By Alexa Solis
A modest two-story brick building stands on the corner of 10th and Ralston Streets. Yellow signage surrounds the front of the building indicating that this piece of history is none other than Pub n’ Sub. A friendly looking wolf wearing University of Nevada, Reno gear indulges in a frothy pint of beer on the iconic sign hanging above the bright green door. The restaurant is a proud university-centric establishment.
The building hasn’t changed much since its creation in 1947. Originally a grocery store owned by two World War II veterans who were also brothers, the property was snapped up by a young Steve Mathers in the early ‘70s. Mathers, a recent UNR grad at the time, opened his restaurant on Friday, Dec. 13, 1974.
“I would’ve liked to open a day earlier, but unfortunately wasn’t able to do that,” Mathers said.
However, the Friday the 13th opening was not a bad omen, but instead it was a lucky occurrence, according to the short history Mathers has written on the restaurant’s website.
Pub n’ Sub began its journey selling simply beer, wine and sandwiches to students at the university. There wasn’t even a kitchen in the earliest days of the restaurant. Instead there were two pool tables and two foosball tables for patrons to entertain themselves while they ate and drank.
“We look at [the restaurant] as a place where people can meet and have a good time and enjoy each other’s company as well as my staff’s company also,” Mathers said. “Yeah, it may be noisy but people are here to have a good time.”
After the pub had been around for about 10 years, Mathers decided that it was time for a kitchen and a more expansive menu. Mathers began selling items such as fettuccini alfredo and marsala mushrooms, but the items were a bit too high end for college students at the time, according to Mathers.
With his patrons in mind, Mathers then made the switch to bar and finger foods. As Mathers reminisced about the early days of the restaurant, he looked over excitedly and mentioned that the restaurant was one of the first to offer chicken wings. A few years down the line they began making their iconic pizzas.
Now, on any given day there are likely to be people of all ages talking, laughing and indulging in the pizza and bar food that the restaurant is known for. No longer strictly a college hangout, the restaurant has created a rapport with generations of longtime patrons.
Only a couple of weeks ago, Mathers witnessed a grandfather, son and grandson standing at the counter of his restaurant together. The grandfather, a university alumnus, has been bringing his family around the restaurant since he was a graduate student, according to Mathers.
“That was pretty exciting for me to see three generations at the same time,” Mathers said. “We’re a family-run business with a couple of generations here already.”
Restaurant employee Derrick Lynch noted that the multi-generational crowd of loyal patrons is a unique part of working at the pub. The restaurant is not only run by Mathers and now his two sons, but the community around it has developed a strong attachment to the restaurant.
“The pub’s been open for 40 years now, so you see a lot of generations that this was their hangout,” Lynch said. “There [are] new generations coming in all the time. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
Mathers prides himself on the generational span and loyalty that he has fostered among his customers, noting with pride that it is no longer just a university hangout. Instead, it has become a place where people of all ages come to experience the history of the establishment, Mathers said.
Even with the connections the restaurant has to the university, Mathers is quick to note that he and his staff work hard to bring a quality product to restaurant goers. According to Mathers, all of the products used to make their items, from scratch, are as fresh as possible.
The historical richness of the neighborhood west of UNR is something that Mathers not only enjoys, but works with other community members to maintain with everything from sitting on the neighborhood advisory council to organizing a neighborhood clean up and providing free pizza for the event. Mathers and Pub ‘n Sub itself have become a major part of the community during its 40 year history.
“I really ever envisioned that [Pub ‘n Sub would become such a big part of the community],” Mathers said. “I thought it would be pretty popular with students. I don’t think I ever thought that it would have this kind of longevity, and I don’t think I ever thought that it would have affected as many people’s lives as it has. I suspect that’s probably part of the reason why I still enjoy working here.”
Alexa Solis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @thealexasolis.