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reno, nevada guide!

today’s city guide belongs to “the biggest little city in the world”: reno, nevada. whenever i think of reno my brain sadly goes immediately to these guys, so i was happy to see that reno local ashley of paisley ann design could show me a side of the city that’s full of culture, shopping, creativity, and great places to eat and drink. if you’re headed out to reno, i hope you’ll check out ashley’s guide when you’re planning your visit. thanks to ashley for sharing her local’s guide to reno!

CLICK HERE for the full reno guide after the jump!

The Biggest Little City in the World (Reno, Nevada)

After having grown up in Orange County, attending college in Manhattan and a short grad school stint in Seattle, I was a bit surprised to find that my favorite place of all is where I currently reside. Surely I wouldn’t have ever made it here had it not been for marrying my geek chic husband who was born and raised here. In fact, I, like most people, thought that Reno and Las Vegas were one in the same. As it turns out, they are about as far apart as Reno and L.A. Yes, Reno has casinos, and I am proud to say that I drive by them everyday before I cross over the Truckee River and enter the Old Southwest, a neighborhood with mid-century charm and good eats. But surrounding the Washoe Valley are mountains and hills covered in white snow. It is a breathtaking view, and provides us with plenty of outdoor activities all winter long, enough snow to build snowmen, and a rushing river to tube on in the summer. Not to mention there is an indie art scene that is roaring to go. If you want to make a name for yourself as an artist, photographer, designer, writer, or web designer, this is the place to be. The barriers to entry are low, and the sojourners are welcoming and worthy of collaboration.


1. Pneumatic Diner -501 West 1st Street. A casual indie cafe with a 90’s punk movement feel. Serves the best raw, vegan, and vegetarian cuisine.

2..Sezmu -670 Mount Rose Street. Nestled in the charming neighborhood of the Old Southwest. A bit expensive, but very special.

3. Cafe de Thai -7499 Longley Lane. A modern Thai restaurant. A gem architecturally. The staff has to memorize an extensive list of specials and ingredients. You can almost never remember any of it, and neither can they. You just know they take really good care of making sure every ingredient is fresh and necessary, and, frankly, outrageous. Very yummy. On the pricey side.

4. Sup -719 South Virginia Street. They do soup, salad and sandwiches. Hard to find a flaw anywhere. Everything including the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie they include with your lunch, is spot on.

5. Freeman’s Hot Dogs-100 California Ave Suite 106. Cute, locally owned all-natural/vegan hot dog joint.

6. Louis’ Basque-301 West 4th Street. Louis’ does Basque family style and does it extremely well…like about to be featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives–well.

7. Pegs Glorified Ham and Eggs-420 South Sierra Street. The best eggs benedict in town. Not to mention, their signature breakfast is delivered to the table in its own skillet. What it lacks in decor, it makes up for on size and taste. Don’t forget to order some fresh squeezed o.j..


1. The Chapel -1495 South Virginia Street. My favorite bar to walk to and from. An old dive-bar conversion. The walls are exposed brick, the owner–Duncan– is a whiskey snob, and you can get a specialty drink that will make you feel like you are back in the 1940’s. My personal fave: The Greyhound made with fresh-squeezed grapefruit. Bonus: It’s right across the street from The Stremmel Gallery. You can walk across the street after an opening.

2. St. James Infirmary-445 California Avenue. This mid-century styled bar has lush white leather booths, black and white movies playing on the tele’s, a vintage picture booth, and best of all, a gorgeous rooftop that makes summer evenings something to look forward to.

3. Biggest Little City Club-188 California Avenue. On the cutest street in town. Comfy weathered leather chairs, black crystal chandeliers, antlers on the wall, and a film projector with throw-back movies playing on the front window. All of the things I like about the recent design trends–in a bar. Bonus: a black silhouette on the men’s restroom door of a man donning briefs. A picture is worth a thousand words.

4. Vino Jungle -248 West 1st Street. This is a little wine bar down by the River. It is in the heart of Reno and serves to a variety of different clientele. The bartenders are mostly girls who are sweet and accommodating and lack the arrogance of most wine servers. This is the bar you go to when you just want to have a long talk, and people watch. Surprisingly it is both busy and quiet.

5. Lincoln Lounge- 306 West 4th Street. An old Jazz club/dive bar turned awesome. The inside is chalk-full of paintings of Abe Lincoln in ornate gold frames, and plenty of dollar-bill green and burgundy accents. Another hipster habitat. It is on 4th Street (Historical Highway 40) which in my opinion will be the next new thing in Reno. Old brick buildings, yum.


