A guide to Truckee Meadows international cuisine
There are a lot of people from a lot of places across the globe cooking delicious food in the Truckee Meadows. Many of them are descended from folks who left their own countries during times of turmoil and came to the United States to start new lives. And it’s interesting to consider how much better their presence has made life—and food—in Reno. Use this guide as an introduction to international cuisine coming out of dining rooms a little closer to home.
Zagol, 3314 S. McCarran Blvd., is Reno’s only restaurant dedicated to African cuisine. Owner Shita Yenenh opens the restaurant for dinner service Tuesday through Saturday starting at 4 p.m. She serves up authentic dishes from her native Ethiopia in hearty portions, which patrons eat with spongy, sour injera flatbread in lieu of utensils. Yenenh’s recipes include lamb, beef, chicken and vegetarian dishes. Mesir Wat—a dish comprised of split lentils cooked with onion, ginger and garlic and seasoned with chili powder—is a particular treat.
Zagol also offers several varieties of Ethiopian beer, as well as an Ethiopian honey wine called “tej.” It’s made with the hops-like leaves and twigs of the gesho shrub but tastes like apples and honey.
The restaurant is filled with Ethiopian décor. Decorative home goods are among the things she brings back with her from sporadic trips to her birthplace. She also imports music videos for popular Ethiopian tunes, which she often plays on the restaurants TVs
Pro tip: Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. Go for the Ethiopian whole bean coffee ceremony, available by appointment only.
The Truckee Meadows boasts restaurants offering many varieties of food from Latin countries—not surprising considering more than a quarter of the population are people with roots south of the border.
El Salvador, 517 Forest St., has occupied the same midtown space for nearly two decades and serves up consistently delicious Salvadorian and Mexican food every day of the week. The restaurants’ thick corn pupusas are delicious, stuffed with beans or pork or the flowers of the Mesoamerican loroco vine. But the rice flour pupusas are really something else—slightly sweet and also savory, chewy but somehow crispy.
Sabor Latin Cuisine, 585 E. Moana Lane, has been open for two months and serves up dishes from multiple South American countries—primarily Peru, Mexico and Argentina. Owner Rual Contreras is from Peru. His wife is from Mexico. And he has friends from countries from Brazil to Ecuador.
On the menu, dishes range from things like parrilla de Argentina (a platter of grilled chicken, pork, steak and sausages) to carnitas tacos and ceviche.
Pro tip: At Sabor, Contreras is considering a weekly special to introduce new types of cuisine to his patrons. He said he’s considering some kind of Brazilian dish to start.
When it comes to Indian cuisine, the Truckee Meadows is not lacking options. There’s Taste of India, Royal India, Thali, Bawarchi, India Kabab & Curry, Flavors of India, and Maya’s South Indian Cuisine—just to name a few.
For vegetarians, Thali, 148 West St., is a good option. Located in the West Street Market, it serves up an all-vegetarian fixed menu with different kinds of vegetable curries, raita, rice pilaf, lentil dishes, chutneys and dessert. Thali’s cuisine is largely North Indian, but another restaurant in the same space—Maya’s—offers Southern Indian cuisine. Thali is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, while Maya’s serves lunch between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
Among the other Indian restaurants in the valley, Royal India, 575 Keystone Ave., is a standout with a large menu comprised of vegetarian, chicken, beef, goat, seafood and lamb dishes. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner and offers 11 varieties of naan bread, including one stuffed with cheese and another with cauliflower.
Pro tip: Try Royal India’s Gulab Jamun—fried cheese balls soaked in honey syrup. You can get them served warm or cold.
Sushi often comes to mind first when people think of Japanese cuisine—and in the Truckee Meadows, all-you-can-eat sushi joints are a staple. But there are also a few restaurants in the valley offering up expanded Japanese options.
Uchi Ramen, 400 W. Fifth St., serves up a variety of small plates in addition to ramen bowls. One standout is the bacon quail egg skewers: soft-boiled eggs wrapped in crisp bacon and finished with a flambe torch.
