Esteban Castaneda prepares tableside guacamole at Arroyo Mexican Grill.

Esteban Castaneda prepares tableside guacamole at Arroyo Mexican Grill.


Arroyo Mexican Grill is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday to Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., Friday to Saturday.

Arroyo Mexican Grill

250 Evans Ave.
Reno, NV 89501

(775) 334-7092

There’s nothing quite like being surprised. The first restaurant I visited at the Freight House District was an atrocious experience. So I went into Arroyo Mexican Grill with low—well, actually no expectations—and I’ll be damned if I didn’t walk out thinking there’s a thing or two some Mexican restaurants in this town should take from Arroyo’s playbook.

I visited for the first time on a Thursday evening when the Aces were not playing and found Arroyo pretty empty. I arrived well before my wife, Kat, so I took a seat at the bar, and the bartender promptly brought me a cold Pacifico ($5) and free chips. She wasn’t good at small talk and spent a fair amount of time texting on her cell phone, but the second my beer went empty she was there to pour another. This pretty much summarizes the service: Help is there if needed, but you’ll mostly be left alone.

The restaurant is decorated like a nicely appointed hacienda full of dark woods and light hand-troweled plaster walls. Apart from some colorful paintings, tequila bottles are the central decorating motif. Arroyo claims to offer more than 100 varieties, most in the $8-$11 range, but there’s one that’s $70 a shot. Who in god’s name is going to drink a $70 shot of tequila, even with the free Arroyo shot glass you get with its purchase?

On the other end of the spectrum is Arroyo’s complimentary chips and salsa bar. I have never been served a basket of chips so warm they burned my tongue, but chalk that up to freshness. Even more delectable were the two salsas I tried from Arroyo’s salsa bar. The salsa fresca and habañero salsas were colorful and flavorful, but beware—that habañero will tear your mouth apart. I absolutely loved them both.

When Kat showed up, we took a table in the corner and started with the guacamole en molcajete ($6.95). Arroyo prepares the guacamole tableside and starts with two avocados, which are then blended with Serrano peppers, cilantro, onions, tomato, salt and lime to your liking. I can’t think of another Mexican restaurant in Reno that performs this really personalized service.

For entrees, Kat ordered the al pastor tacos ($9.95), two homemade corn tortillas topped with grilled pork, pineapple and onions and served with rice and black beans. I ordered the prime burrito ($11.50), a flour tortilla stuffed with filet mignon, brown beans, cheese, pico de gallo and avocado and served with a Caesar salad. I never would have ordered this plate had the server not proclaimed it one of their most popular menu items. Filet mignon in a burrito just seems wrong, but this was not good filet mignon. It was tough, poorly seasoned, and I quickly plucked every single piece out of what was an otherwise perfectly good burrito.

Unfortunately, the pork on Kat’s tacos was also chewy and excessively grisly, which was a shame because that sweet pineapple and savory pork created some good flavor. The black beans sprinkled with Cotija cheese are a noteworthy side and have a delicious smoky flavor like they’d just been ladled from a kettle hanging over an open fire.

To say I was pleasantly surprised with Arroyo would be an understatement. To say those chips and salsa were just fine would be a bold-faced lie. This is a restaurant the Freight House District can be proud of, and I’ll be back the next time I see the Aces.