So much happiness

The crowd at Brickie’s enjoys the old-school pub atmosphere.

The crowd at Brickie’s enjoys the old-school pub atmosphere.

Photo/Allison Young

Brickie's Tavern is open 8 a.m. to midnight. Breakfast is served Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to noon.

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.” —Dr. Samuel Johnson, 1776.

Ol’ Doc Johnson’s quote is prominently displayed at Brickie’s Tavern, and the friendly service my wife and I experienced during our recent visit would have done the good doctor proud. Originally opened in 1956 as a neighborhood market, the atmosphere is informal, featuring a single room with space for about 30 guests split between the bar and table seating. The open grill/kitchen is directly adjacent to the bar, a one-person operation that has no trouble keeping up with a dozen orders in fast succession. Despite the fact it’s more bar than grill, kids are welcome and it’s not uncommon for entire families to visit the tavern for a meal.

I’ve heard good things about their burgers and chili dogs, but our visit was all about the breakfast menu. Served only on weekend mornings, the menu is short and simple (ranging between $8-$11 a plate) with four-egg omelets, huevos rancheros, breakfast sandwiches, and the classic plate of eggs with meat of your choice (ham, bacon, sausage, hamburger steak), fried potatoes and toast. Other than adult fare from the bar, beverage options include your basic diner-style coffee and a selection of fruit juices that double as mixers during cocktail hour (orange, cranberry, grapefruit, tomato, and Clamato). However, my eyes were immediately drawn to the large print on the menu declaring, “Ask about our breakfast specials,” which is where the real action is.

Included among the specials were a plate of eggs and hash, a one-inch-thick ham steak with eggs, biscuits and gravy with eggs and your choice of meat, a chili-cheese omelet, and a gravy-smothered chicken-fried steak with eggs. All of these come with potatoes and toast.

After listing the specials, our server noted, “Just don’t ask for substitutions. Curt hates that.” I had to chuckle at this because I agree wholeheartedly with the chef. I’m no fan of picky eaters, plus, this joint is pretty busy during breakfast. Just keeping up with the regular orders is enough for one person to manage.

My wife ordered the biscuits, and I got the chicken-fried steak, which are two dishes we often order to evaluate a new breakfast experience. We shared a nibble of each other’s meal, then shared a momentary sense of, “I should have ordered what you did.” The eggs were cooked perfectly over-medium, the cubed and seasoned fried potatoes were far better than most I’ve been served (crispy outside, fluffy inside), the bacon was thick-cut and crispy without being overcooked, but, holy moly, those biscuits were a real surprise. Huge, fluffy, delicious. The country gravy was pretty good, if a bit blander than I’d like, but that’s what the salt and pepper shakers are for, right? The chicken-fried steak had great flavor, but required a little more effort to cut with a fork than the best examples of this diner classic. Still, it’s among my current list of Top Five chicken-fried steaks available in Reno, and it’s not like I had to resort to using a knife. Or left a single bite on my plate.

I’ve heard good things about their hash as well as the chili-cheese omelet, so a return visit—or 12—is definitely in the cards. Brickie’s is the kind of place that just exudes an “only in Nevada” vibe. I know there are plenty of great “greasy spoons” across the country, but not with a 24-7 bar culture where you can party all night, then get a stick-to-your-ribs hangover-curing breakfast the next morning in the same place you got hammered. Even if you’re a teetotaller who never sets foot in a saloon, you’re going to love your breakfast at Brickie’s.