The Most Exciting Restaurants in Reno Right Now
Get a taste of Northern Nevada with 15 top dining spots.
Reno has seen its share of struggles during the pandemic, but is now regaining its footing as a city on the rise. There are plenty of cool things to do in this charming mountain community and one of them is taking full advantage of the dining scene. Reno may be a casino town, but the top restaurants aren't dominated by the whims of hotel executives or celebrity chefs. Most are family-owned businesses that earn customers from the ground up via word of mouth. So use the following list as a jumping-off point for discovering the diversity of flavors and experiences in Northern Nevada's largest city.
Mari Chuy's Tequileria y Botanas
Mari Chuy's is a Mexican restaurant with locations in Midtown, Sparks, and the airport, but if you can only pick one, go with Mari Chuy's Tequileria y Botanas in the new Rancharrah outdoor park. It's a higher end spin on the concept, modeled after the social scene of Mexico City, where plates are meant to be shared and agave spirits flow freely. The mushroom tacos are hung from a "clothesline" in a fun tableside presentation, but it's the portobello stuffing of garlic, onions, and parmesan cheese that gets the most attention. Seafood plays a major role, whether it's the Tuna Ceviche, scallops sauteed in tequila and serrano chile, or a Grilled Red Snapper in olives, capers, and tomatoes. The bar is the centerpiece of the dining room with more than 360 tequilas (and a few small-batch mezcals) on standby, often presented in flights or sampled during tasting events on the patio. The in-house team personally selects the agave spirits and is eager to share the history and background on each one.
How to book: Call 775-409-3178 to inquire about reservations.
Smith and River
Smith and River is the latest endeavor by chef Colin Smith, who operates Roundabout Catering (and a few other projects, including cafes at the Art Museum and Tesla gigafactory) with wife MaryBeth. The restaurant opened over the summer, taking over the old Campo space with a large patio overlooking the Truckee River. Thoroughly renovated, the place looks brand new with warmer earth tones, green and copper accents, and bright waves of natural light. All the kitchen equipment was replaced too, while keeping the wood-fired oven for pizzas and artichokes. By preparing everything from scratch, including breads and pastas, Smith is able to keep dishes affordable. Not one entree is above $30. The menu evolves seasonally based on the availability of local ingredients, but you can always count on a Roasted Organic Half-Chicken and a vibrant Shrimp and Chorizo Rigatoni year round. The signature Butter Lettuce Salad is made with peaches, pecans, and crispy brioche in the summer, and apples, pears, pomegranates, and granola during winter.
How to book: Book a reservation online.
Wonder Ale Works
It's almost impossible to fully experience Reno without diving headfirst into the city's lauded craft beer scene. Wonder Aleworks, a relative newcomer, is doing everything right under the vision of founder Nick Fischella, who helped make Banger Brewing one of the top breweries in Las Vegas. He brought in local favorite Adam Lundy as head brewer, putting together a fierce lineup of core beers (like the Lawn Chair Balloonist Hazy IPA) and seasonal specials brewed on site. A new Irish stout is aged in bourbon barrels from Northern Nevada's own Frey Ranch. If you're not sipping on one of at least 14 beers on tap, try the house sangria or a draft cocktail. The food offers an exceptional take on classic brewhouse bites. The "tachos" are nachos, but with tater tots instead of chips, served with beer cheese, pico, and "wonder sauce" (similar to avocado crema). They're great alongside the house-breaded mozzarella sticks, bratwurst marinated in Wonder Aleworks' own amber ale, or a Cuban sandwich with slow-roasted pork, thin-sliced ham, and telera rolls from a local Mexican bakery.
How to book: Just walk on in. You can always call 775-384-6632 to ask questions or inquire about private events.
Estella is a modern taqueria in a brick building once home to a blacksmith and wagon shop. It's now part of The Jesse, a minimalist, six-room boutique hotel with a large courtyard for patrons to enjoy their food. It's an engaging space with plants, tables, and overhead string lights to beautifully illuminate the scene after sundown. Have your cameras ready. The bar serves an exceptional collection of Mexican spirits. Mezcal is the focus and tequila is well-represented, but less-familiar options like sotol and raicilla are in stock as well. The tacos are stacked with local produce for a fresh, crisp taste. The al pastor taco is especially rewarding with the sweetness of pineapple complimenting the tangy heat of guajillo peppers. Tortilla chips are served with a trio of salsas that change regularly based on seasonal ingredients.
How to book: No reservations. Just show up and hope a table is free.
