A sea of pizza, burgers and pasta, Reno’s food scene has been short on foods like Chinese dumplings and Greek souvlaki.
Enter Dumpling Queen and Claio, two fresh concepts owned and operated by young married couples shaking things up around town. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I sat down with both couples to discuss what it’s like to work with your partner—and get the scoop on their new venues.
Dumpling Queen: Piper Stremmel and Chris Reilly
Dumpling Queen, in a converted 1948 Airstream that serves xiao long bao (Chinese soup dumplings), is located in the back patio of Abby’s Highway 40, a longtime Reno dive bar. The brainchild of Piper Stremmel and Chris Reilly, Dumpling Queen is an innovative approach to filling Reno’s dumpling dearth.
While Stremmel and Reilly aren’t making the dumplings themselves, they were particular about their source: The Washington state-based XCJ, a company that skyrocketed in 2020 with their flash-frozen, steam-at-home dumplings.
Stremmel and Reilly met in London; she was studying art history for grad school, and he was on a work trip for Apple. Upon learning he was being transferred to Shanghai for work, Reilly asked Stremmel to go with him.
“I was like, ‘Hey I just got an offer to move to Shanghai; it would be so fun,’” he said. “We had literally hung out, like, five times before that. Our relationship really began in Shanghai.”
They lived there for three years, falling in love not just with each other, but with the nuances of Chinese food.
“It’s such an exciting food scene, and all of it was culminating in Shanghai—both super high-end meals and street food,” Stremmel said.
They moved back stateside to the Bay Area in 2016, and married in Reno, Stremmel’s hometown. Reilly, originally from Southern California, was charmed by Reno.
“We thought it would be a lot of fun to move to Reno and get involved in something in a smaller city,” he said.
Not long after that, the couple opened The Jesse, a six-room boutique hotel with elevated taqueria, Estella.
“For us, it was seeing The Jesse and Estella come together, and then thinking, ‘Let’s see what we can come up with; what can we do next?’” said Reilly. “You get hooked.”
Down the street from The Jesse was Abby’s Highway 40, a well-known dive bar the couple had frequented. The couple loved the bar; when they purchased it, they wanted to preserve its history, but also wanted to complement it with something surprising on the patio.
“We had an obsession with dumplings,” said Stremmel. “How fun would it be to do some type of dumpling concept? We found a 1948 Airstream, created a special patio—and just did it.”
Reilly joked that he “does the spreadsheets, and Piper does everything else.” But on a more serious note, he said, “I’ll push us on the front end, of what the vision is. I’m more interested in the real estate and back office side, and Piper is on the people side—the management, building the team and the experience of it all.”
Stremmel added: “I’m a little bit anxious, and Chris is more laid back. It works; it’s fun for us.”
When asked about their Valentine’s Day plans, the couple laughed and looked at each other, saying, “We’ll probably be here, at the restaurant.”
Claio: Aubrey and Tyler O’Laskey
Claio, from the team behind Perenn Bakery, is a “Greek-ish” restaurant on Mayberry Drive centered around a rotisserie and designed for easy takeout. Owners Aubrey and Tyler O’Laskey said the “ish” is important, because they didn’t want to be too compartmentalized.
Aubrey and Tyler met at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Aubrey, who grew up in Gardenville, said, “I met Tyler on his third day. He came into the kitchen I was working in—and that was it.”
Aubrey and Tyler were told that success in the industry means not having a life outside of the kitchen—but that wasn’t what the couple wanted.
“We connected on being really passionate about culinary but not wanting it to overshadow what else we wanted in life, which was to be married and have a family,” said Aubrey.
The couple opened their first brick-and-mortar location, Perenn Bakery Midtown, in 2018. Soon the opportunity arose to open another Perenn Bakery location at Rancharrah.
While pregnant with their fourth child, and halfway through production at the Rancharrah location, Aubrey said: “We were getting frozen yogurt with our daughters over (at the Mayberry location of Yogurt Beach), saw the space was available, and thought, ‘Oh that’s good; we should just do that.’ And, like, a week later, we signed a lease, and now here we are.”
On working together, Aubrey said: “It definitely took a lot of time for us to find our flow working together as a couple. I think a lot of ideas and then will present them, and then he’ll figure out how those ideas get executed.”
Added Tyler: “It’s cheesy, but it’s like yin and yang, even on the business side. Aubrey’s focused on the cash flow, and I’m on the other side, like how can we save and be efficient with the money we’re making. It’s not perfect, but we’re better together. Every year, we learn something and are constantly balancing—we have a lot of ambition.”
When asked what inspired them to open Claio, Aubrey said: “We’re living in this city where we want to selfishly eat at these restaurants. We want to have that food. And if we feel that way, we can only imagine and hope that the folks who live here appreciate that.”
The couple said they’re focused on building community. “We talk about our group being like a lifestyle company,” Aubrey said. “We have about 70 people in our company now, and we’re really focused on them. … We actually pay for their health care if they work full time.”
Tyler added: “The work/life balance is the only thing that’s going to keep us having the energy to do all of this. … Having kids made us have structure in our life. It holds us accountable.”
When asked about their Valentine’s Day plans, the couple said the restaurant will have a Valentine’s weekend special: rotisserie duck, duck fat potatoes and shared mezze.
“The whole meal will be very shareable for two people—just a very cozy evening,” Aubrey said.
As for the couple, Aubrey said with a smile, “It’s Valentine’s Day all the time.”