Kauboi Izakaya, 1286 S. Virginia St., is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday starting at 5 p.m. The restaurant’s specialty is yakitori—chicken grilled over a charcoal fire in the Japanese tradition. The varieties served at Kauboi Izakaya are made from different parts of the chicken, including breast, wing, heart and thigh—plus chicken meatballs called tsukune.
Pro tip: Kauboi Izakaya roughly translates to “cowboy tavern,” and the restaurant does have a laidback, tavern feel to it, with options for wine, beer, sake and soju (a clear, Korean spirit).
For many years, Bavarian World—595 Valley Road—was the only German restaurant in the Truckee Meadows. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday. The dining room is huge, with tables arranged around a large dance floor that gets a fair amount of use when the restaurant’s owner plays live Bavarian Oompah music on weekend evenings.
Patrons can order a “mass” of beer—a full 33 ounces of beer in a pitcher-sized stein—to accompany their meals. The kaseplatte is a cheese plate served with fresh baked bread. There’s also a platter of grilled sausages served with mustard and a reliably good plate of diced head cheese.
The real treasure of Bavarian World, though, is its bakery and deli. You can go there for six-packs of German beer, deli meats, even the mulling spices to make German Glühwein, which is traditionally served from stalls at Christmas markets across Germany and Austria.
According to Brauhaus 701’s head of marketing Lindsay Carroll, the new midtown restaurant is “German-fusion focused.”
The drink list includes several German beers in different styles, and the menu offers some standards like schnitzel and pretzel. Brauhaus 701 is planning to offer a new jalapeno pretzel, as well as a chocolate variety.
Pro tip: Brauhaus 701’s Polish sausage is delicious, but it’ll give you kielbasa breath from hell.
Really, really good pho is hard to find—but stellar bowls of it and other traditional Vietnamese cuisine come out of the kitchens of two very different establishments.
Viet Pho, 315 E. Moana Lane, is open daily, serving up Vietnamese classics in its small, usually quiet dining room. Pho offerings include all of the standards, from chicken to tripe and tendon. But it’s Viet Pho’s other offerings that make it a standout, especially its bánh mì—a variety of Vietnamese sandwich. Bánh mì are served on large rolls of French bread, a culinary holdover from the years of French occupation of the country.
Golden Flower Vietnamese Restaurant, 205 W. Fifth St., is also open daily—but its larger dining room is rarely quiet. In fact, it tends to get busy during lunch, dinner and late-night dining hours. (The restaurant is open until 2. a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and doesn’t close until midnight during the rest of the week.) The menu is huge, including 25 varieties of pho, but it’s the shrimp and catfish clay pots that are Golden Flower’s real treat.
Pro tip: The service at Golden Flower is known for being curt, or maybe just really efficient—depending on how you look it.
Thai food is another staple in the Truckee Meadows dining scene, offering vegetable-packed, fragrant food that’s generally pretty light and healthy. In Reno, two of the best Thai food options are located only a few blocks apart.
Thai Chili, 1030 S. Virginia St., is a little restaurant inside a bright yellow building that’s open daily. Its red, green and yellow curries are delicious and healthy—but for those who aren’t concerned with their waistlines, it’s the menu’s deep-fried offerings that make it worth a trip.
Try the “Chicken Curry Pop,” a dish with deep-fried bites of chicken coated in tempura and a homemade curry paste, topped with lime leaves and served on top of cabbage.
Just a few blocks south at Bangkok Cuisine—55 Mount Rose St.—a menu specialty is the shrimp Rangoon. According to owner Kris Lueamrung, it’s something his mother came up with after trying crab Rangoon in a Chinese restaurant where she cooked when the family briefly lived in Florida.
“She didn’t like them,” Lueamrung said. “There was not a lot of flavor to them. So she changed them to a shrimp Rangoon.”
When the family came back to Reno and opened Bangkok Cuisine in 1996, she put her shrimp rendition of Rangoon on the menu.
At Bangkok Cuisine, however, the standard red, green and yellow curries really shine. Lueamrung makes them all daily, and the housemade peanut and plum sauces are outstanding.
“We actually take plums and salt them and make our own sauces,” he said.
Pro tip: If you’re a fan of chai tea, try Thai tea. It’s a strong black tea sweetened with condensed milk and flavored with ingredients like cardamom, tamarind and star anise.