I remember a few years ago hearing that the owners of Old Granite Street Eatery were opening a little wine bar called Royce behind that restaurant. With my preference for grain over grape and the explosion in craft beer available and brewed locally, a wine bar hasn’t been high on my list of priorities. I’ve tried to go before but found the bar closed on Sundays, a night I often go for drinks. It took an invitation to a coworker’s birthday celebration for my wife and me to finally give Royce a try on a recent Saturday evening.
Also, word is that Royce has an amazing burger. This struck me as an odd highlight for a wine bar, but as it turns out, it’s not really much of a wine bar these days. One of the celebrating coworkers—a frequenter of Royce—told me the wine bar idea didn’t quite take off, so the owners tweaked things a little and added some flat-screen TVs, and now it’s more or less just a bar.
The burger definitely gets some limelight, with its own hashtag (#royceburger) and everything. The Royce Facebook page would have you think burgers, beer and sports is the theme, but, aesthetically, it felt less sports bar and more cozy, historical urban. (A movie played on cable while I was there.) And while the food isn’t entirely the focus—aside from the burger, it’s all semi-gourmet small plates—it did kind of feel like an extension of the restaurant next door, and orders are in fact shuttled over from the kitchen there. We shared and quite enjoyed several of them during our little celebration.
Since wine is no longer the emphasis, I was a little disappointed that beer didn’t get just a tiny bit more love. There were just two taps, one of them empty, and the other pouring Revision Double IPA. It’s a great beer, to be sure, but a little more intense than I was in the mood for, so I ordered a tall can of Pigeon Head IPL followed by Brasserie St. James’ Santiago Mexican Lager.
There was actually a variety of good quality craft beer, local and otherwise. I think I just expected more on draft to choose from. I did learn a new beer term from the specials board: “pony.” It’s a cute, little seven-ounce bottle of Miller High Life. Handcrafted cocktails are, of course, another option.
Like I said, the place is cozy. It’s actually a 1930s vintage modular steel “El Reno Apartments” home. I struggled to envision how it was laid out as a living space decades ago. The current furniture arrangement encourages small group gatherings on sofas and comfy chairs around tables, and, fortunately, it wasn’t too busy during our visit; otherwise, I could see crowding becoming an issue.
I really liked the look of the outdoor patio seating as a place to enjoy a cocktail, but, sadly, the temperatures of a fall evening in Reno discourage me far too easily.
While we celebrated one birthday, our daughter celebrated hers with a slumber party at home, so we couldn’t stay as long as we might have. I’d certainly like to revisit Royce for a #royceburger and a pony someday soon.