Reno, NV 89511
fir•kin noun: 1: a small wooden vessel or cask
2: any of various British units of capacity usually equal to 1/4 barrel
The definition of “firkin” was the first mystery settled when we recently tried The Firkin & Wolf pub and restaurant, located in the Summit shopping center in south Reno. The second was whether the newly opened establishment lives up to the menu’s promise of “Fine Firkin Fare” and, overall, it was pretty firkin good.
This purveyor of British food and ale was hopping when we arrived with out-of-town friends relatively late on a weeknight. They sound Irish and Russian, respectively, but our friends Patrick and Tatjana are actually German; we hoped some European culture might ease their transition and jet lag.
Tartan skirt-clad servers rushed about the packed dining hall, where the environment is an ambitious attempt to please everyone. Even as a not-half-bad jazz band played in the alcove by the entrance, muted flat screen TVs on the wall enabled my husband to keep an eye on postseason baseball. (He’s happy with any world series in which the Yankees are not featured.) Pool and darts are available in the adjacent Wolf Den.
Our friendly server suggested the Hoegaarden Belgian White Ale but astutely recommended that Patrick and my husband sample it first. Both found it too firkin sweet and watery, and defaulted to staples: Guinness ($5.25) for the visitor and Black Butte Porter ($4.41) for the local boy. I sipped water as Tatjana raved about her Beringer Stone Cellars Cabernet ($5.75).
Along with the drinks came the spinach artichoke dip starter ($8.95), which I thought was fine, though the accompanying baked crostini bread slices were rather salty. At some random point, our server proudly announced that the kitchen uses no preservatives or MSG. Main dishes loomed.
Tatjana had the baby spinach salad ($7.95), with its generous helping of high quality feta on a bed of fresh greens combined with bacon, pine nuts and cranberries with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, and Patrick had the Guinness steak and mushroom pie ($9.95).
Yes, I have the all-important report on the traditional fish and chips ($11.95 for two pieces). Since this meal is inherently bland, there are really only three ways to botch it: Over- or undercooking, too much oil, or substandard breading. The first two were no issue, as Firkin obviously has the right formula for deep-frying and draining off the excess shortening. The breading was thin and lacking in crispness, but we got through one cod tail fillet with the satisfactory tartar and crunchy chips, and happily took the second home for the next day’s lunch.
My portobello mushroom sandwich ($9.95) fell somewhere in the OK range. The marinade was fine but my particular mushroom was strangely hard to bite. I had to resort to cutting it with a steak knife. I’ve had better.
One of about a dozen related restaurants nationwide—most with variations on the name like Firkin & Frigate or the Firkin & Hound—it’s interesting that The Firkin & Wolf is actually one of two in Northern Nevada; the Firkin and Fox in Carson City has been in business since 1987.
Its location across the parking lot from BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse might create a bit of a clusterfirk in terms of competition for clientele in the long run, but for now Firkin & Wolf provides an affordable and classy new option for Southies and Anglophiles alike, so … firk it.