The downer


1075 N Hills Blvd.
Reno, NV 89506

(775) 972-4000

Every time I walk into a restaurant, I hope for good food and service, whether eating at Chuck E. Cheese or somewhere hoity-toity. If I don’t get them, I’ll never eat there again and maybe leave a lousy tip to offset the disappointment. After all, hard-earned money is exchanging hands.

I’ve always felt this way, but since starting as food reviewer, I walk into independent restaurants hoping for the sake of the employees and owners that the food and service clicks. Writing negative reviews is a real downer, and criticizing someone’s work leaves a hollow feeling in the old gut. I walked into The Diner and was seated by a feisty, outgoing lady. I enjoyed the polite teenager working behind the counter. And I hoped beyond hope the food would astound. Unfortunately, it did not.

It recreates a 1950s-style eatery with rock ‘n’ roll, high-backed booths, counter stools and vehicle posters covering the walls. I used to live in Lemmon Valley and always wanted to try The Diner.

Thursday evening, before my first trip out to Burning Man, my wife, Kat, and I drove to the North Valleys to try the place. The Diner is in the Raley’s shopping center on North Hills Boulevard just off of Highway 395. As a devourer of food when nervous and expecting a weekend of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I ordered in excess. I started with the Sh-boom Shake ($3.28) and a basket of onion rings ($2.79) and finished with the dinner special ($8.99), prompting the server to essentially call me a glutton.

Kat ordered the Rock-n-Roller Cheeseburger and Fries ($6.99). All of the food was just fine and will appeal to hungry folk on tight budgets. However, if you demand fresh ingredients and in-house preparations, you should probably steer clear of this place.

First off, I must say the fried foods were superb: the French fries and thick onion rings are plentiful and served golden brown. However, everything else had a pre-fab taste to it. My dinner special was a plate of steamed celery and carrots stripped of any crunch or flavor, half a baked chicken, and reconstituted mashed potatoes all covered in giblets and an herb cream sauce. The plate came with a bowl of corn chowder and two garlic rolls. For portion size, I’m enamored with The Diner, but while the chicken was well-cooked, everything was bland. I had high hopes for Kat’s burger, but it came out a little chewy and was likely formerly frozen. My milkshake did come with whipped cream and the oh-so-important metal cup with more, but it tasted more icy than creamy and couldn’t be scooped with my spoon. They also forgot my corn chowder, which I asked for in a cup when paying my tab. To The Diner’s credit, the staff was quick to respond to any request.

I thought maybe the corn chowder could redeem the meal—such wasn’t the case. I almost felt like heading back and giving their breakfast a try a solid omelet or a fluffy stack of pancakes might have won me over. After all, I liked the lack of pretense, the servers and all the fried foods. Plus The Diner has a laid-back, small-town, family atmosphere that’s appealing when you just want to gather your thoughts. But sometimes, that’s not enough to win a customer back.