1. The Red Chair -6135 Lakeside Drive. Owner/buyer, Aaryn Walker is a designer who is both creative and organized. Difficult to come by. The store is styled with vintage suit-cases stacked to the ceiling and mid-century modern furniture that is reasonably priced. Aaryn is also a painter and odes numerous commissions for her loyal interior design clients.

2. Junkee Clothing Exchange – 960 South Virginia Street. A very reasonably priced clothing exchange owned and ran by local interior designer, Jessica. Jessica’s staff can and will style you for any occasion– especially for Burning Man–the art festival and the third largest city in Nevada for over a week. Jessica is also the talk of the town with her newest project, “Reno Style” Magazine. This business-women is on fire this year. She is sort of a younger version of the lady on the Old Navy performance fleece commercials–with a little vaudeville in the mix.

3. The Paper Moon -550 West Plumb Lane. Yes, they do custom invitations for all occasions. The place to go for unusual gifts-including the UtiliKilt, a Burning Man favorite.

4. Rockabye Reno--538 West Plumb Lane. An eco-friendly children’s store. Owner, Emily Reid, brings in the coolest wooden toys. She hand-picks every item you see, from baby carriers to books, and puts on wildly popular puppet shows for free every week.

5. Pickled Tink -39 E. Taylor Street. Shabby chic boutique with great craft classes.

6. Shoe -104 California Avenue. The hottest shoe store in the West. A great pair of boots can cost you upwards to $300. Fresh and funky, and a bit 5th Ave, but worth a browse.

Coffee Shops

1. Java Jungle-248 West 1st Street. This is probably the most popular coffee house in Reno due to its longevity as well as the diverse clientele it serves to. There is always fresh art being displayed, mosaic tile floors, and a giant mural of a tree on the wall that will make you wish you knew what to do with a can of spray paint.

2. Bibo Coffee Co.-680 Mount Rose Street. Home of the hipsters in Reno’s Old Southwest. This is in a small sense Manhattan’s version of The Village. Most of the employees are local artists or musicians, and they are just stuffy enough to make you think that this job is not where their inner genius is unleashed.

3. 7 Teahouse – 100 N Arlington Suite 102. A tea house by day, a bar by night. They have an incredible selection of loose leaf teas.

The white ambrosia is my favorite.


1. Sierra Arts Gallery - Suite 120 (Riverside Artist Lofts building) 17 South Virginia Street. A non-profit gallery that houses some of the best artists in Northern Nevada as well as others who are not from the region.

2. Stremmel Gallery -1400 South Virginia Street. A contemporary art gallery established in 1969 show casing mid-career and established American and European Artists. They also provide restoration services and are housed in an architecturally award winning building. Get on their mailing list and make sure you show up for an opening. Reno is small. You will be sure to run into the “whose who” there.


Casinos are where all of the action is, and where you get the best value for your money. Most of the casinos have at least one restaurant that has great food, and the recent trend has been to update the look and feel of the rooms. So any of the big hotels are a safe bet.

1. El Dorado Hotel Casino -From $59. 345 N. Virginia Street. Comfortable, centrally located accommodations, with an art-deco martini bar, Roxy’s, in the lobby. A great place to dance cheek to cheek with your main squeeze.

2. Grand Sierra Resort and Casino – Rooms from $69, tower suites from $139. A little touch of Vegas on the outskirts of downtown, with elegantly refurbished rooms. 2500 E. Second St.

3. Peppermill Hotel Casino.- From $49. 2707 S. Virginia Street. A newly renovated Tuscany theme make this hotel very popular.

Things to Do

1. Nevada Museum of Art (NMA) - 160 West Liberty Street. Their website changes colors depending on the temperature outside and the museum developed the internationally known Center for Art & Environment. This museum is of the quality that you would find in a major metropolitan city, not a mid-size city in the West. They have an excellent Sunday Jazz brunch and First Thursday talks which are always intellectually stimulating. Recent exhibits include a Rafael, a Rembrandt, and the Gee’s Bend Quilters. They recently landed a new buyer for the Museum store who previously owned a great home boutique. I’m expecting the Museum Store to become a hot spot for modern design and jewelry.

2.Wilbur D. May Museum- 1595 N Sierra Street. Wilbur D. May was a world traveler, philanthropist, and rancher. His museum houses an incredible international collection of art and relics from his travels.

