Best Café to Get Some Work Done
Walden’s Coffeehouse, 3940 Mayberry Drive, Reno
Those of us who work remotely know the critical importance of a good local coffeehouse.
Not just any coffeehouse will do. First, you must have food—and not just a few paltry pastries. I mean legit, hunker-down-for-several-hours-and-eat-two-full-meals food. Second, the coffeehouse needs electrical outlets—many, and easily accessible. There should, of course, be good, free wi-fi, not to mention plenty of places to sit.
If you have these things, I’ll be your fan for life and will undoubtedly spend a lot of money with you. For these reasons and more, I’m a fan for life of Walden’s Coffeehouse—the O.G. location in West Reno.
The food is outstanding, from great bagels and cream cheese, to full-on egg and pancake breakfasts, to French dip sandwiches, to turkey chili—a heavenly concoction topped with cheese, red onions and crisp bacon; it’s probably my favorite chili in town. The wi-fi is free and not timed, and most every table is at or near a window—plus there’s a roomy patio. And I can always find an electrical outlet. With all this, Walden’s is hard to beat.
Best Citizen Journalist
Reno historian Alicia Barber didn’t set out to be a journalist—yet she became a watchdog regarding historic preservation and the progress of new development in Reno.
While media outlets cut budgets and decrease coverage, Barber digs deep into documents, monitors Planning Commission/City Council agendas, and contextualizes debates and decisions that will chart the area’s growth for generations. Her Barber Brief and newsletter inform residents about what’s going on behind the scenes. With the thoroughness of a historian and the curiosity of a reporter, she delivers well-researched and insightful reports about official actions and trends that otherwise would fly beneath the public’s radar. As developers squeeze maximum profits out of their projects, Barber reports without pay, because she cares about the future of the Truckee Meadows and the public’s right to know.
She also is co-founder of Reno Historical, a smart-phone app and website dedicated to Reno’s history, and she is the author of Reno’s Big Gamble: Image and Reputation in the Biggest Little City. She knows the city—and she gets the scoops.
—Frank X. Mullen
Best Coverage of the Homeless
Our Town Reno
Our Town Reno is a hyperlocal, social-media-driven reporting initiative from the Reynolds Media Lab at UNR’s Reynolds School of Journalism. Since 2016, the student-run project has focused much of its reporting on the plight of unhoused people in Northern Nevada, including families living in the city’s (fast-disappearing) weekly-rental motels. Its reporters tell stories about people living on the banks of the Truckee River, in shelters, and in “last resort” housing. The work can be found at www.ourtownreno.com and on social media; hashtags include #helpeachother #heroesofreno and #keeprenorad.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Our Town Reno reported on the growing number of unhoused people in the Truckee Meadows, the policies that affected them, police “sweeps” of tent cities and camps, and the new ”super shelter” now run by Washoe County. The young reporters talk to folks whose voices often are ignored—and tell stories that would not otherwise be told.
—Frank X. Mullen
Best Gastropub Salads
Mamma Celeste’s Gastropub and Pizzeria, 360 Los Altos Pkwy., Sparks
I’m extremely picky when it comes to salads. A perfect salad has high-quality ingredients, a mixture of textures, and the perfect amount of salad dressing, preferably house-made—not too much, and not too little, with every bite having a nice coating.
Mamma Celeste’s salads meet all of these criteria—and more. You can’t go wrong with any salad you order, but my favorite (so far) is Little Nick’s Grecian, with both baby spinach and romaine lettuce; black and kalamata olives; pepperoncini; cherry tomatoes; bacon; feta cheese; and Mediterranean dressing. I personally hold the kalamata olives, but that’s up to you!
Best Jeweler Creativity
D Street Designs, 45 St. Lawrence Ave., Reno
Doug E. Moore’s philosophy is to create love via the jewelry he makes.
While he does offer ready-to-purchase pieces, working with Doug on a custom piece of jewelry is a delightful experience. I’ve had the pleasure of both doing this myself and being with friends who have created pieces. This customized experience is one that I would highly recommend to anyone looking to purchase something, be it for themselves or a friend/loved one. Doug’s creative process includes spending time getting to know you and discovering the emotions behind the piece (or pieces) of jewelry you’re looking to create with him. It’s personal to him—because it’s personal to you.
D Street Designs uses only the highest-quality metals and stones, and prices range from affordable to sky-is-the-limit.
Best Local Whiskey
Frey Ranch, 1045 Dodge Lane, Fallon
I had the pleasure of first touring Frey Ranch when their first batch of whiskey had been in barrels a little less than a year. As a whiskey lover, I remember thinking, oh, man, I hope this turns out good.
Several years later, the time had come to taste. That first sip of Frey Ranch’s whiskey not only met my expectations, but exceeded them, by far. Every time I sip on this local whiskey, made with love by Ashley, Colby and the Frey Ranch team, I am delighted.
While I really enjoy their bourbon, it’s the straight rye whiskey I prefer to sip (neat, please), to enjoy in my favorite cocktail (the Boulevardier), or to savor in a Whiskey Bloody while brunching. Never had a Whiskey Bloody? Well, after trying one with Frey Ranch’s rye, I am quite sure you’ll never go back to the original Bloody Mary.
Engine 8 Urban Winery, 1260 C St., Suite 150, Sparks
Sure, Reno has plenty of great patios—but I think Sparks often gets short shrift in the Best Of business. Fortunately, those of us in the know have discovered Engine 8 Urban Winery.
