tuna tartare served over a molded, chopped avocados with wonton crisps ($9.50).

Augello dribbles it with a sauce of red pepper oil, black and white sesame seeds and a touch of Hoi Son. Just enough spice in the sauce to congeal the creamy avocado with the subtle, fresh fish and create a flavor profile satisfying with every bite. And delivered on the crisp, it adds another texture and a bit of salt to this perfect marriage of land and sea.

Now comes the 14-ounce, grilled, center-cut pork chop ($19). Easily three inches thick and grilled to a moist, it’s a succulent, savory piece of the “other white meat” etched with grill marks and topped with a honey dijon. The skill it takes to keep a thick piece of meat moist and lined with that sweet-tart nuisance mustard atop the cooked-to-perfection loin from a smoky grill is Augello’s art. This simple cut of meat with a simple preparation delivers amazing flavor and is a commentary on the elegance of simplicity. The chef allows the food to be the focus. Gelato, sorbet and granite ($3/scoop), all house-made, are part of the sublime experience you can expect. I went for the mocha toffee, and it was rich and creamy with a nice balance of coffee and chocolate.

—Dave Preston

Hi Point Coffee and Café

1655 Robb Drive, 787-2477

We started by ordering some coffee at the counter. I chose a latte with an extra shot ($2.90 for the small) and my friend Tim ordered a mocha ($4 for the medium). The coffees arrived fairly quickly, and two of the friendly staff members encouraged us to have a seat and take our time with the menu. I really liked my latte—it had just the right amount of foam but Tim felt his mocha was a little sweet. I think mochas, in general, are too sweet, so I had little sympathy.

I ordered the pumpkin pancakes ($10), which came with goat cheese maple drizzle, a side of bacon and a cup of fruit salad. My pancakes arrived a little cold, but were thin, numerous and flavored with pumpkin, without being too sweet. The maple and goat cheese topping was interesting, but there was something off-putting about the combination. It almost tasted “powdery.” I think this would have been better with maple and crème fraîche. The fruit salad had kiwis, grapes and melon with chopped up mint, and was really good.

Tim ordered the Eggs on En Cocette ($11), which are eggs baked in a zucchini and ragout sauce with mozzarella. The dish came with a side of bacon, focaccia toast and a cup of fruit salad. Tim hates eating with me because I always like his meal more than mine and thus end up slowly eating his entire plate. This visit was no exception. The dish reminded me of zucchini lasagna with eggs instead of noodles. The dish was steaming hot, and the sauce was excellent. The focaccia toast had a nice crunch and a light layer of butter.

—K.J. Sullivan

The Isles

809 S. Center St., 384-1804

The Isles seats 24 inside. It has high tables and a room with high-back chairs and tea tables. The patio holds 24. It’s an eclectic hodge-podge of furniture giving the place its cozy character. On Sunday, there’s a High Tea menu ($14.95; children, $10) with assorted traditional tea sandwiches, cakes and a “bottomless” pot of tea.

During the week, a menu with sausage rolls ($3), curry chips ($2.75), pasties ($8.25), cucumber and watercress sandwich, of course ($6.50), corned beef ($7), roast beef ($7), and apple and cream cheese sandwich ($6.50). I wanted to try the Ploughman’s Lunch: pork pie, cheese, Branston pickle, piccalilli, pickled onions and coleslaw ($9.25).

I got a half pie that was moist, savory and filled with nice chucks of pork from The English Pork Pie Company. A side of House of Parliament sauce—HP sauce—added a tangy-sweet taste. It has a malt vinegar base, blended with tomato, dates, tamarind extract, sweetener and spices.

Dubliner is a sweet mature cheese, aged over 12 months, and named after the city of Dublin, although it’s made in County Cork. It combines the sharpness of mature cheddar, the nuttiness of Swiss cheese, and the bite of Parmesan. And the tea, Barry’s Gold Blend Loose Leaf Tea, has a bright, golden color made by blending some of the finest teas from the high mountain slopes of Kenya and the Assam Valley of India. It’s a luscious, proper cup of tea.

—Dave Preston


9333 Double R Blvd., Reno, 851-3808

It’s a comfortable, upscale room with linen napkins, a full bar, 36 beers, a proper wine list, and servers with ties and great manners. My palate’s Far East adventure began with three Shrimp and Pork Sui Mai Dumplings ($18). Chef Kwok makes these to order, lightly steamed and gently spiced to marry land and sea in a savory yet delicate starter. Soy sauce and chili oil, not too hot but noticeable, were presented alongside, and this added a gentle sweet-salt taste and mild lift to these morsels. All the sauces are homemade.

