Smokin’ good

Chef Dan Lopez rustles up some country breakfast fixins for hungry diners at Café 301.

Chef Dan Lopez rustles up some country breakfast fixins for hungry diners at Café 301.

Photo By David Robert

Café 301

301 Kietzke Ln.
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 322-4439

Café 301 is, I think, the only restaurant that I have ever seen (at least in a long, long time) with a nonsmoking section that’s noticeably smaller than its tobacco-friendly counterpart. And it’s the nonsmoking section that’s designated with the signage, not the smoking section. It seems like more and more restaurants—even coffee shops like this—have become entirely nonsmoking, so it’s a little weird to visit someplace where the default assumption is that you won’t be able to make it through the meal without lighting up.

For smokers, this sort of preferential treatment must come as a pleasant surprise. And I note it here as an observation rather than a criticism—it does say something about this place’s middle-America appeal. I was a little afraid that my style was going to be cramped with cigarette fumes, but once we were quarantined in the “nonsmoking section,” there was no problem.

I was wearing, for reasons I don’t want to go into here, my best shirt and tie. I’m not usually one to feel overdressed, but I couldn’t help noticing that all the other collars in the restaurant were decidedly bluer. Café 301 is only open for breakfast and lunch but is apparently a favorite for folks on their lunch breaks. Danielle and I arrived ready for a late breakfast and ended up catching a very busy lunch rush.

I had the country breakfast ($6.79) with biscuits and gravy, eggs, home fries and bacon. I like to order my eggs “over medium” because everybody finds a different center between easy and hard. At Café 301, they got them just the way I like them: The yolks still gooey but not so fluid as to be running all over the damned plate. I was happy with the biscuits and gravy, and the bacon … to be honest, I love bacon indiscriminately.

Danielle had a vegetarian omelette ($6.99) with the usual rabbit food suspects, and she wiggled her nose with contentment. We disagreed about the home fries. She loved them; I didn’t. They were thin, salty and fried dark brown. They came loaded with onions and bell peppers. Danielle loved the salty crispness and the pungent veggie flavors. I like my home fries to be recognizably potatoes and would have preferred less potent accouterments. Apparently, this is just a matter of personal taste.

There were some service problems, largely the result of the café being very busy and understaffed. We ordered orange juice just before the rush and never got it. We ran out of napkins. We waited in vain for the check before deciding to walk up to the counter to pay.

The waitress was apologetic about these problems, and she had been quite friendly during the calm before the lunch-rush storm. I was somewhat surprised just how busy it got, but I can see why. The food’s pretty good, and there’s a nice, small-town, greasy-spoon ambience that’s perfect for conversation over coffee and, if you like, cigarettes.