Recall the “Sunday drive,” wherein you and your family would take a leisurely drive through the countryside, burning fossil fuels whilst enjoying fresh air and scenery bucolic? This American tradition began in the 1920s, but it was my mother who taught me the best journeys are those with no destination. More than once we discovered a roadside diner, ice cream stand, or other humble roadside attraction.
These memories were in mind as my wife and I headed south on U.S. 395 during a weekend afternoon. Not the new highway extension of fancy bridges and view-blocking concrete. Newly designated “ALT 395” is now blissfully free of traffic, so drive down that scenic, lonesome road until the Eastlake Boulevard turnoff, enjoy the elevated view past Little Washoe Lake, then mosey through the bedroom community of New Washoe City until you arrive at a labor of love known as The Postal Cafe.
Beginning life as a filling station in the 1960s on South Virginia Street at the outskirts of Reno, this neo-Deco bit of architecture was moved to its New Washoe City location in the '70s. Over the years, it became better known as the local post office and videotape rental shop, eventually falling into disrepair. In 2005, the garage and office space were converted to a coffee shop, while the postal contract lent the new diner its name (mail service ended earlier this year).
The new owner, as of 2013, has a trained culinary background and has kept the kitschy-cool decor while adding her own touches.
This place is homey and cute and just plain adorable. Local eggs are used in the kitchen and available to take home ($3.95 p/doz). Locally produced artwork is on display and available for sale. Colorful local patrons provided unintended entertainment for us city folk. It’s a two-woman shop, and they’re doing a pretty good job.
You’re probably wondering, “But what about the food?” It’s diner fare, but it feels like you’re eating at Mom’s table for brunch. I started with a terrific, homemade cup of turkey veggie soup ($3.95), followed by a bacon blue cheese burger ($9.95), including fries. The seasoning and crispness of the crinkle-cut fries was perfect, requiring no extra condiment. The one-third pound burger was cooked medium-like-your-mom-made; I wasn’t asked, and I didn’t specify a “doneness” preference. Nothing fancy, but it hit that comfort food button. Similar were the biscuits and gravy breakfast my wife ordered ($8.95), with grilled deli ham in lieu of bacon and a potato/sweet potato mix of home fries. I’m not big on yams, but that mix was pretty damn delicious.
With a pastry chef in charge, dessert was a prerequisite. This being a diner, the apple-bourbon bread pudding seemed a no-brainer. It was, however, the only misstep of the experience, as I couldn’t detect any sauce, bourbon or otherwise. There were copious apple chunks, and the pudding itself was fine. So, if you hadn’t told me to expect a sauce, this would have been just fine.
I already knew that this place existed, so it wasn’t a true “Sunday drive” adventure. But I’d never eaten here before, so I’m going to count it as a discovery. And a welcome one at that.