PHOTO/TODD SOUTH: Does Kwok's Bistro have the best Chinese food in town? The owner is a James Beard Award finalist.

The Northern Nevada food scene has expanded tremendously in recent years. I love to explore the diversity of dining options—but there are still cuisines and food specialties we don’t have.

Therefore, I decided to poll some fellow foodies on social media to start a conversation.

The lack of proper Jewish and Italian delis got mentioned quite a bit. It does seem odd that the best option for tongue sandwich, knish or matzo ball soup is inside the Atlantis Casino Resort. Michael’s Deli also serves potato knishes and a “mile high” pastrami sandwich. Liberty Food and Wine Exchange produces some very good housemade salumi and other Italian treats, including my favorite squid ink seafood pasta and gnocchi.

Speaking of Italian, some felt that our local options are lacking. I’m no expert, but I’ve enjoyed many servings of fresh pasta, cioppino and pizza of nearly every style. (I could write an entire article on pizza alone!) The Kitchen Table is a well-received new favorite, with dishes such as ravioli uovo. Smiling With Hope Pizza produces a thin-crust pie that has won national attention—but don’t leave without a fresh-piped cannoli or signature cannoli sandwich.

My Czech grandmother’s cooking was my introduction to central and eastern European dishes. Wiener schnitzel and Austrian potato salad were picnic food. Von Bismarck serves an elevated biergarten take on schnitzel and spaetzle, and Bazaar European has the best—and perhaps only—borscht, blinchiki and pelmeni in town. The chef at Kaffe Crepe is Slovenian, mixing her European recipes with twists provided by her Mexican husband. The result is memorable.

The Cajun/creole flavors of New Orleans and the bayou make a bit of an appearance on local menus, but some of the best poboys and beignets have come and gone. Etouffee? Please tell me where. We do have a few decent examples of barbecue, but for soul food, M&M’s Southern Cafe is your best bet.

What was the No. 1 thing mentioned as missing? “A real dim sum restaurant.” Dim sum is a Cantonese tradition translated as “touch the heart,” and consists of a variety of steamed and fried dumplings, buns and other small bites that make for a meal when combined. The best local option is weekend High Tea Dim Sum at Rice Box Kitchen. Reservations recommended.

PHOTO/TODD SOUTH: Siu Korean BBQ.

Korean barbecue finally came to town! “Banchan” side dishes are served with a variety of raw meats and veggies, which are cooked by the diner on a grill at the table. Reno now has two such places that I know of, and Siu Korean BBQ is my favorite. Korean-inspired eateries serving varieties of bibimbap, bulgogi, etc. have made their mark, with Arario Midtown being a standout.

Vietnamese pho and Japanese ramen are endlessly discussed. I’ve sampled most in the area, and 999 Pho is among the best, with excellent broth and generous portions. Haru and Kauboi Izakaya both serve up very good ramen and other really interesting Japanese items.

Some folks decry Reno/Sparks/Carson City all-you-can-eat sushi, but I’m a stalwart fan. Though it’s tough to suggest just one place, Hinoki never disappoints.

I’m not alone in declaring Kwok’s Bistro as the best Chinese food in town; owner Kwok Chen is a James Beard Award semi-finalist, after all. Current takeout favorites include The Wok and O’A Chinese Food. Shanghai Bistro offers hot pot and a menu of authentic fare for the more adventurous. When it comes to Thai food, we’re blessed to have many options, but Thai Lotus, Moo Dang, and The Basil in Carson City are tops in my book.

Middle Eastern and Mediterranean get frequent mention. We briefly had a couple Moroccan options and a fully Persian place I enjoyed while it lasted. Suri’s Mediterranean is my choice for Lebanese shawarma, dolma and hummus, with Persian tea and ice cream of special note. Niko’s Greek Kitchen has the gyro, spanakopita and moussaka you’re looking for. Aladdin’s Market and Kitchen has lots to offer, including baba ganoush and ingredients for Mediterranean home cooking.

For sub-Saharan cuisine, we have one great option: Zagol Ethiopian Cuisine. it’s a must-visit for delicious food served on injera bread, and the most amazing coffee preparation from the motherland of the bean.

We don’t have any true Spanish options—though a few spots feature paella—so the main Iberian influence is Basque. If you seek paella and seven varieties of housemade chorizo, Villa Basque Café in Carson City is pretty great. For Basque-American family-style dining, I recommend J.T. Basque in Gardnerville. It offers great food, served in an historic building loaded with local color.

Caribbean food is oft-mentioned, and we have very little of it. Sporadic attempts at sandwich Cubano notwithstanding, where is the Cuban ropa vieja, Puerto Rican mofongo, Jamaican jerk chicken, Dominican sancocho, and Haitian soup joumou?

Salvadoran pupusas arrived in Reno a couple of decades ago, and now they’re at many Mexican taquerias. But La Santaneca in Carson City has a menu with mostly Salvadoran options; I recommend the el tipico plate for a proper sampling. Churrasco is our lone Brazilian steakhouse, exceptional enough to survive having opened in February 2020. Sabor serves up a variety of Peruvian and Argentinian specialties, mixed in with Mexican items. I wholeheartedly recommend the beef heart anticuchos.

Perhaps the only Portuguese-influenced items available are included on Hawaiian and Filipino menus. For Hawaiian, there are a few options, but I highly recommend Aloha Shack, with first-rate loco moco, lau lau, kalua pork and “Shack Chicken.” Poke bowls now abound, with Bluefin Poke being among the best. Isla de Manila has some tasty Filipino pancit, sisig and lumpia. My wife loved the dinuguan—pork blood stew—though “chocolate meat” is not for me.

With Indian and related cuisines, we’ve had quite a few come and go. I was hooked by my first taste of murgh makhani, saag paneer and naan 30 years ago. Taste of India, Royal India, and Haveli Indian Cuisine are favorites, with Thali and Maya’s South Indian Cuisine providing excellent vegetarian and vegan options.

Mexican munchies are my default comfort food, a broad category with regional variations. I get frustrated with comments like, “We don’t have any good Mexican food.” Surely out of the dozens available, there’s one you’ll enjoy. Chavelita’s Cocina Mexicana is one of my favorite take-out taquerias, followed by Anna’s Mexican Grill, and La Posada Real for a sit-down family meal. Carlillos Cocina’s Mexican brunch is worth the wait for a counter stool. All of Mari Chuy’s locations are splendid, each a bit different. Carniceria La Chiquita Meat Market and Deli packs a lot of deliciousness into a small space, as does Carniceria Dos Amigos.

I could go on and on about every Mexican place I love in the area—but I won’t.

Todd South

Todd South is a writer, foodie, tech geek, history/science buff, singer-songwriter, grandfather and desk jockey. He and his family cook, bake, tell stories and make music together—often at the same time.

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