This story was updated to correct an error in the original story, which misquoted the price of picon cocktails.
The Martin Hotel was opened in Winnemucca more than a century ago. It’s a classic example of this type Basque-American hospitality business, serving up lunch and family-style dinners in its dining hall. Now the business has expanded to a second location, setting up shop in Carson City.
The place was pretty hopping, so there was time enough for a round of picon cocktails ($4.50 happy hour, $5 normally) made with grenadine, Torani Amer, brandy, soda and a twist of lemon. With our bartender’s artful attention to their assembly, they were a great start. For $11, try a special version using the original recipe from the Noriega Hotel in Bakersfield, California.
Dinner entree pricing seems a bit eye-popping, but when you consider the unlimited side dishes and—more importantly—the carafes of table wine, things come into focus. A meal like this is designed to be shared, often with strangers, and shared with gusto. Wear your comfortable pants, and plan on skipping the next day’s breakfast—and probably lunch.
Service was excellent, despite a very full house. The red wine was nicely dry, and we availed ourselves of more than one round. Ciabatta rolls paired perfectly with a savory vegetable and chorizo soup filled with big chunks of potato, celery, three colors of bell pepper and slices of link-style sausage—a meal by itself.
Next was a dish of pinto beans stewed with ground chorizo. The beans still had some bite to them, flavored with plenty of seasoned pork and suspended in the resulting gravy. It provided excellent contrast to the basic salad that closely followed, a very American mix of chopped iceberg lettuce with shredded carrot and purple cabbage, tossed in a garlicky vinaigrette.
Next were Winnemucca potatoes served two ways—as very crispy, hand-cut shoestring fries; and as a bowl of peel-on, chunky mash. I’m good with the ubiquity of fries in Basque meals, but doubling-down with mashed spuds seemed a bit of overkill. Then again, I didn’t mind so much when a stew of hominy, tomato, pepper and chorizo arrived; it made sense to pour that over a pillow of potato. The stew was rich, slightly spicy and on par with the soup. Yellow cobs of corn rounded out the sides, another oddity given the inclusion of a superior corn dish. Heavily steamed into submission, one bite and I skipped it as an unnecessary addition of starch.
My friend’s Steak Carolina ($39) featured 12 ounces of cooked-to-order, black Angus rib-eye grilled with lemon pepper and piled with sautéed mushroom and garlic. The medium rare beef was excellent—a nice amount of char complementing the pink interior—and the sauté was a perfect accent. An order of lamb shank ($37) was loaded with fresh garlic, herbs, olive oil and salt. The meat fell off the bone and was one of the most tender, succulent renditions of lamb you could hope for, though it was a wee bit on the small side.
Pasta conchiglie de la polo ($29) combined cubes of chicken breast with garlic, onion, asparagus and mushroom sauteed in white wine. It was served with Alfredo sauce over slightly overcooked pasta shells. The flavors worked well together, though intact spears of asparagus were hidden in the center of the dish, requiring a knife to cut and consume.
Solomo—a Basque favorite—is sometimes served as a sandwich, or as a plated entree. I ordered an entree version ($33), which came with a trio of three-ounce pork loin medallions simmered with roasted red bell pepper, fresh garlic and pimentos. The pork was juicy, and the dish was, overall, delicious. After that and all of the other courses, I was barely able to sample a bite of apple bread pudding. It was quite good, but I just couldn’t eat another bite until the next day’s dinner.