3. ArtTown The whole month of August in Reno is dedicated to Art Town. Everyday of the month there are several art related shows, exhibits, concerts, and dance performances. Weekly movies are shown in Wingfield park, the chillest place downtown where the Truckee River meets the casinos.

4. National Automobile Museum- After the death of Bill Harrah in 1978, avid car collector and gaming pioneer of Harrah’s Casinos, his collection of 200+ rare and unusual cars was donated to start a non-profit museum. It also has an active research database library that spans 100 years of Automobile history.

5. Vintage Neon Motel Signs- One of the best kept secrets of Reno, is the sheer number and variety of different vintage neon motel signs-especially on Historic Route 40 Part of the pleasure of living downtown is that I get to drive by them on a regular basis. Several albums on Flickr are dedicated to these neon motel signs, because they are just that rad.

6. Holland Project- 30 Cheney Street. Attend a workshop or show at Holland Project–try screen printing, the ‘fix your own guitar’ workshop, or something more esoteric like circuit bending (electronic music jargon for re-wiring something like a speak-and-spell to sound like a musical instrument) or just stop in to see some local music acts play for the all-ages crowd. Local professional artists and musicians teach most of the workshops. Holland is an all-ages art and music initiative made for and by the young people in Reno and beyond. Holland strives to empower young people through access to music, art, diverse workshop opportunities, and community service and activism. They also happen to have a rad logo and design great posters for all of their shows–and it is all done in-house.

Please, Reno’s finest, feel free to add to this list. It is certainly not comprehensive, focuses mainly on the downtown area, and is sort of centered around designers and geeks.

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Lynda W

Great list, Ashley, and it’s great to see Reno getting some love, even though that means our secret is out now ;) I frequent a lot of the places on your list and would add the Ecoreno boutique (now on Virginia next to Sup), Hub coffee (Cheney between Center & Virginia across from Sup), Bangkok Thai for more budget-friendly Thai (Mt. Rose behind The Chapel), Zagol Ethiopian (800 E. 4th out just past Louis’ and the Lincoln), and the Batch cupcakery right around the corner from me in the Old Southwest at Booth & California. If folks come in the summer, they shouldn’t miss the great farmer’s market right there at Booth & California as well as the one on West Street–not just for veggies, either. Stead potter Joe Winter shows his great local ceramics there as well, and sometimes other local artists drop in. The West Street Market downtown is a recent renovation of an old brick building complex. It currently houses a good deli, the Reno Envy t-shirt company, a good Greek place, an installation of 7 teahouse, and a little market, plus performance space for outdoor summer music. Thanks for reminding me what an awesome town this is.

Jenny B

We moved to the outskirts of Reno abut 4 years ago from Seattle. I love the guide you just gave. Its not a huge city, but you get the goodies from both worlds. Modern and small town in the desert. Not to mention, at the airport your bags are in baggage claim before you get there!
The BEST VINTAGE furniture is at Second Hand Rose on HWY 50 in Moundhouse. Really cheap, gorgeous sets and super good condition, plus the sweetest lady ever! The other antiques stores on the way are pretty awesome, too.
We love it here, I knew about half but really excited about the others, thanks for posting!


Oh, how you make me miss home! I grew up in Truckee and since Reno was the “big city” over the mountains I spent as much time bumming around Reno as I did my hometown. I can’t wait to check out some of the places you mentioned next time we visit. Thanks!

Chelsea Mclaughlan

I have been coming to Reno since I was a little girl and I love the relaxed vibe and the proximity to Lake Tahoe. When my sister moved there we had so much fun going to all the local thrift stores to jazz up her house. There is AMAZING thrifting to be had there as its not too trendy of a town. The best time to go is just before the Reno rodeo when the thrift stores set out all the western and Native American donations they save up all year. I also love the chocolate bar (downtown and summit locations) and imperials downtown for their awesome beer selection and goat cheese pizza.


This is a great review of Reno, and I am always happy to let people know that we aren’t close to Vegas and we aren’t trying to be Vegas.
I am a Sparks native (we’re connected to Reno) so I have to mention visiting the Sparks Marina for a walk or to let your dogs play at the dog park, and coming to the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cookoff during labor day.


Amazing review!!

I love reading about all the places that I have frequented and making note of new ones to check out when I head back home.

Angie Allen

I forgot to mention my favorite spots. Here are my top 5:
1. The Dish Cafe on Mill Street
2. Sunrise Cafe on Wedge Parkway
3. MB Art Studios (art classes)
4. Mount Rose Ski Tahoe
5. Chocolate Bar at The Summit

emily reid

Thanks for the great write-up! Even though it seems we have to sort through a lot of gambling- type stuff, Reno has some pretty cool spots! ANd I have to agree with Jenny B on the best place to find antiques in Moundhouse!! My favorite too!


