Proud to serve

Chef Benito Herrira prepares steak ranchero at Miguel’s, an old-school Reno Mexican joint.

Chef Benito Herrira prepares steak ranchero at Miguel’s, an old-school Reno Mexican joint.


Miguel’s Mexican Food is open Tues. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. and Sat.11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun. 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Miguel’s Mexican Food

1415 S Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 322-2722

It seems Northern Nevada Mexican restaurants follow a predictable pattern: On average, tastefulness is inversely related to classiness. Miguel’s—for better or worse, depending on whom you I ask, I suppose—fits this generalization well, because while my husband and I enjoyed our dining experience, we would have been at least as content with one of the area’s more obscure mom-and-pop operations who would rather impress with food than form.

It was very crowded on the Saturday night we dined, but the hostess just happened to have an opening for two as we entered. When a window table that looked out on Virginia Street opened up I struck like a panther, quickly securing our migration there without any resistance from our accommodating hosts.

The service was simply excellent. Despite the duress of a packed house and large parties lobbying for seating, our various attendants—friendly server, dutiful water pourer—never lost track of us or failed to respond quickly to our succession of requests and questions. If they ever got flustered, I couldn’t tell.

The food was less impressive. The salsa for the chips had the sweetish, timorous lack of flavor one finds in a store-bought jar. And while my husband enjoyed his ritual Negra Modelo ($4), my pina colada ($6) was so overbearingly sweet I opted not to finish it. We, of course, wanted to sample the nachos ($5.50), but the standard offering turned out to be just a bland mix of cheddar and white cheese on the middling chips. I suppose we could have pestered for more ingredients—olives, sour cream, beans?—but it never occurred to us that there would be so little to this starter in the first place, and we might have been tongue-tied from the shellshock.

While we waited and nibbled we learned a little bit about Miguel’s, which has been locally owned since 1959. The staff members reported that the big night of the week was usually Friday, when the end-of-the-work-week crowd comes in for margaritas at happy hour before dining. However, fans attending the college basketball tournament probably altered this pattern on our Saturday night.

Our entrees came promptly, and my husband’s shrimp fajitas ($14.95) were certainly the highlight of the meal. He was shorted on tortillas, but the onions, peppers and shrimp were seared appropriately and made for an acceptable main course even when combined with the unspectacular rice and bean base, which could have used more cumin and/or salt.

My vegetarian burrito ($6.25) was disappointing. The tortilla wrap was a bit soggy and doughy, and the constituent vegetables—I saw something green but for the life of me I couldn’t tell what it was, or what it was supposed to be—did little to mitigate the overarching blandness of the bean base. Let me hasten to add that it wasn’t like the food was bad; we made off with leftovers that served as an acceptable brunch the next day. It’s just that, again, the best Mexican in my view has more aggressive concentrations of seasonings.

Given the routine, less-than-ambitious cooking and the type of diner this style attracts, it’s hard not to wonder if Miguel’s has benefited from the recent closing of On the Border from its former location at McCarran and Virginia. Miguel’s might be, in essence, just giving the people what they want. It just isn’t what this reviewer wants when looking for authentic Mexican cuisine.