Regulars were saddened when Nom Eats, one of the first vegan hot spots in Reno, closed its doors on Dec. 31.
During the final weeks of 2022, customers visited the restaurant in the West Street Market to say goodbye as they picked up their last Nom burrito or smash burger. Patrons lamented the loss of the eatery—and bemoaned the relatively limited options that remain for those who prefer plant-based foods, particularly vegan dishes, which contain no animal products at all.
Owners and sisters Robyn and Carly Gurinskas, and partner Ian Mcintosh, said the decision to close wasn’t easy. Although the move into the West Street Market coincided with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the closure was not related to financial difficulties or problems hiring employees, they said. The lockdown in March and April 2020 “didn’t sour the taste; it just made it that much harder,” Mcintosh said.
The partners agreed it was better to “leave on a high note” and have the decision be in their control, instead of some other circumstance forcing them to shut their doors. They said they are grateful for the strong community support they enjoyed for the last eight years, from the restaurant’s genesis as a food truck through the move to the West Street Market.
“People told us we were crazy in the beginning, because Reno is not a big enough town for this,” Robyn said. “But it is definitely way more accepting now then we first started.”
Nom’s former space will soon be occupied by The Fix, which also began as a fully vegan food truck that specializes in falafels.
“I would say things are definitely changing to a more positive outlook regarding vegan food in our city,” said Jack McGrath, The Fix’s chef. “That being said, there will always be people who don’t want to try our food because it’s vegan. Their loss!”
The number of vegans and vegetarians is rising, according to surveys. Today, about 6% of the U.S. population identifies as vegan, compared to 1% in 2014, according to PlantProteins.co. The site makes the case that omitting animal products from people’s diets benefits their health while simultaneously helping the planet, because animal agriculture is responsible for a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The shift in tastes has prompted some restaurants to offer a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes on their menus.
House of Mexica, at Warren Way and Moana Lane, may be the only 100% plant-based restaurant left in Reno. All the dishes are vegan, but the owners said they avoid using the word, because they want to steer clear of anyone’s preconceived ideas. House of Mexica’s mission statement focuses solely on the creation of food in a holistic way. The cafe has a Mexican-themed menu, and the owners said they try to make their food align with nature to honor their ancestral roots in Mexico. Their mantra is that all the nutrition humans need is found in plants, and that food should be a celebration—that does not need to be overly complicated.
House of Mexica favorites include the “carne asada” nachos—thick, crispy chips with seitan and vegan cheese, seitan, topped with a house-made salsa and (faux) sour cream ($17.17). Another is the cheese godchimichanga, which gives diners a choice among hibiscus flower, cactus or soy “meat “as the protein. The dish also features bell peppers, beans, onions, tomatoes, vegan queso, sour cream and house-made salsa and guacamole. The ingredients are stuffed in a burrito and deep-fried ($19.19).
The owners said that in the four years they have been open, their customer base has continued to grow. Like the partners at Nom Eats, the House of Mexica owners said plenty of patrons have tried and enjoyed menu items without realizing they don’t contain any meat or dairy products.
The popularity of plant-based dining has evolved since Robyn and Carly Gurinskas started their vegan food truck in 2014. Back then, they said, vegans had few places to go get a meal. The food truck dished out its cuisine outside of Reno Public House on Virginia Street until the early hours of the morning.
“A lot of times, we wouldn’t even really tell people it was vegan until after they tasted it. They would always come back for more,” Carly said.
Nom Eats’ menu and recipes came from Chef Robyn. “I would create different dishes for my friends and give them note cards to tell me if they liked it or not,” she said.
The recipes were created through trial and error. “I would take tofu and think, ‘How can I make this like a ricotta?’” Robyn said.
Nom Eats was known for its all-plant-based burritos, tacos and sandwiches. The Nom burrito, a fan favorite, contained soy curls (a meat alternative made from boiling/dehydrating soybeans), mac and cheese, and coleslaw. The popular “crunch wrap supreme,” inspired by Taco Bell, included faux meat and cheese on a tostada topped with pico de gallo, black beans and a jalapeno cream sauce. It was a healthier facsimile of junk food.
After an accident caused the food truck to go up in flames, they took their menu to the West Street Market. “It was perfect; it was like a restaurant on training wheels,” Carly said.
As they looked for a restaurant location, real estate agents would express concern that a restaurant exclusively serving vegan food would be able to pay its rent on time. The common wisdom was that an all plant-based menu couldn’t be delicious or profitable.
The owners said that the Nom staff members were out to prove the critics wrong—and they did.
Other places to get plant-based fare
- Great Full Gardens, various locations
- Laughing Planet, 650 Tahoe St., 775 360-2592; 941 N. Virginia St., 775-409-3410
- Sizzle Pie, 190 S. Center St., 775-525-7437
- Moo Dang, 1565 S. Virginia St., 775-420-4267
- Thali, 148 West St., 775-470-5898
- Pizza Collective, 148 West St., 775-800-6577
- Homegrown Gastropub, 719 S. Virginia St., 775-683-9989