Next arrived the Lamb with Black Pepper Sauce ($14). It was stir-fried with onion, bell pepper and carrots. “Hong Kong” is the preparation style for all Jazmine’s dishes. That means stir-fried, baked, steamed … always preserving natural flavors rather than controlling the taste primarily with spices. The lamb was extremely tender and had a touch of honey added to offer a sweet, smoky, savory taste, and every bite literally melts in your mouth.

Sea bass ($23) is one of my favorite fish, and this preparation was over the top. The fish was marinated in Mei Kuei Lu wine—a very potent, high-alcohol wine, distilled from sorghum, wheat, rose petals and cane sugar. The sea bass was then baked and served with a side of house-made sauce, a honey aioli with a hint of lemon and orange. A crab fried rice ($17) was presented—with the consistency of feathers, this was an amazing dish. Made with only the whites-of-eggs, white crab meat, and stir-fried with the whites-of-scallions, this rice was an experience for the palate, not the expected side dish served with a Chinese meal. Elegantly rich in flavor, yet light in the mouth—remarkable.

—Dave Preston


3335 Keitzke Lane, 826-6789

KitzMo is the fusion of the streets Kietzke and Moana, currently under construction. KitzMo is near the southwest corner and open for business. The restaurant combines Japanese sushi and Korean cuisine, a fusion, with a flair. It’s an all-you-can-eat menu with nigiri sushi ($2-$5), raw and cooked rolls ($4-$10), vegetarian rolls ($3-$7) and a kid’s menu ($5.95-$6.95), lunches $10 and dinner $15. The extensive menu also offers noodles ($8.95-$11.95), chicken and pork katsu ($12.95)—fried cutlet—and bento boxes ($12.95-$14.95). “Bento” originates from a Southern Song Dynasty slang term, meaning “convenient”—food served in a box. With the bento and katsu, diners get a California roll, salad, edamame, veggie tempura and miso soup.

So much to choose from. I wanted a little bit of everything and with my chopsticks at the ready, it was bonsai! A miso soup came first with tofu—simple and elegant. A spicy pork bento ($12.95) was next. The soup, edamame—steamed soy beans—a salad, and a sushi roll came in a red and black rectangular box.

Usually a California roll is served with the Bento, but I opted for a half a KitzMo roll ($10); Tempura shrimp, cucumber, kaiware (radish sprouts), seared tuna, avocado, cilantro and teriyaki. After dipping this in my soy sauce and wasabi, it was a dragon dance of flavors through my mouth: the crunch of the salty tempura, a hint of savory with the seared tuna, surrounded by creamy avocado and a dash of teriyaki sweet finished with cilantro and a bit of tart citrus.

—Dave Preston

The Lake Bar and Grill

9716 Pyramid Highway, Sparks, 424-5253

The Lake is actually a bar and a restaurant, separated by a glass wall. We ordered some Sierra Nevada beers ($4.75 for the large) while we perused the menu, which was huge, with Mexican food, steak, sandwiches, pasta and typical bar food. We decided to start with some wings (six for $6.95 during happy hour). They were super meaty and tender, and the hot sauce had the perfect amount of heat. We polished the wings off in no time, but our entrées arrived shortly after. I ordered the grilled roast beef sandwich with a side of house-made chips ($8.75). The sandwich arrived on toasted sourdough and a large pile of tender roast beef and jack cheese. The Ortega chili on it gave it a little spicy sweetness. There was a side of au jus that was really flavorful and not overwhelmingly salty. The homemade chips were large and crispy.

Brett ordered the Pyramid burger ($8.95), which is an open faced burger topped with chili. The chili was piled on the large burger, and it was like a beautiful heart attack waiting to happen. The chili had chunks of ground meat and whole beans. On top was a pile of chopped onions and shredded melted cheese. The burger was thick and moist, and the chili soaked into the double bun beneath so each bite was really flavorful. Brett got fries, which were crispy and hot and tasted really good dipped in the chili. In fact, next time I think I’m going to order the chili fries.