The concept at Fourk Kitchen is simple. The restaurant serves a four-course prix-fixe menu that changes by the month—for just $54 per person. There's just one 24-person seating each night and the restaurant is only open four nights a week. The experience begins with happy hour at 5:30 pm, followed by dinner at 6:30 pm. The Fourk Kitchen team guides guests through each course, offering details on how the dishes are prepared. There are no rules. The first two dishes can be a soup and salad—or perhaps something fun like Baked Mac n' Cheese with ranch and bacon. The third course is usually a steak or meat dish followed by dessert to wrap things up. The recipes, selected during a taste test among employees four times a year, are designed with simplicity in mind, allowing the natural flavors of the ingredients to emerge effortlessly.
How to book: Book a reservation well in advance on the restaurant's website.
Rice Box Kitchen
Perapol Damnernpholkul, the brains behind Rice Box Kitchen, is responsible for a tight, efficient menu of Thai-inspired cuisine based on family recipes. The idea is to pack as much flavor as possible into an eco-friendly to-go box. You can always stick around and enjoy the meal in an intimate dining room with the owner's profile playfully illustrated on a wall mural. The Khao Mun Gai is a serving of coconut-ginger rice, topped with slices of poached chicken, and a soy chili sauce. The same meat is used in a Thai-style chicken noodle soup. The menu expands dramatically on Saturday with elaborate specials—most notably tamales in red curry sauce and Char Siu Bao (barbecue pork) wrapped in a pastry-like dough. Sunday is exclusively dim sum.
How to book: Order on the spot for dine-in or to-go.
Von Bismarck is full of charm and character, operating inside an old renovated gas station with two patios and an outdoor grill. The menu of German and Eastern European cuisine takes tradition seriously, but is given a fresh set of eyes by chef Scott Arm. Much of the seating is communal, but don't worry. It's the kind of place where you'll make new friends in no time at all. It's hard to resist the wood-fired flavor of the Schwenkbraten (pork steak), a rotating selection of brats, or even the house-fermented sauerkraut. Choose from three different kinds of schnitzel, including a playful variation with yellowfin tuna. No matter what, begin with the soft pretzel and salt-roasted beets—both served with quark, a creamy sour cheese. As expected, there's an impressive selection of European beer with glasses served in a wheel for larger groups, but the low-intervention wines are also worth your attention.
How to book: Call 775-622-3687 to book a reservation.
The top fine-dining restaurant at the Atlantis casino takes inspiration from Northern California’s style and sophistication. There's a heavy emphasis on seasonal, organic ingredients and the wine list is one of the strongest in Reno. The dining room is bright and energetic with an open kitchen and sky-colored rotundas. Before you worry about the food, begin with the wine. Bistro Napa has a 4,000 bottle wine cellar with a private dining room and tasting area. There's a strong emphasis on California labels, but regions throughout the world are well represented. A wood-fired oven is put to good use, whether it's a nice selection of flatbreads or the corn used in the jumbo lump crab chowder. The 28-day dry-aged steaks from Allen Brothers in Chicago are served with fingerling potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Visit the restaurant's lounge for one of the best happy hours in Reno with discounts on appetizers and 40 glasses of wine.
How to book: Book a reservation online.
Beline Carniceria & Deli
A small and simple operation, Beline is a tidy retail shop with a meat counter that quietly serves some of the best Mexican street food in Reno, prompting a growing number of fans from throughout the city to make the drive to its far north valley location. It's all about the tortas—traditional Mexican sandwiches prepared with a variety of marinated meats (steak, chicken, chorizo, or ham) on golden telera bread. Side orders of menudo or birria are available on Saturdays and Sundays. Wash it all down with a bottle of Mexican Coke.
How to book: Come in, do a little grocery shopping, and order at the counter. You can also call ahead (775-657-8683) for pickup.
Kwok Chen worked his way up from bussing tables at a casino to attending culinary school and eventually owning and operating his own restaurant. Kwok's Bistro—just two blocks west of the Reno Arch—feels even more miniscule in the shadow of the old Downtown casinos, but the front courtyard opens up for extra seating when the weather allows it. Kwok's Bistro does especially well with Chinese tourists and Panasonic employees who take a nearby shuttle to their Sparks facility. Yeah, you can have sweet and sour chicken if you want, but the goal here is to expose customers to traditional Cantonese cuisine, including clay pot stews and whole roasted fish. While some fine dining restaurants charge a mortgage payment for Peking Duck, Kwok's version competes with the very best for a fraction of the price—prepped at least two days in advance, dry hung with a spice rub, and roasted for a candy-like skin.
How to book: Reservations are strongly encouraged by calling 775-507-7270.
