Tastefully raising the bar
The old brick building next to downtown Reno’s Methodist church has seen a lot of history since 1936. Renovated and reinvented in 2011 as Our Bar, it has gained a following among folks who plan their calendar around pub crawls and similar entertainments. They’ve got a pool table, competition darts, blaring jukebox, a burger/beer/shot deal for $10 and a Monday happy hour (7 p.m. to closing) featuring 8.8 percent ABV draft beer for $3 a pint. I’m told the cleaning guy really hates Tuesday mornings, but at least the spartan, bare brick and welded-steel interior should make cleanup easier. I’m too domesticated for weeknight bacchanals, but the food menu looked like something I should check out.
On the Saturday afternoon following Thanksgiving the place was nearly empty, thus my wife and I received a personal level of service from the bartender/server and chef. Both men are clearly proud of the place, so one hopes they keep that level of enthusiasm when the place is packed.
The menu categories are pretty standard, with deep-fried appetizers, soups and salads, burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, tacos and wraps, but the dishes are anything but average. We settled on avocado fries ($6), mahi fish tacos ($7), a pastrami burger ($9) and a portobello burger ($7). I only wish I’d been able to talk more people into joining us that day so I could taste a broader sampling of the chef’s creativity.
Our appetizer featured a whole avocado that was sliced, seasoned, battered and deep-fried. This was served with a mildly spicy dipping sauce, which made the whole thing work. The fatty richness of avocado is compounded by being fried, but the sauce smoothed out the experience. I recommend ordering this with friends because a few slices go a long way.
The fish tacos were excellent, a pair of lightly crisped flour tortillas filled with grilled mahi-mahi, ginger lime slaw, cucumber pico de gallo and avocado crema, served with housemade tortilla chips and a salsa that was more of a tomato puree. It tasted fresh but didn’t have much heat.
I barely got a bite of my wife’s portobello burger before it disappeared. A whole portobello mushroom is marinated in balsamic vinegar and green onion, grilled with caramelized onions, then topped with cotija cheese and lettuce on a locally baked bun. It was every bit as delicious as that sounds, and available with either a side salad or fries. The one misstep of our visit was my wife’s salad arriving in the form of crispy, seasoned fries. It was a tasty mistake so we didn’t bother mentioning it.
My pastrami burger included a seasoned beef patty cooked just a tad under medium (their standard unless ordered otherwise), topped with Swiss cheese, grilled pastrami, lettuce, and … potato chips. That last item was actually the deciding factor in choosing this burger, even though it seemed a bit over-the-top with fries on the side. I have a seventh-grade memory of trading my PBJ on homemade bread with a kid who had some kind of lunch meat on store-bought white bread. He taught me to put chips on the plain sandwich to make it more interesting, which seemed pretty exotic at the time. With this pastrami burger, though, I have to say the chips were more distraction than bonus. The crunch is kind of cool, but the potato chip flavor overshadowed everything else. The rest of the burger was quite good, so I’d probably skip the chips next time.
There’s a lot more on this menu my wife and I would like to sample, so a return visit to Our Bar is definitely on our horizon.