—K.J. Sullivan

La Parada Restaurant

301 Kietzke Lane, 786-6359

In its fifth year, this el comedor is simple and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner ($2.99-$10.95), and has Mexican and American dishes throughout the extensive menu.

The chorizo in the enchiladas was ground and had a savory flavor with a hint of cinnamon. And the sauce on top included tomatillos—a green fruit with a husk skin grown by the Aztecs—as well as yellow and jalapeño peppers, garlic, onion, black pepper, and bay leaf. The sauce married to the chorizo made the eggs regal.

The unique savory, robust tastes of roasted peppers with a slight lift and the cinnamon in the chorizo gave thisrancheros an aromatic finish defining this dish and giving it an original culinary signature.

Beer is best with this food, and I was feeling a little frisky and went for a Michelada ($4.99), a cerveza preparada made with beer, lime juice and tomato juice, and served in a chilled, salt-rimmed glass and a large shrimp hanging on the rim—again, Cabrera’s special touch.

There’s a new menu coming in April, and Cabrera will add salads, soups and sandwiches to his already extensive offerings. His chips, salsas, rice and beans are all made from scratch. His red sauce is a blend of habaneras and puya peppers, and the green is made with habanera, serrano and jalapeño peppers. The salsa have exceptional flavors with the right degree of bite for the blends. On Saturday and Sunday, they serve menudos ($6.45) and birria de chivo, (goat soup, $9.99) with tortillas, all homemade.

—Dave Preston

La Rioja

185 E. Glendale Ave., Sparks, 358-5454

At La Rioja, we started with some chips and salsa ($1.50). The chips arrived quickly and were warm, crisp and thick. The salsa had a ton of cilantro and onions and a creeping spice. We had to stop ourselves from finishing the bowl of chips in order to save room, but I would recommend these to anyone coming here.

For the main dish, I ordered the ultimate hangover food, chilaquiles ($5.99). Chilaquiles are tortilla chips simmered in green chili sauce topped with eggs, onions and cheese. The green sauce was thick and spicy, and coated the chips perfectly. Because La Rioja’s chips are so thick, they didn’t get all soggy from the green sauce. The eggs were fried so the runny yolk broke onto the chips and blended well with the green sauce. This dish had some serious heat, which was exactly what I needed.

My friend Brett ordered the three taco combo plate ($4.99) and went with one each of asada, carnitas and al pastor. Both of our dishes came with a side of rice and beans. The rice had peas and carrots in it, which I liked, and the beans had a nice sweet flavor.

I also ordered a chicken burrito ($5.99) to go. The burrito weighed at least two pounds and was crammed full of rice, beans and shredded chicken.

The bottom line is La Rioja has good, authentic Mexican food that will cure a hangover and fill you up, so I might find myself returning to industrial Sparks for food instead of car repair.

—K.J. Sullivan

La Vecchia Ristorante Italian Bistro

3005 Skyline Blvd., 825-1113

The dinner menu ($16 - $18) is a la carte and well appointed with classic Northern Italian offerings. Simplistically, the difference between Northern and Southern Italian food is that in the North, butter and cream are common, with more of a European influence. In the South, it’s olive oil, tomatoes and seafood, with a Mediterranean flair.

My insalata tiepida (hot salad, $8) was an excellent example of the European influence. It was full leaves of Romaine lettuce formed into a six-inch boat filled with Gorgonzola cheese and topped with whole walnuts, then put under a broiler to melt the cheese into a cream filling with attitude. The salty bite of the warm Gorgonzola, accented with a nut crunch held together with the noble leaf was a texture trifecta with mouth-watering appeal.

For the entrée, it was the pappardelle al ragu d’anatra ($17). It was prepared by salting the duck, cooking it slowly in its own natural juices, removing the meat, adding porcini mushrooms and some Chianti, a little rosemary, a dash of heavy cream, and then letting this all reduce before tossing with the noodles. The egg noodles were moist and not too al dente—over-cooking pasta will ruin all the flavors in a dish.

The by-the-glass list is fair ($5-$11). I chose the Zenato Valpolicella ($9), a grape that is arguably the most famous red wine to come out of the Veneto wine region in Northeastern Italy. Good mouth texture with good acidity and medium tannins. Cherries and oak on the palate that holds to the finish. And yes, there are traditional desserts, like tiramisu ($6), and panna cotta ($6), but I was happy and smart enough to stop.