The owners, Mike and Wendi Rawson, and their staff are friendly and welcoming; the wine and food are great. But Engine 8’s best feature is its patio—my favorite spot to while away a summer evening (or a spring evening, or a fall evening). The winery enjoys a location that makes its patio ideal for long, relaxing evenings, and it’s open year-round. Situated in front of the Galaxy Theatres in the ever-growing Victorian Square, Engine 8’s roomy patio is surrounded on three sides by apartments and businesses, providing both plenty of shade on hot evenings and an upbeat, urban vibe. The patio has offers plenty of seating, including a six-top featuring a firepit at its center, perfect for cold nights.
Engine 8’s live-music lineup, its menu featuring charcuterie and outstanding specialty pizzas, and its wine flights all invite you to linger, sip and relax all evening long.
Carson Valley Swim Center, 1600 State Route 88, Minden
My family and I stumbled upon this state-of-the-art aquatic center in Minden on a road trip, and it was like a gift from heaven.
The Carson Valley Swim Center offers not one, but SIX pools—two outside (adult and child), and four indoors. The large lap pool outside also features an expansive climbing wall, from which daring climbers can jump right into the deep end. Indoors, take a spin on one of CVSC’s two impressive water slides; sit in a shallow pool under a splash pad; or choose between a high and low diving board at the large, deep center pool—all under the watchful eyes of lifeguards.
Plus, CVSC offers a fully equipped fitness room, a party room, shaded picnic tables and a clean, spacious locker room that even has a swimsuit spin dryer. Swimming and diving lessons are available for both children and adults; you’ll also find water aerobics, lifeguard classes and CPR classes. And access is available for low, low prices: I’m talking $3 a day for kids, seniors and people with disabilities; $5 for adults 18-60; and $15 for a family. Oh, and it’s open year-round!
Best Place for an Afternoon Stroll
Wilbur D. May Arboretum and Botanical Garden at Rancho San Rafael Park, 1595 N. Sierra St., Reno
The Wilbur D. May Arboretum and Botanical Garden at Rancho San Rafael Park is a hidden gem of natural splendor in the midst of the concrete and asphalt of Reno.
The gardens are beautiful in spring and summer; the tree groves flame with reds, oranges and brilliant yellows in the autumn. Well-groomed paths flow through a variety of plants and trees in themed gardens and groves. Sheltered benches provide spaces to relax and enjoy the sights of the changing seasons, enhanced by birdsong and sightings of rabbits, squirrels and other wildlife. Evans Creek flows through the area, providing them a sheltered habitat.
The arboretum and gardens are open daily year-round for quiet walks and gatherings in all seasons. Several of the gardens host weddings by appointment.
—Frank X. Mullen
Best Place for a Graduation Party
Pub N’ Sub, 1000 Ralston St., Reno
Hosting a college-graduation party can be a pain—but for my family, Pub N’ Sub owner Steve Mathers made it super-easy.
When we called Steve back in February to inquire about a May party, he thoroughly answered our questions and made helpful suggestions about food, beer and non-alcoholic beverages based on the number of normal adults, new college graduates (who obviously need more beer—they’re celebrating) and under-21 guests we were expecting.
The party went off better than expected; Steve even lit a bonfire for us in the outside fire pit. The graduate and his friends polished off many pitchers of beer in the beer garden—and, to add to the fanfare, the graduate even drank beer out of a shoe. A shoey, they called it.
Disgusting traditions aside, Pub N’ Sub was THE best place to hold a graduation party.
Best Tire Shop
Barajas Tires, 2255 Glendale Ave., No. 7, Sparks
I needed a couple of tires replaced earlier this summer, but when I called my usual Fourth Street tire stores, none of them had my size in stock. Supply-chain issues were the culprit; my tire size is normally as easy to find as a coffee shop in Midtown. The internet was perused; more rubber barons were called; no luck.
That is, until I called Barajas Tires. A jolly fellow named Pablo answered the phone and assured me that he had the tires in stock. Great! Even better: The price was about 20 percent less that I had paid for these tires before.
Off to Sparks I went. Pablo greeted me outside his neat and clean shop and told me to take a seat. In about the time it took me to go over my emails on my phone, the tires were mounted—and I was ready to safely hit the streets again.
Best Way to Warm Up on a Cold Winter’s Night
The Hot Buttered Rum at Rum Sugar Lime, 1039 S. Virginia St., Reno
It was Dec. 26, 2019, a bitterly cold evening on which my husband and I happened to have free child care. (Thanks, Mom.) We braved the cold to go out for a date-night cocktail, and headed straight to Midtown’s Rum Sugar Lime, where my eyes lit up when I saw the night’s special: the Hot Buttered Rum.
Friends, my life was forever changed. This rich, butterscotch-y, creamy concoction was like nectar of the gods, utterly warming and comforting to wrap my hands around and savor slowly. Owner Loren DeVincenzi explained that the proprietary batter, which he’d made himself, was stored in mason jars and for sale in limited quantities; he’d been getting requests from folks who wanted to buy the jars—while begging for the recipe.
In 2020, RSL began selling Hot Buttered Rum take-home kits, and yours truly was one of the first in line. My homemade version was only OK—a pale imitation of the real thing, the incomparably creamy, perfectly proportioned, toe-warming delight, prepared at Rum Sugar Lime. Each winter, its availability is like Pavlov’s bell to me, a siren song. Try it; you’ll thank me later.