By Juliana Bledsoe
It’s two a.m., you’re starving and possibly wasted. No worries, you think; Reno is a 24-hour town.
Surely I’ll be able to find some late-night grub to satisfy those cravings that come along with burning the midnight oil. Unfortunately, the hunt for a meal at this hour could prove one of the most difficult and unfulfilling projects of your college career.
One might assume that with the myriad of casinos, nightclubs and round-the-clock businesses, all-night eateries shouldn’t be too hard to find. In Reno, however, the 24-hour culture rarely extends to the food industry with the frequency that one might expect.
Many fast food places even close at two a.m. around here, and it is the company behind the million-dollar concept of fourth meal — the meal between dinner and breakfast. When it comes to late night dining in Reno, there are few kitchens that come to mind, and with an advanced knowledge of them, you can save yourself the agony of waiting any longer than necessary to feed the beast, regardless of the hands on the clock. Rarely can quality be promised, but you can’t be too choosy if you’re expecting someone to man a spatula for you while anyone with a day job would normally be sleeping.
The Little Nugget – You have not experienced Reno unless you have put yourself at the will of this classic Reno greasy spoon. The “Awful Awful” burger is an iconic piece of the Biggest Little City, and it is the perfect kind of heavy food that hits the spot after tipping back a few adult beverages. Though the staff is rarely the same, they always do it with flare and manage to stay friendly in the humid, oily atmosphere. The baskets might be dirty, and you will probably have gum under your table, but the full pound of fries you get with their burgers and sandwiches more than makes up for it. Those of age can even mow down over the video poker machines at the bar and top it off with a cheap beer, or even one of the infamous ass-kicker margaritas.
PFPC’s Noble Pie Parlor – Another downtown hole-in-the wall that qualifies as staggering distance from anywhere you are likely to be, this is by far one of the most delicious way to give yourself heartburn between rounds of binge drinking. They even deliver for those that don’t make it downtown. The huge selection of pizza toppings checks all the boxes, and this crew is innovative with flavor combinations for its specialty pizzas. The hot wings are fantastic—garnished with fresh garlic, Parmesan and green onions— and they have taken home multiple first-place trophies from the annual Reno Chicken Wing Cook-Off.
Mel’s Diner – This slice of Americana offers cheap and mediocre diner food that comes with a side of fifties nostalgia if you’re rockin’ around the clock. Perfect if you need some comfort food like a chicken dinner or mashed potatoes in the wee hours. There are ways you can go wrong on this menu, so I would recommend playing it safe with a burger or a sandwich, but best of all, Mel’s serves up thick-cut bacon that is actually some of the best in town.
Golden Flower – One of the best things to happen to the drunken dining experience in recent memory was when Golden Flower extended its hours to three a.m. This staple of Vietnamese food in town has been churning out some of the best pho and noodle bowls for years, and with its new hours, Golden Flower has developed a cult following. A diverse array of locals gathers in the recently updated cafeteria-style room to slurp down this Asian fare both day and night. It’s inexpensive and has a fairly crowd-pleasing menu, even for the less adventurous eater. As a plus, it’s always a good time to watch your drunken friends attempt to eat noodle soup. I’d recommend a napkin or two.
China Diner – This is by no means the kind of establishment that is not worth buying food from during daylight hours, but it serves its purpose in the event that you have, say, been taking shots and dancing your ass off at the club next door for the previous six hours. Make some beautiful memories by meandering through the alley between Tonic and 1Up with friends, laughing and licking the grease of shared eggrolls off your fingers. This oily fare is really only recommended for one purpose, and that is soaking up booze in your stomach, but at that task, China Diner generally performs quite nicely. Just don’t expect too much beyond that. This restaurant won’t be winning any “Best of Reno” awards any time soon.
Located on South Virginia just North of Meadowood Mall, La Michoacana is one restaurant that will require a vehicle to get to, but should you choose to make the drive, this is one haunt that will satisfy a south-of-the-boarder craving. La Michoacana is a legitimate restaurant, and it serves up pretty decent Mexican food given the impressive feat of being open 24 hours. Where else can you get an authentic taco, tamale or sopa with a fresh, house-made horchata any time of the day or night? Consider that a challenge.
Juliana Bledsoe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org