—Dave Preston

The Lodge at Galena

17025 Mount Rose Highway, 849-2100

The Lodge is split into two sections, with a large bar in front and a more formal dining area toward the back. We spent some time perusing the lunch menu, which offered a lot of great-looking burgers and sandwiches. Brett and I decided to start with the Polynesian poke ($8), which is an ahi salad with soy sauce, tomatoes and green onions. There was a side of wonton crisps to load the salad on. The ahi was flavorful, and I was impressed by the amount of tuna served. The soy sauce was slightly spicy, and the tomatoes absorbed it well. After polishing off the appetizer, Brett and I decided it was time to switch from wine to beer, so I went with the Deschutes Twilight ($6.75 for the large), and Brett got the Eel River organic blend ($6.75 for the large). Since the appetizer was larger and more filling than expected, we decided to just split the Kobe-style meatloaf sandwich with a side salad ($10) and a cup of French onion soup ($5). The soup and salad arrived first, and while the salad was basic, it was fresh and decent-sized. The soup was packed with cheese, and the broth had a nice flavor.

When the sandwich arrived, I was excited to see that the meatloaf was wrapped in a piece of bacon, because who doesn’t love beef and bacon? The meatloaf was tender, flavorful and covered in a thick demi-glace that had a rich mushroom flavor.

—K.J. Sullivan

Los Compadres

1490 E. Fourth St., 786-9966

Los Compadres is not in the best part of town, but we were there early enough that I wasn’t concerned. We were seated immediately, and chips and salsa were delivered without delay. The chips were crisp but cold. Two salsas were brought out, one medium and one spicier. The salsas were flavorful but lacked sufficient bite. We started off with some Margaritas on the rocks ($6.25). They arrived quickly, and I was pleased with the large size. Los Compadres doesn’t scrimp on the tequila, which also made me happy, and the Margaritas didn’t have that syrupy sugar taste of a mix.

Our friendly waiter quickly appeared again to take our order. I went with the carnitas ($11.99), and MG ordered the three-meat-combo fajitas ($13.49). The waiter told me that carnitas are the restaurant’s specialty so I was excited. The carnitas plate arrived with a huge pile of shredded pork with rice, refried beans, and a generous serving of sour cream and guacamole. I chose corn tortillas, which arrived hot and soft. The carnitas were flavorful and cooked well, not too dry and not greasy. I made large tacos with the rice, which had a really nice spicy flavor to it. The guacamole was excellent and tasted fresh. A large bowl of flavorful salsa verde was brought out, too. It had some kick, and I wish it had been brought out earlier with the chips.

—K.J. Sullivan

Mario’s Portofino Ristorante Italiano

1505 S. Virginia St., 825-7779

It’s a traditional Italian menu with plenty of originals. The stuffed fig ($10.95) caught my eye almost immediately, and what a good start it was. This fresh fruit, the size of an egg, is as old as time and was used through the centuries as a sweetener. The fruit was pealed, opened like a flower, and stuffed with a blend of Mascarpone cheese, lemon zest, a little salt and pepper then wrapped with prosciutto and served with a kalamata olive, tomato, and glazed with a balsamic reduction.

For the main course, I had the 10-ounce fillet with another balsamic reduction ($26.95). Balsamic vinegar is made from the Trebbiano grape, the second most widely planted grape in the world. This grape has high acidity and is also used in cognac production, but for the vinegar, it’s aged in wood casks for up to 20 years yielding a dark, sweet-tart flavor.

Sides inclyde house-made fusilli pasta (corkscrew) with a simple pesto sauce and seasonal vegetables topped with fresh, grated-at-your-table Parmesan cheese. They wouldn’t let me pass up dessert, so I had Dolce al Cocco ($6), a creamy, New York-style cheese cake laced with coconut, a Mona Lisa finish if there ever was one.

Portofino has a decent by-the-glass selection. Since there was so much going on with the food, I wanted something to stand up to the meat but not overwhelm the myriad of flavors this meal offered.

—Dave Preston

Midtown Eats

719 S. Virginia St., 324-3287

When my friend Megan arrived, we started with some tacos ($2), one snapper and one tri-tip. The tacos were fantastic, with a double layer of thin, fresh corn tortillas and tender meat piled inside with a spicy guacamole/tomato combination on top. Megan ordered a bowl of mushroom soup ($6). The soup was like frothy mushroom heaven, with undertones of pepper and olive oil with a few large delicious mushrooms floating on top.

