Pneumatic Diner501 W. First St.
Reno, NV 89503
Last week, I took my meat-loving parents to Pneumatic Diner. It was a unique experience for them, to say the least. My father hasn’t seen much of the world beyond his sofa in years, so you can imagine how they reacted to a hip, vegan-friendly restaurant with a faded and stained American flag hanging above the kitchen.
We arrived at 501 W. First St. and proceeded to search for the entrance. There were no signs to be found, however, and after asking passersby we ended up, oddly, in the hallway of an apartment building. Luckily, we were able to get further directions from residents. After huffing and puffing and muttering things like, “How on Earth does anyone ever find this place?” we realized that the main entrance is on Ralston, near the northeast corner of the building. There, the doorway is clearly marked with a large colorful sign inviting all to come and dine organically.
On its menu, the Pneumatic Diner introduces itself as a place that offers “real food, real beer, real coffee, all together in a practical nitrogen-oxygen based atmosphere.” It also prides itself on the quality of the food it serves, which is fresh and organic. In the back of the menu, there is a list of definitions which explain what each ingredient is and from where it came. The offerings are creative and the choices rather extensive. One can have the full-dress poach toast ($8.50), with creamy spinach, mushroom, onion, cheese sauce over toast and two eggs from “pampered chickens,” or the vegan bubba ($6), a whole wheat sandwich with grilled eggplant, zucchini and hummus. Admittedly, some of the items sound more appetizing than others. Consider, for example, the faux-nard ($6.50), which are meatless meatballs or the slabwich ($6)—tofu on a croissant. Need I say more?
The best testimony to the food at Pneumatic Diner, however, is not the menu. It is my father. Upon entering the tiny place, my dad was terrifically uncomfortable. I actually thought he might make a run for it. The room is small and there are roughly 10 little tables lining the walls. In the middle is the kitchen and the bar. The place doesn’t make the best impression for those seeking a tidy atmosphere. It is, well, a bit grubby. The walls are faded and decorated with art that is not for everyone (a nude woman washing herself and her dishes in a bathtub), and the windows look out over the back of the Greyhound bus terminal.
My father processed all of this as he searched in vain for anything resembling sausage. He asked if we could go somewhere else. I told him to sit tight and order something. He said he would have eggs and toast. I told him to be more adventurous. In the end, he ordered the super deluxe Dave ($7.50), a kind of chile relleno casserole and a chocolate shake ($4.25) for comfort.
And comfort him it did. As soon as he took the first sip, he perked up. It was one of the thickest shakes he had ever had, and his head nearly imploded from the pressure. But it was rich and creamy and yummy. Our food was served quickly, and the server was friendly and professional. My father dug into his food and … became a fan of Pneumatic Diner. His meal was hot, spicy and simply scrumptious. When he was done, he leaned back and declared, “Well, I don’t know what that was, but it sure was delicious!”
For a man who hasn’t gone a day without beef in years, I can’t think of a better compliment.