Wizard of lunch
A few years ago, I was introduced to the part of Reno where the beautiful people live, eat and do business. Glowing with upscale boutiques, bourgeois cafes and high-priced eateries, I might classify the bustling section of town on West McCarran Boulevard between Mayberry Drive and West Plumb Lane as shamelessly yuppie. But, as happens to many a regular customer at such establishments as Buenos Grill and Walden’s Coffeehouse, I got hooked. In fact, the Americanized steak burrito at Buenos became the hands-down highlight of my otherwise monotonous week. It became obvious why these stylish yet unpretentious businesses thrive: They do it better.
On a recent cruise around west Reno looking for a new stop, my girlfriend, Jen, and I stumbled upon Emerald City Cafe, about a half-mile south of Buenos on West McCarran. Like Buenos, this relatively high-priced and chic-yet- mellow spot proved to be a winner.
Unlike at other similar venues around town, the fantasy artwork on the walls begs to inspire its patrons. Bold quotes painted around the room include Gandhi’s words, “We must be the change we want to see in the world,” and, “Do you want your tea now … or would you like to have your adventure first?” from Peter Pan. The service is low-maintenance but comfortable. You order and pay at the front, the food is delivered to your table, a receipt is delivered after you eat, and you may tip as you like.
My girlfriend and I agreed that the entire staff was good-looking, from the beautiful brunette behind the counter who also served the food to the young man who bussed our table. I don’t know if it’s a code to be followed in this neighborhood, but that seems to be the case with many restaurants around this part of Reno.
But, enough about that. On with business. After all, the grub was our real reason for visiting Emerald City. We started out with specialty caffeinated drinks, since they seem to be a draw at Emerald City. The drinks put Starbucks to shame. In addition to typical coffees, teas and mochas, sweltering-summer-day concoctions such as the ice-blended Heath mocha ($3.25) and the frozen hot chocolate ($3.25) are done right. It is all too common to get an iced drink completely watered-down and bland, but the frozen mocha and “hot” chocolate were rich and flavorful to the last slurp.
For food, I ordered the nutty chicken croissant ($8.50), a croissant sliced in two, loaded with shredded chicken, cashews, mayonnaise, an assortment of herbs, some large chunks of lettuce and a slice of tomato. The menu offered the sandwich without nuts, but I found they provided a pleasant crunchiness. On the side was a fat helping of pesto pasta salad with pine nuts.
Jen ordered the Queen Anne panini ($8.95): hickory smoked turkey, mozzarella, sun-dried tomato, pesto, red onion, tomato and fresh spinach on grilled focaccia bread. The portion was loaded. Jen, who usually has a solid appetite, could only finish about half. The entire meal was fresh-as-could-be and very tasty.
Emerald City Cafe, while slightly expensive, is a great summer catch for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon coffee break.