OMG, it’s like we were separated at birth. I’m also an Art Nerd, grew up in O.C., did an internship in NYC, and moved here from Seattle 3 years ago. CRAZY! Thanks for the excellent Reno suggestions. I’m always excited to learn about New Cool Things!

Peggy Rice

I live in Paris now, but my husband and I graduated both graduated from University of Nevada Reno, this post made me smile!


Let’s hear it for Reno~
We have so much happening here and I do love to see our sweet town getting such a great review~

julie R

I’ve been waiting for this post for weeks! We jut moved to Reno a year ago and I love this city! I discovered Junkees shortly after moving here and recently stumbled into the (gigantic) Antiques Mall on Virginia Street. Can’t wait to check out Moundhouse. Thanks for the recommendations!


So happy to see my hometown getting some love for what it is, not what people mistakenly think it is! Totally agree on everything. Sup is like something straight our of San Francisco. And the NMA jazz brunch is great, they’ve always got good music, and the food at Cafe Musee is fantastic.


I love Rubicon Deli! It’s in the same building as St. James Infirmary and super delicious. A bar I’m really fond of as well is Ceol. Its nice and unpretentious with so many beers to choose from!


I love this post/review guide of Reno! I spent my childhood days in Reno, but haven’t been back since my freshman year of high school – yikes! Looking forward to visiting my old neighborhood soon…with this review guide in hand. Thanks so much!


Just a heads up if you’re planning a trip around this guide, last I heard Sezmu was going on hiatus for a short, undetermined time. Be sure to call ahead. Another good, slightly pricey restaurant is the 4th St. Bistro. Odd location, but wonderful cuisine.

There are a lot of great places to go on California Ave, where St. James is located, and Virginia St. past downtown is good food central.


This was sick!

West Street Market in the summer is always cool with live shows, and art vendors and things

Studio on 4th is a great All-Ages venue that puts on a variety of events.

Michael’s Deli on South Virginia is the Downtown deli I frequent the most

Recycled Records has one of the better selections of used vinyl that you’ll find. And is more or less the only record store left in Reno.

The Broken Spoke on Wells is my favorite bar. Cheap and homely like a dive bar, without being too dark or stuffy.



Great list!
here are a few more:

Walden’s coffee house (McCarran and Mayberry)

Buenos Grill (McCarran and Mayberry)

Yoga Loka (not a restaurant, bar or gallery, but worth visiting anyway for great yoga and sense of community) on Lakeside.


Great list. I just wish there were more things to do in South Reno. Everything is mostly situated downtown. But I have to say, more and more businesses are showing up!

Tabor Griswold

Bibo’s took over the Record Street Cafe (Morandi’s)! Great place by UNR.


Just a quick correction, Arttown is in July, not August.

Ashley Jennings

Thank’s Jolene. You are correct, thought I edited that..woopsy daisy; Tabor-Record Street Cafe and Deux Gros Nez RIP. The Hub is up-and-coming, but Java Jungle is the only seasoned vet left in the coffee house arena.

Debbie LeFrancois

Thank you for bringing Reno to life for me. I went thru there about 20 years ago and recently my husband has wanted to retire there. I’ve been fighting it, because all I remember is desert and dust. But your review and all the commits make it sound fabulous. My husbands family is all over, between Mammoth and Auburn. So now he may be able to budge me out of Orange County, CA. I can’t wait to share this with him!

Mary O'Brien

I was thrilled to see Reno being promoted and especially excited to see “Reno Gets The Girl” as it is my husbands campaign! Thank you Angie.


How lovely to see a nice Reno write-up! As it’s my home town, I have a soft spot in my heart for it.

Another fun eat:
Go into the Little Nugget and get an Awful Awful burger. It stands for “awful big & awful good!” Not hip or upscale, but at $5.50 for a big burger and tasty fries, it’s a true Reno delight!!

Ashley Jennings

Mary. I can’t believe I haven’t ran into you. I think we must go to the same events. Your husband did an excellent job. That campaign is just brilliant. A friend recently told me she even saw it in Sunset Magazine.
Good call Kathleen on the Awful Awful.
Debbie-You will love it here. Just make sure you move downtown where all of the trees are! Sounds like you wouldn’t enjoy living in the dusty dessert.


can’t believe pneumatic is still the coolest place in town – can it be true? i remember going there (and deux gros nez) when i was just starting high school in the early 90s, and it definitely imprinted in me a love for quirky, kitschy coffeeshops no matter what big cities i lived in.

thanks for this great list – more new places to check out the next time i’m home.

taylor r

…to really let the cat out of the bag AND because design sponge has awesome “before and after” projects, it should be know that Reno has a plethora of awesome thrift stores- with real thrift store prices!