For entrées, I ordered the crispy pork belly ($18), which came with a side of Granny Smith apple gratin. The pork belly was good, although the middle was a little fatty, but the ends were super crispy and dissolved in my mouth. The apple gratin was an interesting combination of potatoes and apples, with an apple cider vinegar glaze that gave it a tang. This was all over some purple cabbage, which went well with the apple cider. Megan ordered the lamb burger ($12), which came with a side of some of the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had. They were slightly sweet and perfectly crispy. The lamb burger was cooked well and had hints of pepper and mint. A slice of grilled eggplant topped the burger. However, the olive spread overwhelmed the burger and completely masked the eggplant. The bottom line here is Midtown Eats has great décor and amazing food and drinks that makes me want to come back to try nearly everything on the menu.

—K.J. Sullivan

Quarter Mile Corn Dog

2900 Clear Acre Lane, 786-7623

The menu at Quarter Mile Corn Dog is on display by the ordering counter, where a friendly young woman took our order. I ordered the Roper, which is the spicy corn dog ($3.75) along with a fried pickle ($1), Tim ordered the little smokies burnouts combo, which came with fries and a drink ($6) and a Bad Brad, the jalapeño corn dog ($3.75). Brett went with the Lawson prostock combo with fries and a drink ($7.35). Prostock is the term Quarter Mile Corn Dog uses for sauerkraut, and the Lawson is the quarter-pound Polish dog. Our food was delivered quickly to our table, which unfortunately seemed to have a sticky layer of grime extending to the condiments on the table.

The food looked great and taking that first bite of my spicy corn dog did not disappoint. The batter on the corn dogs is amazing—slightly sweet with just the right amount of dough and a crispy outer layerBrett’s dog was piled high with sauerkraut, and his fries were brought in a separate basket. This was a lot of food for the price. The fries were good but needed salt.

Tim’s little smokies combo was my favorite. The little smokies had been turned into little corn dogs, and I thought they were really fun. Tim went with the garlic fries, and they put a ton of real garlic chunks on these bad boys, so I had to be careful to not eat too many since I had to talk to people later in the day. I scored a bite of the Bad Brad, which was the jalapeño corn dog and found this was the spicy flavor I had been looking for.

—K.J. Sullivan

Roscoe’s Joint

3220 S. Virginia St., 323-7427

The menu at Roscoe’s offers lots of meat choices. My friends Justin, Tim and I placed our huge order, and the owner’s daughter, who was quite friendly and willing to answer lots of questions, told us to have a seat, and she would bring the food out to us. Justin went with the beef ribs and a side of cornbread ($12.99). The ribs were so big I wondered if they had actually come from a dinosaur. Roscoe’s has these ribs down because they were incredibly tender and flavorful. The ribs arrived dry so Justin was able to choose his barbecue sauce, and he went with the hot, which had a nice tang and some serious creeping heat.

Tim went with the brisket and beef links with two sides ($14.99), and he chose macaroni and cheese and baked beans. The brisket was good, with a light smoky taste and crispy ends. The beef links, which are handmade, were the winner, with a rich, spicy flavor. If you’ve never had handmade links, do yourself a favor and try these. The baked beans had a nice sweet flavor with hunks of meat in them which I enjoyed. The macaroni and cheese did not fare as well, as it was lukewarm, gummy and lacked any kind of real flavor.

I went with the pulled pork and chicken with a side of collard greens and coleslaw ($14.99). The pulled pork was tender, flavorful and not greasy. As if we hadn’t ordered enough food, we also got a side of sweet potato fries ($2.99). They were crinkle cut, crispy and coated with cinnamon and sugar.

—K.J. Sullivan

Saletti’s Restaurant & Bar

1623 Highway 395, Minden, (775) 782-2500

Both the lunch ($5.75-$13.95), with a kid’s menu ($3.75-$6.50), and dinner ($12.99-$34.99) menus are filled with traditional dishes as well as steaks and chops. There’s early-bird dining ($10.99-$22.99), happy hour (4 p.m.-6:30 p.m.), and nightly specials. There’s a very friendly staff, seating in the bar and three other rooms for a total of over 200 seats, a simple, but pleasant décor, and linen napkins—that touch of class.

