Saunter through the Silver State: What to Eat in Nevada

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Saunter through the Silver State

From the snow-capped peaks of its more than 100 mountain ranges to the sun-baked sands of the Mojave Desert, Nevada’s dramatic landscape is matched by the bold flavors of its iconic dishes. Grounded in a strong tradition of ranching and mining, a diverse cultural heritage and 24-hour entertainment, the Silver State offers an eclectic range of round-the-clock dining options.


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Bone-In Rib Eye Steak

Perhaps no dish says Nevada more than a juicy steak, favorite of ranchers and the Rat Pack alike. There's no better place to enjoy a classic cut than the Golden Steer, founded in Las Vegas in 1958. Butchering USDA prime aged beef daily, the traditional Vegas steakhouse serves some of the juiciest broiled bone-in ribeyes in the business to diners seated in the same red leather banquettes once occupied by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

Go to: Golden Steer Steakhouse

Casino Buffet

The no-limits spread initially known as a “chuck wagon buffet” has evolved far beyond the ubiquitous hand-carved prime rib station and rows of chafing dishes from the original mid-century spreads. These days, for quality, variety and sheer excess, it’s hard to beat Caesars Palace’s Bacchanal Buffet. Redesigned in 2012 to offer more than 500 daily items through nine different kitchens, the Las Vegas buffet includes enough to satisfy pretty much any appetite, including king crab legs, smoked pork belly, made-to-order crepes and dazzling desserts.

Go to: Bacchanal Buffet

The Awful-Awful

“Awful big and awful good,” the deliciously satisfying hamburger-and-fries combo known as the Awful-Awful has achieved legendary status since its 1953 debut at The Nugget Diner on Reno’s main drag. Its inventor, Dick Graves, specified crisp lettuce, garden-fresh tomato and a slice each of mild Bermuda onion and “nippy” cheese. The late-night mainstay features a half-pound of ground chuck grilled to order and served on an onion bun atop a full pound of crisp, seasoned fries.

Go to: The Nugget Diner

All- You-Can-Eat Sushi

First introduced to the state's larger cities in the late 1980s, AYCE sushi has since become a bona-fide Nevada institution. In Las Vegas, hungry devotees flock to Sushi-Mon, which opened in 2001 and wins raves for the freshness and breadth of its menu, comprising nigiri, cut and hand rolls, side dishes like garlic edamame, and desserts that include a luscious lychee sorbet. Time limits and no-sharing rules ensure that the packed tables turn over at a steady pace.

Go to: Sushi Mon

Elk Chop

Every year, thousands of Nevadans participate in the annual elk hunt, sometimes remaining in hot pursuit for weeks at a time. For those interested in a more direct approach to dinner, Edgewood Restaurant in Stateline offers a scrumptious seared New Zealand elk chop, accompanied by Swiss spätzle and a sweet-tart sun-dried cherry relish. Topping it all off is the stunning view of Lake Tahoe visible through the dining room's floor-to-ceiling windows.

Go to: Edgewood Restaurant

Fry Bread Indian Taco

Members of the Las Vegas Paiute tribe typically offered fry bread tacos only at special events like pow wows and rodeos. That changed in 1995 when the tribe opened the gorgeous Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort northwest of Las Vegas. Originally a seasonal special, the addictive tacos proved so popular that they're now on the permanent menu, fried in a cast iron pan and topped with housemade chili, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream and house salsa.

Go to: Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort Bar & Grill

The Western Sundae

With the temperatures of a Las Vegas summer regularly lingering above the century mark for weeks on end, generations of residents have cooled off with a trip to Luv-It Frozen Custard, a modest mom-and-pop shop serving up cups of chilly goodness since 1973. Made daily with fresh cream and eggs, the dense, smooth frozen concoction is best showcased in The Western Sundae, topped with drizzles of hot fudge and caramel, a sprinkle of pecans and a cherry.

Go to: Luv-It Frozen Custard

Eggs Benedict

Nevadans like their breakfasts hot, fast and eggy, so it’s no wonder they gravitate toward eggs Benedict. In the north, bene aficionados flock to Peg’s Glorified Ham n Eggs, a Reno institution founded just south of the Truckee River in 1999. The cheery family-owned diner, now with additional locations in Sparks and Carson City, offers eight different Benedicts, pairing perfectly poached eggs and tangy hollandaise with chorizo patties, steak, crab cakes and smoked, blackened or grilled salmon.

Go to: Peg’s Glorified Ham & Eggs

Lamb Shank

Lamb is the soul of Basque-American cuisine, a nod to the sheepherding industry that brought floods of Basque immigrants to Nevada beginning more than a century ago. Hotels known as ostatuak established the family-style dining tradition still common to Basque restaurants throughout Northern Nevada, including Winnemucca’s historic 1898 Martin Hotel, where lamb shanks are roasted with rosemary, thyme, garlic and other seasonings, then braised in a wine-infused elixir.

Go to: The Martin Hotel

Cornish Pasty

Miners from Cornwall, England, first introduced Nevadans to the handheld meat pie known as the pasty back in the 19th Century, when workers needed portable nourishment for long days spent deep in the mines of the Comstock Lode. A savory mixture of meat, potatoes and seasonings folded into a flaky pastry crust, the traditional beef pasty lives on at B.J. Bull Bakery in Elko, joined by inventive fillings like chicken curry and chile verde.

