There is a small but growing trend in the food and beverage business of providing guests with the option to grill their own food. Perhaps inspired by the popularity of California “grill at your table” Korean barbecue restaurants, there are steakhouses where diners grill their own entrees, and bars providing a grill or two for the casual use of patrons. As Reno’s only grill-it-yourself establishment, Pignic Pub & Patio chose a third path.
First and foremost, the place is a true “public house” pub. The owners renovated a largish, 100-year-old downtown house into something that retains an old-school charm while being very, very hip. They’ve got a decent rotating selection of national microbrews and local nanobrewed beers. There’s a menu of signature cocktails, and the bar is stocked well enough to conjure up just about anything. There are a couple of TVs on the walls, but during music events they’re either shut off or muted, something I really appreciate.
I’ll admit I was a bit confused when I first heard the concept. I thought perhaps the grilling facilities were intended for apartment dwellers or others who don’t grill at home. Having more than enough space and equipment at home, I thought, “Why would I grill somewhere else?” Then a fellow foodnik pointed out that you can invite your friends to Pignic for all the fun of a cookout—sans before and after cleanup at home—with the bonus of a well-stocked bar solving the usual BYOB issue. Eureka.
But how to review a place where you grill your own food? What if I hate the chef? Then I heard about a community potluck taking place on Pignic’s spacious, custom-built deck and patio, a perfect opportunity to give the concept a try.
A combination of seating and culinary equipment wraps around the south and east sides of the building. Both gas and wood/charcoal grills—even an automated pellet-fed smoker—are available, paired with workstations that combine a stainless steel prep table, wet sink, two-burner stove and mini-fridge. After signing a waiver, you’re provided with some basic tools, including a chef’s knife, small cutting board, carving fork, meat thermometer, tongs and a large serrated steak knife. I brought my own tools but could have done the job with what they provide.
There are a few items available if you don’t bring your own groceries. A variety of raw veggies suitable for grilling include corn-on-the-cob, onion, asparagus, broccolini, and bell pepper ($2-$4). Proteins include Italian sausages and hot links—bun included—($3), USDA Choice grade beef, including New York strip and rib-eye steaks ($7-$9), dry rubbed tri-tip roasts ($12-$13), and—during summer months—locally-sourced organic pork in the form of chops ($8) and shoulder steaks ($11). Housemade sides are available, such as kale, pasta, macaroni and potato salads ($3-$4 for two-person serving).
As my group was doing a potluck, we didn’t avail ourselves of the house goods. My bourbon tri-tip and my wife’s family recipe macaroni salad were both well-received, and the variety of dishes brought by others made for a well-rounded meal. It was a fun day at a great venue. The only issues of note would be the lack of shade over the grilling area and the speed in serving drinks. Even as the place got busy, there was but a single person behind the bar moving at a less-than-speedy pace. Adding another person to pour beers while the lead mixologist crafts cocktails would help.
Pignic has been host to a variety of special events, including pop-up dinners with guest chefs, music showcases, and a Tuesday night songwriters’ open mic and potluck. It’s obvious from first glance that the place is a labor of love, and I have to say my somewhat aged, unhip self felt more welcomed in this house than most other hipster draws in town. At last, I get it.