Pneumatic Diner has made a tradition out of dishing up hot, crispy waffles every Sunday morning.
Sun pours through the open windows and the air smells rich and syrupy. Pneumatic Diner’s middle table has been moved away to make room for waffle irons. Waffle maker Justin Craperi, who trades off waffle-making duty with the “main waffle-maker,” Calvin, is spreading batter onto the sizzling skillets. I order three waffles with pecans ($1.50 each) and a large glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice ($3.50).
The waffles are up in no time—the thin, crispy kind, not the pudgy, pasty concoctions served up by chain restaurants. To accessorize, waffle consumers get to select from a variety of spreads—butter, maple and fruit syrups, jams and sugar. I prefer to keep it simple and moisten the waffles with just a bit of syrup.
“When did you first hear about the waffles?” asks RN&R photographer Dave Robert. We’re sitting at a table with Dave’s uncle Bill, who’s visiting from Cambridge, England. I try to think back.
While Pneumatic is an obscure, unadvertised little place nestled in the Truckee River Lodge, it’s hard to be a college student and not know about this restaurant that regulars simply call “The Diner.” I was first introduced to Pneumatic five or six years ago, but I couldn’t remember the first time I’d come in to have waffles on a Sunday morning.
Even Alec Baldwin is in the know. In town last month while shooting a film at the Golden Phoenix, Baldwin came into The Diner and sat at the counter.
“What was he like?” I ask server Chris McClendon, who has worked at Pneumatic off and on for six years.
“He was polite—a little unshaven, though,” McClendon says. “He tipped well. He even obeyed the ‘no cell phone’ rule.”
And according to Pneumatic servers, Baldwin made return visits during the filming.
Available at Pneumatic only on Sundays before noon, waffles aren’t just a menu item. Waffle Sundays are a sort of weekly cultural happening. Some folks make a ritual out of it. Because I attend a church in downtown Reno, I’ve taken to walking or biking over almost every Sunday after service. It’s a special, celebratory kind of thing. By about 11 a.m. on Sundays, I find myself craving the rich, pecan-filled waffles.
Of course, Pneumatic isn’t only about waffles. It has some of the best vegetarian fare in town—practically the only, in fact, with the closures of The Blue Heron, Organic Odyssey and Einstein’s Quantum Café. Egg-related breakfast foods are available, and the muffins, scones and breads are wonderful. For lunch and dinner, you can get salads, soups, pastas, veggie tacos, burritos and sandwiches, all of which are made from first-rate organic foods. The coffee’s fabulous, and beer is always on tap.
And The Diner’s expanding. Pneumatic’s downstairs entryway will soon be made into a second serving area, with pastries available for those on the go.
“Exciting times are coming for The Diner," McClendon says.