Great work, Ashley. And, thanks to everyone else who’s added all our local flavor to the list. I’m so excited to see Reno among the d*s guides.

One more to add to the list is the Squeeze In restaurant on Las Brisas – amazing breakfast, drinks, and service!


Thanks for the awesome list. By far my favorite moment was when you described pneumatic with “90’s punk movement feel”. Because those of us who were punky high schoolers then (hi Shana!) LIVED at that place. Well there and deux gros nez of course. Also very glad that Recycled Records made the comments, I can’t even tell you how many cassettes with “parental advisory” stickers I purchased there in my teen years. Now I am homesick!


Beaujolais Bistro is my absolute favorite place to eat in town ( Cheers!


Thanks for shedding a little light on my hometown! Each time I have friends or relatives come here, they rave about the great food and friendly people. Seriously, I do think that Reno people are the nicest people around and even though we have really grown, it still feels like a small town.

I would like to add a few things:

Check out the Imperial Bar near the West Street Market for nice ambiance and people watching.

Go to Indian Kabab and Curry for their excellent lunch special.

Reno is one of the only places I know that has all-you-can-eat sushi. People from the Bay Area come up here just for sushi.

The Truckee River Whitewater Park is so much fun in the summer and fall. Kayak or tube on the river with a local band or orchestra playing in the park.

Just a note, it is actually Jungle Vino rather than Vino Jungle and is right next to Java Jungle. Keep an eye out for their drink and food coupons and specials.


So . . . you never want to cry in front of your boss. But when mine told me three years ago that I had to move from Vegas to Reno to keep my job I let loose great heaving sobs. Reno?! But I was so happy in Vegas (yes, people can be happy in Vegas).

I sucked it up and we made the move with a promise to ourselves that we’d do a year in Northern Nevada and then move back down south. Three years later, we’re still here and don’t plan on moving any time soon. I love Northern Nevada. For me, it’s all about the people; people in Reno are more satisfied with their lives and it shows in the way they treat each other and their environment.

Thanks for this guide. Stephmodo sent me the link and I’m grateful to her, for I’m absolutely terrible at taking advantage of my surroundings and this gives me a good map to finally dig in.

Kim mentioned Yoga Loka and to that I’ll add Achieve Fitness on Center St.–terrific power yoga the first three days of the week and a wonderful overall sense of community–and the Bikram Studio on Sierra Rose (if you’re feeling suicidal, that is).


Oh! and one more thing. It’s not in Reno but just out in Spark you’ll find Isabel’s bakery. Make the little drive. The filled cupcakes, dipped macaroons, and chocolate-covered strawberries are worth it!

Ashley Noel

Thank you so much for this fabulous article. I moved to Reno four years ago to go to college and am staying for another few years while I am in grad school. I’ve traveled a bit internationally and grew up in the Bay area, but Reno holds a very special place in my heart and is a complete gem of a city. I am a creative soul and have always had tons of opportunities to express myself in Northern Nevada. Because of the affordability of the city, I was able to start my own magazine, Wildflower. I also live in a beautiful loft apartment with my boyfriend. We regularly visit local establishments.

Everything you mentioned is great. Thanks for shining some light on a city unfairly judged.

Scott @ Lexus of Reno Blog

Hi- I came across this guide, great information about Reno. In trying to keep things local on our blog we’ve been taking pictures of the scenery and covering fun events in the area like the New Years Eve party for kids. Would be great to get some feedback from local residents about what car info they could find valuable, perhaps review local car washes in Reno?

Thoughts? Although I currently reside in Seattle, Reno sounds like it is a nice place to live, and certainly more dry!


Larissa Teipner

Hi – I was excited to see this guide. My parents grew up in Reno but I grew up in New Orleans and currently live in NYC. I would spend the summers in Old Reno/Tahoe and so it holds a special place in my heart and I am getting married in September 2013 in the Reno/Tahoe. I am looking for a band to perform either at the ceremony or at the reception – depending on the type of music – and a place that would cater. In both cases I am looking for bands/food that is outside the box. If anyone has any thoughts, please feel free t shoot them my way:

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