Go to: B.J. Bull Bakery

Chorizo Sandwich

Born on the Spanish side of the Basque homeland, Pete Coscarart started handcrafting chorizo in Battle Mountain in 1984. The delectable air-dried sausage, made of pork shoulder with paprika, garlic and other spices, figures prominently into Villa Basque Café, the restaurant he and his wife, Martha, founded in Carson City in 1997. Grilled, butterflied and served hot, the chorizo shines on a simple sandwich topped with mild ortega chiles and pimientos on a locally baked French roll.

Go to: Villa Basque Cafe

3 a.m. Steak & Eggs

Known lovingly as "steggs," the no-frills late-night/early-morning steak and eggs plate is a cherished ritual for casino workers, tourists and night owls alike. Among the many 24-hour diners near the Las Vegas Strip, the Ellis Island Cafe rises to the top. Established in 1968, the local favorite aims to please with a generously sized New York strip, two eggs, toast and potatoes, all for a price hovering at or below ten dollars.

Go to: Ellis Island Cafe

Salumi and Charcuterie

The Italians who settled large areas of Nevada were accustomed to the sight of homemade salumis, sausage and prosciutto curing in the cellar. Reno restaurateur Mark Estee has revived this time-honored tradition with his own line of masterfully handcrafted artisanal salumis, hams and other charcuterie at his newest eatery and market, Liberty Food & Wine Exchange. Bite-size tastes of his calabrese and cacciatore salumi, country pate and other meaty creations populate the delectable Rebel Plate.

Go to: Liberty Food & Wine Exchange

Bloody Mary

While the origins of the Bloody Mary may be debatable, there’s no doubt that this brunch staple has found an enthusiastic home in the Silver State. Stalwarts trek to remote Belmont, in Central Nevada, where Dirty Dick’s Belmont Saloon serves up a killer hair-of-the-dog on the main street of the authentic ghost town. With a recipe passed down through the generations featuring fresh-ground horseradish and all the trimmings, the Belmont’s bloody is sure to raise you from the dead.

Go to: Dirty Dick’s Belmont Saloon

Crispy Duck with Panang

Although Thai food may not immediately come to mind when thinking of Nevada, the crispy duck at Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas has truly achieved iconic status. Under the watchful eye of chef-owner and James Beard Foundation Award winner Saipin Chutima, this Northern Thai specialty is a flavor sensation spotlighting tender duck with a delicately crispy skin in a sweet-salty cognac-infused red cream curry sauce. It may be the best food you'll ever eat in a strip mall.

Go to: Lotus of Siam

Picon Punch

Although a fixture at Basque restaurants, Picon Punch is a distinctly American invention and the unofficial Nevada state drink. Originating around 1900, the potent aperitif begins with a scoop of ice and a foundation of herbal Amer Picon (or Torani Amer) and a splash of grenadine, followed by brandy, optional club soda and a lemon twist. The Basque-owned Star Hotel in Elko serves them up nightly on a bar that dates to 1910.

Go to: Star Hotel

Mushroom Ravioli

Mention mushroom ravioli to any Reno resident, and you’re likely to get the one-word response, “Eldorado.” Drawing from their Northern Italian heritage, members of the Carano family serve their signature pasta at La Strada, the flagship restaurant inside the Eldorado Resort Casino, adjacent to the famous Reno Arch. The celebrated dish features a rich filling made from dried porcini mushrooms imported from Italy nestled inside pillowy housemade ravioli, all drenched in a velvety porcini cream sauce.

Go to: La Strada


Vendors in Nevada’s larger towns started hawking tamales around 1900, but only in the past few decades has the state been treated to authentic preparations handed down through the generations. Some of the best can be found at The Lady Tamales, a tiny shop run by Fidelina Suarez in Carson City. Moist and bursting with flavor, the pork and chicken tamales, swathed in masa and steamed in corn husks, balance beautifully with a piquant housemade tomatillo salsa.

Go to: The Lady Tamales

Home Means Nevada Ice Cream

“Home means Nevada/Home means the hills/Home means the sage and the pine.” So goes the chorus of Nevada’s official state song, evoking the iconic landscapes and memorable aromas of the Silver State. Inspired by Nevada’s sesquicentennial in 2014, Icecycle Creamery’s Jeremy and Leilani DeMarzo steeped fresh sage in a blend of milk, sugar and cream, adding toasted pine nuts to the final product to create a frozen treat that delivers a refreshing taste of Nevada, available at their Reno shop.

Go to: Icecycle Creamery

Ichthyosaur IPA

Hard to pronounce but easy to drink, Ichythyosaur IPA was one of the first brews offered by Nevada’s oldest operating brewery, the Great Basin Brewing Co. in Sparks. The brewery and restaurant, now with a Reno location, kicked off the state’s craft-brewing renaissance in 1993. Named for Nevada’s state fossil, “Icky” IPA boasts a gentle dose of Cascade hops and is gaining a wider following since bottle distribution began in 2011.

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