This is a summer of change here in Reno. Everywhere we look we see roads getting re-paved and redone, new neighborhoods going up, new apartment complexes, and new businesses galore. It is now a common experience for us to note several new restaurants, bars or shops anytime we hit an area we haven’t been in a little while. Each one of us is part of this great, collective restart that people are experiencing nationally, even globally, after COVID-19 put a pause on life as we knew it for a good while.
As we fling wide our gates to welcome the surge of new folks that chose during or after the pandemic to make a new home in our beloved Reno, Nevada, I can see this challenge from bestselling author and speaker Dave Hollis coming to fruition: “In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to?”
So, it is in that spirit of giving those who live here and those considering it the lay of the land, I share 5 of the exceptional local spots to find great burgers and 5 to find exceptional sweet treats. Got to have your priorities when checking out a city, yeah?
Brewers Cabinet – BC Signature Burger
As if they didn’t have us at onion ring, white cheddar and applewood bacon on this burger, add an order of “Bandito Fries” or an order of their sweet potato fries and it is worth a cheat day and then some! In fact, this whole list is worth a cheat day, if you are on a low carb, Whole 30, Keto-ish kick like many are. Better to indulge when it is truly worth it than to deny yourself and crash and burn. In everything, balance, right?!
Brewers Cabinet is a local gem with indoor and outdoor seating and a Taproom next door that also serves food. If you are a beer fan, try your burger with a Dirty Wookie, their flagship Imperial Brown Ale that is so loved, it has an annual 10K named after it. And yes, there are generally at least a few doing the race dressed up as Chewie.
The Whispering Vine on 4th – Monday Burgers & Veggie Burgers
There is a reason the parking lot at The Whispering Vine is always hoppin’- they do what they do well. The quality of the food at this restaurant is of such high standard, you may join me in realizing just how much the food you have had in the past struggles. Each ingredient chosen for these burgers demonstrates a deliberate, well thought out endeavor, as that is just how things roll over at the Whispering Vine. Be sure to check out their special Monday Burger menu featuring 5 different burgers to choose from, if you get the chance! Stop by any day and try their Whispering Vine Gourmet Angus Burger or their Veggie Burger and choose a flight of wines to go with! Make sure to try one of their sides too – Truffle Tater Tots with House Buttermilk Dipping Sauce, French Fries, or Onion Rings (Monday Only).
Brasserie Saint James – Brasserie Burger
Great atmosphere including a rooftop patio. I’m quite certain you could close your eyes and select something on the menu and be satisfied with your choice. Order your burger with one of their signature cocktails that are hand-crafted with quirky, fun names like the “Molly Ringwald” and the “Jungle Boogie”. Damn, now my brain is having a battle of earworms between the theme to The Breakfast Club and “Get down, get down..get down, get down..” I digress. Onto the next burger!
Burger Me! – BBQ Bison Burger
Sometimes it’s a day to go with the Brioche Bun, sometimes they have Pretzel Buns and others maybe it is a day to knife and fork it without the bun. This is a delicious burger to add a fried egg to, as well as, to order alongside their tasty sweet potato fries. There are several locations to choose from with one in Northwest Reno, another in South Reno in The Summit area, and then there is the original location over in Truckee. And just in case you haven’t tried Bison, it is not gamey, tough or weird tasting. Plus, not only does it contain significantly less fat, calories, and cholesterol, it actually contains higher amounts of protein, iron and vitamin B-12 than beef, pork, chicken and salmon!
Butcher’s Kitchen Char-B-Que – The Meat Hook Burger
Brisket topped with brisket?! My biggest regret with The Butcher’s Kitchen is that I didn’t find it sooner! The Butcher’s Kitchen calls their style “CHAR-B-QUE” which translates to a wood-fired, slow BBQ, Rotisserie & open char pit. So yummy that it caught the attention of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives”, who dropped by to feature them recently. They feature a ton of great choices for sides, but let me leave you with this thought: cheddar, pepper jack bechamel mac&cheese. Yes, folks, you read that right, they got game.
The Sweet Treats
Scoopers – Milkshakes
The combinations are ENDLESS! This 40+ year Reno institution allows you to be a mixologist with your shake. My current favorite shake is: Hot Fudge-Marshmallow-Peanut Butter. Everyone has their perfect mix and everyone leaves with it just the way they like it. Scoopers has a location in Sparks and one in Reno as well. If you find yourself needing a beverage to go with it, they are the only restaurant, fast food or otherwise, in town that I know of that sells ice cold bottles of Sprecher’s Root Beer. So. Good.
