Mr. B and I found ourselves in Reno last weekend, cheering on our niece and her club volleyball team as they played to earn a bid to Nationals in June. A four-hour drive was followed by 5 hours of volleyball matches, after which we deemed it necessary to indulge in some decent sustenance.
My first choice would have been to eat at one of the three Charlie Palmer restaurants, not only because we would be assured a good meal, but because they were located in the hotel we were staying in. But, alas, the gun show was in town, meaning the hotel was packed and reservations unavailable. Traveling for the first time in at least 5 years without my laptop, I had no way of investigating local eateries and making an informed decision. Not wanting to eat at the nearby Claim Jumper or a random hotel buffet, I called on Brilliant Daughter to Yelp me some choices.
The two most promising finds were the 4th Street Bistro, a hip localvore eatery that garnered rave reviews and was in the $$$ price range, and a local fave called The Gas Lamp. Also with good reviews, The Gas Lamp hit the $$ price point. What was most intriguing was it was kind of out of the way, frequented by locals, and had one review that stated, “Don’t let the outside appearance fool you.” I learned long ago not to judge a restaurant by its façade, and was now curious as to what it looked like.
Joined by our sister-in-law and fellow volleyball mom Linda, we all agreed we should at least drive by and check it out. Besides, it gave us a chance to cruise down Virginia Street, the main drag and home to the famous “Smallest Big City in the World” sign. Amazing how many tattoo and piercing parlors there are, mingled among the hotels, bars and casinos. Not sure that alcohol-fueled body modifications are a wise idea, but they certainly would serve as a unique souvenir.
Located off Virginia Street, between the downtown and the convention center, The Gas Lamp is in a nice but nondescript stucco building with ample parking and a bright red door. All four of us voted to take a chance and check it out. We were greeted warmly upon entering and the staff quickly set up a table for us.
Seated on eclectic antique chairs around a large antique table, we perused the one-page menu that consisted of starters, soups/salads, and entrees. While the salmon carpaccio and ahi tuna tartare sounded wonderful (and probably much healthier), we opted on the grilled artichoke ($5) and the spicy fries with garlic aioli ($5). The artichoke was cooked perfectly, steamed and grilled, served with a pesto aioli. The only downside—it was only half an artichoke. The fries, however, were plentiful and had a bit of a kick to them. Thin and light, we managed to whittle the pile down to nothing while partaking in witty banter and snarky criticism of the day’s events.
We passed on the soup of the day, homemade roasted tomato, and the choice of three salads, as reviews indicated it worth saving room for dessert. Dinner choices included the house specialty, a 14-ounce pork chop, brined for 24 hours then cross-grilled, and served with a Yukon mash and stuffed baked apple. While we all seriously considered this selection, 14 ounces of pork is way too much to eat in one sitting, so we passed. The adjoining table did order this dish and we all agreed we had pork envy upon seeing it. Still, we opted for lighter fare, with three of having the grilled tilapia with toasted almond rice and grilled asparagus ($18) and Mr. B salivating over the orange-jalapeno prawns, also served with the rice and some very nice al dented French green beans ($19). Also available were two pastas, steelhead trout, rib-eye steak, and a burger.
The tilapia was grilled and had a slight smoky flavor but was moist. The portion was perfect, as was the rice and asparagus. Mr. B enjoyed the prawns, and although they were liberally sprinkled with diced jalapenos, he would have liked a bit more heat. I found them to be just a tad too sweet, but with good flavor overall.
Dessert was the highlight of the meal. The chef rotates desserts ($8) regularly and makes his own ice cream. There is no menu, just a short recitation from Sean, our helpful waiter. The night’s offerings: Black, blue and marionberry crisp with the homemade vanilla ice cream, pineapples Foster, and a triple chocolate brownie (no nuts) served with the same vanilla ice cream. Needless to say we ordered one of each for the table.
I’m not a fan of bananas, so I’ve never ordered bananas Foster (although Mr. B loves it), but this twist on an old standard was divine and clearly my favorite of the evening. Two moderate sized scoops of vanilla ice cream topped by the sautéed and carmelized fresh pineapple and finished with toasted coconut. Yummy to my tummy, really. The berry crisp drew rave reviews from all and was the fave of my three dining companions. My sister-in-law was ready to come back and have it for breakfast…and lunch…and dinner. The brownie was generous with hunks of chocolate throughout. The sweetness and dense chocolate flavor was cut by a scoop of the chef’s ice cream. Nothing spectacular but enjoyable nonetheless.
The Gas Lamp has a one-page wine list with several single glass options (most $7-10), as well as a full bar.
4 people – 2 apps – 4 entrees – 3 desserts – 2 ice teas – 1 glass merlot – 1 tequila = $126 + tip. I would highly recommend trying this local eatery, both for the pleasant staff and good, fresh food.
Gas Lamp Cafe & Bar
101 East Pueblo Street, Reno, NV
Wednesday – Sunday: 4 to midnite