A trip to a hidden tropical paradise in a Reno strip mall.
After lurking in the parking lot outside Oak Furniture Warehouse for a few sunny hours, I would have actually considered going into a fast food place for something cold to drink. (Not a burger, though, just a McSnack.)
As usual this summer, my day had begun late and without breakfast. My assignment was the RN&R’s Streetalk column. It is difficult to do quickly even at a bustling location. Most people will not even slow down when you approach them in public. Displaying a camera with the Reno News & Review sticker on it does not convince some folks that I am not a salesman or fanatic. In fact, some of my distinguished Streetalk predecessors have been thrown out of places for asking too many questions. It’s a rite of passage into the strange new world of the media.
There were not very many people to be found early in the afternoon outside a little shopping center at Kietzke Lane and Vassar Street. The question: “Do you have deep-seated issues?” The answers were varied, and someties I doubted the honesty of the folks who’d been brave enough to contribute.
Finally finished, I felt tired and hungry. The sun had made my pale skin feel crinkly. Fortunately, I was spared the greasiness of death by fast-food fries at after discovering a great café tucked into a corner of the aforementioned strip mall.
At first, I thought the people sitting outside were from the bar. A closer look led to a refreshing surprise, a Hawaiian food joint that I’d never noticed before.
I was most impressed with how easy it was to feel at home, oddly enough, in a restaurant called Away From Home. My lunch came with a relaxed and welcoming feeling. Many of the customers were greeted by name by the staff. I soon realized this was one of those secret lunch spots. Single diners toting books came to munch and read quietly. Other groups of folks gabbed awhile after eating. I think I even spotted a high-profile local television station star who’d perhaps snuck away from the office to come here for a bite.
The decorations did remind me of Hawaii, but not in a campy, tourist sort of way. The place is small but not too cluttered. And the kitchen staff had character, not the mysterious anonymity of some cafes.
The menu had a selection of burgers, and a very long list of sandwiches. A selection of daily specials was crammed onto a board in the corner. I went with the roast pork combination plate for several reasons. Naturally, I was hungry. But I was also curious about how good the food was, and I figured that practically anyone can make a tolerable sandwich. The pork was tasty and refreshing, and the rice was almost perfect. Almost perfect is a great compliment, as I rarely find restaurant rice done very well or even “good.”
The overall experience was great. More than just a quick, generic lump of food, the dish had flavor that was only enhanced by my sense of relaxation. I have been back once already, and I can’t wait to take some friends there. I’m glad I had cash though, because they do not have an ATM machine.