Reno’s food scene is booming. New restaurants are popping up all over town. How is one to keep up? Eating out at a new place every single night may sound great on paper, but it will burn a whole in your wallet quickly. The solution? Do it all at once, marathon style. The Reno Riverwalk District has created the Dine the District Food Tour, a biannual event in the spring and fall where several locations (read: two dozen and counting) in the downtown area open their doors and provide samples. Samples! So my husband and I headed into Reno to get the full experience.
It all starts at the Reno Tahoe Visitor Center inside of the Reno eNVy store. Here you acquire your wristband and map, which also acts as a raffle ticket and voting ballot for “Best Sample” and “Best Presentation.” We recommend lining up just before they open at 1 p.m. Once they open up, the line goes quickly, about 10 minutes. You can avoid the line if you come later, but, honestly, you will need all the time you can get. Things shut down at 4 p.m., with the raffle at 4:30 p.m., and there’s A LOT of ground to cover. You’ll walk off as many calories as you ingest.
This is a self-guided tour that can be done in any order with as little or as much gusto as one wants to invest. We opted to do as much as possible (which still wasn’t everything), so we planned a serpentine route that began at the furthest point of interest and wound its way toward the end-of-day raffle at Pignic Pub & Patio. You only need to get 5 stamps on your map to be eligible for the raffle, but we recommend experiencing as much as possible. We were able to hit up 20 of the 24 spots.
Tickets are $20 online, or $25 day-of at the Reno Tahoe Visitor Center, and all proceeds from the event go toward the upkeep of The Reno Riverwalk District. Comfortable shoes and sunscreen are a must! A pedometer of some kind is also a good idea, if that’s your thing. Parking is easy. Take advantage of the free parking at the courthouse parking lot on Court and Virginia (only free on the weekends). Come hungry and pace yourself. Whenever possible, have a seat and take in the ambience of each restaurant. Some locations have figured out how to capitalize on the event by offering drink specials. We applaud this.
The food samples range as widely as the businesses involved. There were several pizza slices and chicken wings, but there were also chocolates, salads, pizza, deviled eggs, waffles, cheese, chow main… and more pizza. Important note: be responsible for your own food restrictions. The restaurants don’t offer veggie/vegan/gluten-free/dairy-free alternatives in their samples. While some samples may happen to fall into one or more of these categories, what you see is what you get.
- Imperial Bar and Lounge offered a tasty, tangy Japanese chicken wing with wasabi (not too spicy), which started us off on the right foot. This was my husband’s vote for Best Sample.
- Also nailing the chicken wing situation was The Jungle, with a Jamaican jerk wing that fell off the bone.
- The Stick Sports Lounge offered a delicious buffalo chicken flatbread (technically not pizza).
- Crafted Palette hit a homerun with a bacon, egg, and Havarti waffle with a white wine garlic sauce. They were also defending the title of Best Sample from last fall (I ended up voting for them again).
- Oddly enough, Pizza Reno did not offer pizza, but fluffy little raviolis. They also lined people up along the bar and offered $1, 7oz pints, a perfect sized beer to drink as we moved down the line conveyor belt style toward the raviolis. We both gave them Best Presentation for this little stroke of genius. And the raviolis looked nice too.
- Chomp had an epic spinach, fruit, and grain salad with raspberry vinaigrette that hit at just the right time in our otherwise meat/cheese/carb/sugar-laden experience.
- Ok, so, there was a lot of pizza, but the best pizza slice definitely came from The Rack, an underground arcade and bowling ally chic enough for grown-ups. It was delicious.
It all concluded at Pignic with deviled eggs and more beer. If you can, try and stay just ahead of the crowd at this point, because the bar stacks up quickly at the finish line. You’ll probably be ready to relax after the day’s adventures, so we recommend claiming a good spot to sip your drink and take a load off while you wait for the raffle (must be present to win). It’s worthwhile to stick around. Basically, every business that participates donates a $25 gift certificate, so the chances of winning something are promising.
It was a fun, food-filled day that really hit the spot, and my husband, who hadn’t been to downtown Reno since he was a kid, now knows just how great The Reno Riverwalk District has become. 20 samples, 3 beers, and 6,500 steps (2.5 miles) later we were ready for a nap. And we will definitely be back in October. For more details, check out their website.
By: Rae and Troy Matthews
Elevation Eats is dedicated to documenting and promoting the Tahoe food scene with a focus on sustainable living and cultural advancement. It is the brainchild of Rae and Troy Matthews: South Shore locals, internet enthusiasts, and the food-obsessed, Tahoe-loving, annoying-couple down the street