Sweep steaks

Fancy food from a place that isn’t afraid to pile on the onion rings: Washoe Grill’s “homestyle” meatloaf.

Fancy food from a place that isn’t afraid to pile on the onion rings: Washoe Grill’s “homestyle” meatloaf.


Bar, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Restaurant, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations recommended.

Washoe Grill

4201 W 4th St.
Reno, NV 89503

(775) 786-1323

My wife, Kat, and I just bought our first house. It’s been one trying process, but no matter how much we’ve been jerked around, I can’t feel too sorry for myself. The night we signed off on everything, feeling a bit hassled, we treated ourselves to a meal at Washoe Grill. I can’t stop thinking about houses and masonry and interior color schemes. Walking into Washoe certainly contributed to my fascination. The interior reminds me of my ideal living room and put me in a very comfortable mood. However, I tried to remain objective despite the idyllic setting and the various accolades hung en masse in Washoe’s entryway.

The interior is dominated by wood. It’s a very natural-seeming décor featuring dark wooden picture frames and chairs, contrasted by exposed beams and paneling painted white. The frames cover the walls and hold maps, portraits, and various photos of Native Americans across the United States. On a recent Wednesday evening, the place was nearly empty, so Kat and I were able to wander throughout the restaurant taking it all in.

Once seated, Kat and I spent an abnormally long time looking through the menu. I wondered if I should order something frugal like the $10 sirloin burger and onion rings the lady next to us was devouring. Kat was very clear in her food desire—she came to a steakhouse and fully intended to eat steak, ordering the beef tenderloin filet with Yukon gold mashed potatoes, portabella mushrooms, creamed spinach and a burgundy reduction ($32). Lamentably, I could only pick two things and ordered the roasted tomato bisque with shaved fennel ($5) and the roasted chicken pie with root veggies, fresh herbs, flaky pastry and natural pan gravy ($18).

The tomato bisque was a wonderful start to the meal. The roasted tomatoes gave the soup a tinge of smoky sweetness without any hint of acidity. The soup was thick enough to suspend a piece of toasted bread topped with fennel. The crunchy fennel nicely contrasted with the smoothness of the soup. However, I felt a little mistreated by whoever burned my little bread piece and then tried to cover it up by submerging the charred side in my delectable soup. When my chicken pie arrived, Kat said, “You can’t possibly eat all that.” You will all be happy to know I proved her wrong but sacrificed any room for dessert in the process. While I enjoyed my meal immensely, I think it could benefit from some downsizing. All of the components—chicken, savory gravy, golden crust, pearl onions, and vegetable medley blended wonderfully—however the crust somewhat overwhelms this meal. I’d have preferred the same portion of filling in a smaller dish with less crust.

The chef’s menu at Washoe declares the restaurant “Reno’s Best Steakhouse.” Kat’s steak was beautifully grilled but certainly not the best. It really lacked the powerful flavors and natural juices I think characterize the best steaks. However, the burgundy reduction drizzled across the top lent the steak and mashed potatoes a tangy flavor. Stacked upon the entire affair were large battered onions rings—delicious.

Unfortunately, fancy dinners like this will probably not be the norm for the next 30 years. My sneaking suspicion is our meager sums of discretionary cash will go into paint and things Kat can plant in the ground. Lucky for us, Washoe’s menu includes a fair mix of reasonably priced and spendy items. Even better is these affordable dishes spare none of the quality and creativity that made us so happy with our meals.