Shop locally, eat globally
With all Reno’s international grocers, you don’t have to leave town to eat like a king. Or an emperor. Or a kaiser. Or whatever.
Need ingredients for sushi? Craving some fresh headcheese with a linzer torte chaser? Think you need to drive to San Francisco to find Indonesian sambal? Save your gas. RN&R contributors took to the streets and the strip malls of Reno to check out the small, ethnic grocers. We found a wealth of good foods from just about everywhere, sold by knowledgeable purveyors, often at bargain-basement prices.
95 E. Grove St., 825-5258
If there’s a grocery store in heaven, it must be like the one tucked behind the Park Lane Mall. At International Market, Thai owners sell Bulgarian cheese, Mexican spices and Japanese candies. There are industrial-sized cans of water chestnuts or New Zealand corned beef and 25-pound sacks of every kind of rice I know of: brown, jasmine, sushi, you-name-it. Delicacies like goat meat, shrimp with heads or a variety of vacuum-packed tofus tempt the adventurous at more-than-reasonable prices. I tried a can of Vietnamese, French-roasted coffee (acidic, but pretty good for the pre-Starbucks-revolution price); papaya cookies from Taiwan (nice, gummy, fruity filling but too heavy on the shortening); and a bottle of Thai iced tea (sweet, rich, hit the spot).
Irma’s Foodmart and Filipino Store
628 Mill St., 329-6004
Irma’s is a friendly, one-aisle store and gathering spot for local Filipinos. One side has a cooler with drinks and large freezers filled with chicken, pork and fish. On the shelves above are a mixture of American snacks, like Doritos, and imported Filipino snacks like shrimp-flavored crackers and deep-fried anchovy and squid chips. There are Filipino noodles, spices and sauces. Irma has an array of knick-knacks she’s collected over the years, including books, posters, candles and hand-made clothes. This is a great place for authentic Filipino snacks and ingredients, where customers drop in just to say hello.
595 Valley Road, 323-7646
As a first-generation American with Hungarian parents, I’ll never see the gastronomic glories of émigré-run delis from my youth in 1970s Los Angeles. But thisdeli/bakery/gift shop/restaurant does Reno proud in the European-food department. The grocery has the imported pickles, peppers and beer you’d expect. It’s the deli and bakery that truly beckon. Cakes, strudels and breads look tempting, and I heartily recommend the poppy and walnut rolls and pretzel-bread sandwiches. And, if your idea of deli-meat colors exceeds standard grocery-chicken-white and everyday-beef-red, have a look at the technicolor array of headcheeses, plump, gourmet bolognas in little wrappings, fancy hot dogs and prosciuttos. Then there’s my favorite: Hungarian and “Gipsy” stuffed guts. Meat, with color.
1325 W. Seventh St., 747-6700
Everything looked good, so I asked for a recommendation. The shopkeeper at this Middle Eastern market was generous with advice—and samples of the fresh pumpkin seeds and Jordan almonds she scoops by the pound. A jar of sweet-hot, vinegary caskabella peppers (like Italian cherry peppers but yellower and meatier) was one of the many prepared foods on half-price sale. The lebni is a delicious, thickened yogurt too rich to eat by the bowl, but it’s now officially on my list of sauce-and-dip ingredients. The market carries Mideastern breads and sweets from a California bakery, and it’s the best local source I’ve seen for ingredients like tahini and kalamata olives in big jars at eye-popping prices.
Reno Asian Supermarket
803 W. Fifth St., 322-8820
“Supermarket” is no exaggeration. If you like Asian food, you could easily make this place your only grocery stop. In addition to adventurous condiments, fresh produce and frozen, whole fish, the store carries a modest selection of Asian and domestic beers (plus Corona and Steinlager); a variety of housewares, from plastic to fancy; and a few things for the Western palate (mayonnaise, real Gummi Bears, Campbell’s soup). The comprehensive selection of noodles fills most of an aisle with soba, udon, egg and rice noodles (from thin vermicelli to inch-wide), and even boxes of elbow macaroni. A small tin of masaman curry paste from Thailand made my night as the base for an easy dinner that tasted like it was from a restaurant.
K.J. Mini Mart
1086 S. Virginia St., 329-6225
The scent of incense is distinct but mild inside the cool, dimly lit K.J. Mini Mart. It mingles with the perfume of untainted, whole spices: nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods. Lurking beneath those sweet fragrances, however, is the nose-singeing aroma of asafetida, a plant resin that aids in digestion and is often called “devil’s dung.” The Mini Mart, which has been at the same location for 17 years, possesses almost every ingredient you’ll come across in Indian cooking, from blocks of jaggery—a honey-flavored Indian sweetener—to four-pound bags of lentils and mung beans to giant jars of ghee (Indian clarified butter). The prices are a third or fourth of what you’d pay at big-name grocers. You can even buy Ganges water, if you like your H2O on the enlightening side.
1575 S. Wells Ave., 322-0550
Not many grocery stores feature a mural in the produce department. But that’s part of the charm of this friendly store. The clean, tidy shop has a variety of produce—mangoes, peaches, melons and other seasonal fruit as well as items indigenous to Mexico: nopales (cactus pads), tomates verdes (tomatillos or husk tomatoes) and chiles. The mercadito sells cookware, personal hygiene products and piñatas of all shapes and sizes. I stocked up on some tunas (prickly-pear fruit), and conchas (sweet rolls) for breakfast. My favorite find was a package of pineapple- and tangerine-flavored sour marshmallows.
Moscow Market and Deli
465 E. Plumb Lane, 329-2633
I was immediately offered assistance when I entered Moscow Market. The proprietors no doubt realized many of the packaged products would be impossible for English mono-linguists to identify. Moscow Market’s limited space is mostly devoted to a wide variety of non- and semi-perishable specialty items: pickles and jams, crackers, cookies and sodas with names like Barbaris and Fantastika. There is small selection of obscure imported beer and hard-to-find vodkas. There is a deli counter full of dried and pickled fish. A small, enticing selection of tortes and pastries resides next to a second deli counter, full of various meats and what appears to be miles and miles of sausage. The deli serves sandwiches, borscht and blintzes, and there are a few small tables, should you decide to dine in.
Manila Hong Kong Store and Kitchen
2352 Oddie Blvd., Sparks, 336-7877
A fishy odor wafts up your nose in Manila Hong Kong Store and Kitchen. An impressive quantity of products is crammed into the smallish grocery, more “Manila” than “Hong Kong.” The narrow aisles are fun to scour for innumerable treasures, repulsive novelties and tantalizing gems. I admired the shrimp-flavored chips, the preserved duck eggs and the label on a can of squid in soy sauce. There’s a wide variety of rice candies, soy sauces, hot sauces, movies, CDs and fertilizer-sized bags of rice. There’s seafood, both frozen and (using the term loosely) fresh. I assumed the crabs in a huge box were dead, until one, much to my spine-wrenching terror, twitched. There’s a rotating lunch menu in the Kitchen.
A-One Video, Appliance, and Indian Grocery
2302 Oddie Blvd., Sparks, 358-4099
The immediate olfactory impression at A-One is an appealing smell of incense and curry. The second impression is of astonishment at the huge quantity of VHS tapes. This place probably has more items of that outmoded technology than anywhere else in town. There are also DVDs, CDs and audio tapes—from the hugely prolific Bollywood—and a seemingly random assortment of appliances, including grills and telephones. This is where to go for distinctive, tasty Indian ingredients, including spices, boxed Indian dishes, dry snacks and desserts.