Rolled Mountain Creamery – Peanut Butter Bombs and Custom Creations
When U.S. Marine Dillon Vance got back from his deployment in Asia, he decided to bring the ice cream roll style he had seen the street vendors of Thailand do to Reno. The result is the experience that is Rolled Mountain Creamery. You choose your base-either Cow’s Milk locally sourced from Nevada dairy farms or Coconut Milk, a lactose free Vegan option imported from Thailand. Next you select your flavor from the pre-selected Menu of choices or do a custom creation. Watching them make the ice cream rolls is fun and you even have the choice of using chopsticks to eat your treat (trust me it is simpler than a spoon in this case). Though my favorite is the Peanut Butter Bomb, there is not a bad choice here. OOH-RAH, Mr. Vance, nice work and thank you for your service! I have now tried several places who attempt Thai rolled ice cream and none of them are close to the taste and quality of Rolled Mountain. In addition to their first location in downtown Reno, check out their new location at The Village at Rancharrah. If you are current or former military, ask about the discount!
Rounds Bakery – #NotaCronut
God bless Reno’s own Rounds Bakery for bringing the #notacronut to the Biggest Little City, they truly are the stuff dreams are made of. Back in 2013, I was one of the many who dreamed of getting to go all the way to the original bakery in New York who invented, made famous, and then famously trademarked their “Cronut”. Inspired by the “cease and desist” letter they received from said bakery when they attempted to make their own version of the pastry, Rounds Bakery added the “#NotaCronut” to their menu and the rest is history. The toppings vary, but the deliciousness does not. Such a fun treat!
Doughboys Donuts and Holey Schmidt! Donuts
I cannot mention doughnut like pastries without giving a nod to both Doughboys and Holey Schmidt! Donuts. Why?
Doughboys is not only consistent to do all that they do excellently, but unlike the majority of donut places I have been to in my entire life, their fluffy, soft raised donuts are properly glazed AND THEN topped with icing. No more of that dry, tasteless underside that one endures to get a bite with enough icing to compensate. The star, for me, is their Cinnamon Crumb Raised Donut that is impossible to not make a mess with (think Nature Valley Bar status here) and worth every crumb that makes that mess. I take all friends visiting by to try one.
Holey Schmidt! style is a different donut altogether. For those who have fond memories of visiting Voodoo Donuts in the Pacific Northwest, they too are known for their donuts with imaginative, colorful and yummy topping choices. Set up next to Reno’s Discovery Children’s Museum in Midtown (stroke of genius move there), their selection is a delight for the brain and a playful nod to the children in all of us. “Fruity Pebbles”, “Center St. Mudpie” and “Cookie Monster” to name a few. The selection is always a good time, a feast for the eyes and the tummy!
Num Num Boba – Mango Sweet Rice, S’mores Bubble Wrap Egg Waffle, and Thai Tea with Boba and Coffee Jelly
It is a near impossibility these days to avoid hearing family, friends or co-workers talking about “boba”. Though some have been enjoying bubble tea for many years, it seems there are still many who’ve never given it a try. Num Num Boba, open 12-8pm daily, has come out of the gates in this niche market with the brilliant idea of not only having a dizzying amount of boba-related choices to try, but also selling items like Bubble Wrap Egg Waffles, Fruit Teas and Smoothies for those who are a little less adventurous. The brightly colored drinks with multi-flavored pops, boba and jelly mixed in push the envelope of out of the box possibilities Reno has to offer when you decide to indulge in a sweet treat!
This is absolutely only the tip of the iceberg of the burgers and sweet treats to check out in Reno, which is why you did NOT see it labeled a “Best of” list. The Reno/Sparks area gets more diverse every day in terms of our ever-expanding music, food, retail, and art scene. Long gone are the days of being limited to greasy spoon diners and rundown casino buffets. That stereotype of Reno is not only dated, but really got it wrong in the first place. Reno is at an exciting time full of possibility and change. If you already live here, maybe there are some of these you have yet to try? If you live outside Reno, don’t hesitate to drop by for a weekend to try some of the burgers and treats on this list. The only risk you take in trying these and taking in the unexpected beauty of the city is having to deal with the issue of not wanting to leave!
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About the Author
Lexi King is a wife and a mom of 2 teens and a new Marine. She has been Executive Assistant to a Reno area CEO for almost a decade and is the writer/creator of the lifestyle blog, Rhythm&Rubbish: One wise-ish mom to another: Finding joy in the tension between the daily routines we embrace (the rhythms) and the unexpected nonsense we endure (the rubbish). Her dream is to travel, to share stories, to write, and to make a living doing all 3.
Follow along with us each month for Lexi’s special “Tips from a Local” review – featured exclusively on WorkLivePlayRenoTahoe.com