Liberty Food & Wine Exchange
After founding and selling off Campo, Mark Estee answered back with Liberty Food & Wine Exchange just one block away. The restaurant's modern image is balanced by the rustic appeal of the menu with vintage wallpaper and black-and-white photos that tip a hat to celebrity culture. A few tables are squeezed into a tight outdoor patio. Estee's commitment to Nevada farms and ranches is felt throughout his dishes with a heavy focus on meats and pastas. There's a wood-fired oven for locally sourced vegetables and pizza made from 72-hour fermented dough. The downstairs market and butcher shop is responsible for charcuterie, sausages, breads, and pastries. An eclectic wine list is always expanding, but seasonal changes carry over to cocktails prepared with house-made syrups, shrubs, and garnishes.
How to book: Book a reservation via the restaurant's website or order online for pickup.
Chef Bill Gilbert is from Maine, where he grew up immersed in the French-Canadian culture that later influenced his culinary preferences at Beaujolais Bistro. The food is ingredient-driven with extensive prep work. Gilbert likes to celebrate the comradery that's associated with great food, which is why the restaurant consciously avoids a stuffy dining room in favor of a contemporary brick and glass design. When the weather is nice, tables are brought out onto the porch and a grassy front yard underneath string lights and tree branches—just steps away from the rushing waters of the Truckee River. You'll find a few French staples—Escargot, French Onion Soup, Steak Frites—to draw in casual crowds, but the menu also ventures into more adventurous territory with sweetbreads, braised lamb shoulder, or duck breast enhanced with dried curry spice, vadouvan, and caramelized pineapple.
How to book: Book a reservation via the restaurant's website.
Charlie Palmer Steak
The signature steakhouse at the Grand Sierra Resort is probably the closest Reno comes to having a standard-issue celebrity chef restaurant. Charlie Palmer Steak is really designed to make fine dining accessible for the casino crowd with an environment that effectively utilizes an open layout, modern decor, and a colorful blend of deep color schemes. The place is far from intimidating, but still feels like an event. Palmer's attention to detail and preference for Midwest cattle is seen throughout the menu with daily operations left in the hands of executive chef Michael Mahoney. Prime certified angus beef is cooked hot and fast on a Montague top-down broiler, trapping in the juices while producing the right amount of char. The cuts are topped with the restaurant's own salt blend of about 30 ingredients, including fleur de sel, white pepper, garlic, celery seed, and paprika. The house potato chips, fried at the beginning of every shift, playfully complement the powerful hunks of beef.
How to book: Reserve a table online via OpenTable.
No, the name isn't short for "What's up?" It's pronounced "soup" because that's the specialty here. The restaurant makes about 60 to 70 gallons of the stuff each day with a selection that rotates frequently. The idea got off the ground when the husband and wife behind the venture began inviting friends over to try their homemade pots of soup. The passion carried over officially to Süp in a 1920s-era Midtown space with a large outdoor wooden deck underneath string lights. Chicken noodle, tomato bisque, broccoli cheddar, and chicken tortilla are the staples, but you always get loaded baked potato on Monday and New England clam chowder on Friday. Anything else is fair game, including intriguing global recipes like West African peanut stew or Colombian Ajiaco. No matter what you order, the recipes tend to be simple but flavorful—with no overwhelming heaviness. Beer, wine, sandwiches, and salads are thrown in to round out the menu, but every dressing, sauce, and stock is made in house. The steak baguette is just as good with chimichurri or roasted red pepper horseradish. Bring your dog.
How to book: Just walk in, but know that seats fill up fast. You can always order online for pickup.
LuLou's doesn't have much of a website, isn't big on social media, and the tickets are written by hand, but the restaurant is sharp and modern—in both look and feel. The dining room makes an immediate impression with an open kitchen, industrial decor, and a rotating collection of artwork on loan from local galleries. It's a formula that's worked for more than 20 years. LuLou's was born from a desire to prove Reno was ready for something more than steak and potatoes. The restaurant opened in Midtown before Midtown was a thing, reinvesting every dime into luxuries like a walk-in refrigerator and eventually, an expanded bar area. Some things are kept simple. There's a wine list, but no cocktail menu (ask for a classic or whatever the server recommends). The food lineup changes roughly every month and often features game like boar, venison, or squab. There's little in the way of fusion. Global and regional influences are approached with tradition, but that doesn't mean the dishes aren't playful. A tempura shrimp-stuffed chili relleno where the spiciness is balanced by grapefruit and microgreens is one great example.
How to book: Book a reservation via OpenTable.