Service with a smile
Albita’s Mexican Restaurant1280 Terminal Way
Reno, NV 89502
Sincerity. It’s a big word in the restaurant business. Ninety-nine percent fast food joints have never heard the word. Locally owned restaurants seem to be more familiar with the term, but a minority actually puts the expression fully into action. It’s not the most common word of praise in restaurant critiques, but when sincerity is present, it truly makes a place stand out.
My friend Bob and I walked into Albita’s Mexican Restaurant, and we saw we’d be waiting. A gentleman in front of us, accompanied by three little girls with braids, was placing a large to-go order. As soon as the man preparing the meals saw us, he flashed a friendly “welcome to our restaurant” grin and said, “It should just be a couple more minutes.” As I watched him prepare the group’s food, I noticed it was fixed by the quick hands of a man who’d had a lot of practice but who also paid attention to generosity and detail.
When it was our turn, the server said, “I’m very sorry to keep you waiting.” When I replied, “No problem at all; it’s Saturday—we don’t have anywhere to be,” he said, “Thank you” and stuck his tongue out ever-so-slightly between his teeth in a happy and familiar way. He thrust some hot, just-cooked tortilla chips under our noses, warned us of their toastiness, and took our requests.
I ordered one of the plate options: cheese enchiladas with green sauce ($6.99). It came with a side of rice and beans, and the enchiladas were made of corn tortillas cooked on site. Bob ordered one of Albita’s “special” burritos ($5.50), pollo-style. “Special” doesn’t convey the extraordinariness of this Paul Bunyan-sized meal. This was a burrito that was nearly too big for a full-grown man to wrap his fingers around. It was stuffed with rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream and large strips of juicy, fresh chicken.
The dapperly dressed, all-smiles woman wearing demure rhinestone earrings at the register took our drink orders, two horchatas ($1.50 each), and we proceeded to feast. Bob said the thick, crisp and bubbly tortilla chips were the best he’d had. I’m not a connoisseur, but I’m inclined to agree. My enchilada plate was more interesting than I expected. The cheese was a flavorful white cheddar variety, and the salsa had ample kick without being too piquant. There was a prominent cilantro flavor with a hint of lemon perfectly balancing the cheese. The salsa alone is worth going back for.
As I drank my horchata, I felt like a 5-year-old drinking chocolate milk. It was so cold, sweet and breezy that it fully warranted chugging. It took me about three seconds to drink half of the extra-large cup of cinnamon-flavored brew. Then I paced myself.
As Bob and I engaged in earnest conversation, we realized we were at the right location to do so. It’s a rare experience to be served by people who behave as though they’d rather be waiting on you than sitting at home drinking beer and watching TV. The staff members at Albita’s are either excellent actors or possibly the hugest-hearted workers in Reno. Their realness and generosity comes out in their faces, their clothing, their mannerisms and, perhaps most importantly, the food. Albita’s is a genuine food find.