Getting loaded

From left, “The Ponderosa

From left, “The Ponderosa"—steak and mushrooms in a potato—meets “The Sierra"— cheddar cheese, carrots, brocolli, black olives and snow peas in a potato.

Photo By David Robert

Spudistro, a Potato Cafe

624 E. Prater Way
Reno, NV 89431

(775) 355-8287

Reno is little more of a cosmopolitan metropolis than, say, Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, but it’s freaking New York City compared to Sparks. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the Rail City. It’s got a lot going for it, and as far as cleanliness and neighborliness goes, it’s got Reno beat. But the quaint, happy-hamlet vibes of Sparks’ best haunts just amaze me.

Spudistro, is, hold on here, a potato-themed restaurant—a soi-disant “potato café,” in fact. It’s a great little tater joint with a pleasantly hokey but ultimately nondescript atmosphere. Like its revered namesake, Spudistro is about 80 percent water. The remaining 20 percent is invested in what might be termed “potato flair,” meaning, mmm … relative blandness. It’s difficult to imagine a potato-themed restaurant that isn’t hokey, but Spudistro seems to trade on the quality like a commodities broker. The restaurant’s logo is a cartoon potato in a chef’s hat, wearing what looks to be a diaper.

The very name of the restaurant is a country mouthful. Say it: Spudistro. When I mention the place to people, I have to break it down to its roots before they get it. Why they didn’t just call it “Spud Bistro” I don’t know. They chose Spudistro. I imagine the former name would’ve gotten the idea across easier.

The woman behind the counter was a sweet ol’ gal, a little talkative but eager to please. She took our orders, and we walked back to our table and waited for our food.

“She’s like my grandmother,” whispered my girlfriend, Sara, equal parts affection and unease. Indeed, our visit was turning into a Twilight Zone episode. Most of the men sported gray mustaches, suspenders and spoke with rural accents. The air held some loud honky-tonky, pop-country radio station. When one of the DJs mentioned Spudistro over the air, we cringed with a sort of existential confusion. Everybody else in the place seemed to know each other. It’s like we were suddenly in a town full of 55-year-old potato people.

How many ways can you stuff a potato? The folks at Spudistro are, apparently, carrying out exhaustive research.

They specialize in big, ripe potatoes topped with everything from pulled pork to pico de gallo. Most of the dishes are named after local towns and landmarks, like the Peavine, a $5.99 spud topped with snow peas, mushrooms, tomatoes and Swiss cheese, or the Verdi—a $6.99 pork chile-verde tater smothered with Monterey jack, sour cream and black olives. I was feeling homesick, so I ordered the Reno. My $6.99 got me a potato with chicken, bacon, tomatoes, sour cream and Swiss cheese.

Delicious. All of the stuffing is fresh and flavorful. They fill you right up in a nice, heavy, starch-and-carb kind of way. They don’t call them “mother load potatoes” for nothing. (Mind you, not “mother lode,” but “mother load,” which equates with a different potato proposition entirely.)

Sara added the potato cheddar soup in a bread bowl for $5.99. The place also does salads, sandwiches, wraps and burgers.

If you’re one of those people who say things like “I could’ve made this myself” and don’t like to pay six bucks for a 50 cent root fruit that could just as easily be prepared at home, this might not be the place for you.

If you appreciate grub that’s not too sophisticated but is comforting and made by loving people, there’s never a potato famine at Spudistro.