From the extensive menu, the basil prosciutto prawns ($11.99) charbroiled and served with a dijon vinaigrette sauce was my first amazement. Juicy, salty, herbaceous, sweet, minty, chard tastes delighted my mouth—what flavor! It was only the beginning and from Neptune’s bounty came a plentiful bowl of cioppino, a half order to boot ($24.99).

This Italian seafood masterpiece was filled with delicately cooked clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, prawns, king crab legs, salmon and halibut floating in a broth erupting with Vesuvian flavors. It was an explosion of Roma tomatoes, garlic, chile flakes, a dash of cayenne and a nice touch, a spiced Sambal chile sauce from southeastern Asia.

Before my Mediterranean repast ended, I had a piece of carrot cake ($7) with cream cheese frosting appeared, and I was at peace. Superb, unique, no nuts—just melt-in-your mouth sumptuous flavors of sweet cream and spice.

—Dave Preston

Sasquatch Tavern and Grill

775 Highway 40, Verdi, 657-9207

The menu was so varied at the Sasquatch Tavern and Grill that I was kind of shocked. Choices ranged from a brie plate covered in apricots to prime rib to stir fry. The call of the Yeti must have awakened the carnivores inside us, because both Tim and I opted for a burger. I got the Black and Blue Burger ($9.50) while Tim went with the Mushroom Burger ($9.50). When the burgers arrived, I was astounded by the size of the plates that were filled with a giant burger and a giant serving of french fries. I had actually ordered onion rings, but when I saw how good the fries looked, nice and crispy, I didn’t bother to say anything. My burger was large and cooked perfectly, still pink inside just the way I requested it. The meat had a nice fresh flavor, and I liked the blue cheese on top. The menu indicated that the burger was pan fried in Cajun spices, but I didn’t taste any heat. The bun was soft, and the lettuce and tomatoes on the side were crisp.

Tim’s burger was frigging amazing. Not just a typical mushroom burger, this was a mushroom Swiss teriyaki burger with sautéed mushrooms and onions that brought out the flavor of the meat so well, I knew right then and there that I would drive back out to Verdi for this hamburger anytime.

—K.J. Sullivan

Scampi Pasta House and Bar

425 S. Virginia St., 284-0660

The vibe in Scampi makes you want to have cocktails, so that’s exactly what my friend Brett and I decided to do. The bar has an extensive cocktail menu with unique drinks created by the bartender. Brett went with a martini ($8), and I went with a Scampi Smash ($8) which had bourbon, lavender bitters and ginger beer. We decided to have the scampi appetizer ($12), which arrived quickly with five decently sized scampi. They had a nice lemon and garlic flavor, but I felt they were a little plain, a little chewy and a little overpriced.

We decided to start with the Tuscana salad ($9). I don’t tend to get all excited about salad, but this was so excellent, I would come back just to have another. The arugula was fresh and went well the cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and cucumbers. The herb vinaigrette had a perfect tang and didn’t drown the lettuce.

For entrées, Brett went with the clam and mussel linguini ($18), while I went with the filet mignon ($25). Brett liked his dish and commented that they didn’t scrimp on the clams or the mussels. My filet was large and so tender I didn’t even need a steak knife to eat it, as the fork passed through like butter. It was topped with delicious porcini mushrooms and there was almost a cocoa flavor to the filet. The filet was accompanied by a side of zucchini and sundried tomatoes that were excellent as well.

—K.J. Sullivan

Simply Thai

15 Eagle Canyon Drive, Sparks, 425-5000

We started with an appetizer, the salad rolls ($5.95). The salad rolls were basically spring rolls and are filled with carrots, lettuce, cucumber, tofu, basil and rice noodles. The carrots and cucumber gave this a nice crunch, and the basil was sweet. They were served with a rich peanut sauce and a sweet and sour sauce.

For entrées, we ordered the seafood curry ($15.95) and the spicy noodles with chicken ($9.95). The seafood curry arrived with mussels, scallops, shrimps, calamari and crab among a bed of sweet curry with just a hint of spice. When we ordered the spicy noodles, we were given a choice of spiciness on a scale from one to five. Dang, they really bring the heat at Simply Thai! The flattened noodles soaked up the spice and left my lips tingling. This dish was amazing, but if you don’t like spicy dishes, go with a one or two. The chicken was tender, and the noodles were laced with green beans, red peppers, basil and onions.

—K.J. Sullivan