As we've mentioned before on Reno.net, Reno has turned into a coffee town over the past decade or so. From corner cafes to casino roasteries, businesses of all kinds are finding it increasingly difficult to get away with serving a lousy cup of joe.
To a visitor, this may not seem particularly significant until you consider how large a part of people's lives coffee has become. More than half of Americans drink coffee every day, to the tune of three to four cups apiece (those "cups" fall somewhere in the 6- to 12-ounce range, so count that 24-ounce Venti at least twice).
Don't forget that travelers will generally be buying their coffee rather than brewing it themselves, meaning that over the course of a three-day weekend, the average Reno visitor will have more than 10 chances to sample local brews. Even for the casual caffeine-seeker, that's just too many trips to the hotel buffet's carafe. Here are some better options. Or view all restaurants in and around Reno Nevada.
1. First things first
This guide will not cover every last coffee joint in the Truckee Meadows. Even in the current economic climate, they are springing up, changing ownership and moving around town faster than anyone can follow. We'll be focusing on old downtown stand-bys and unique stops you won't see the likes of elsewhere. By that same token, we won't be discussing Starbucks. Nothing against the big green mermaid, but if you're reading this, you probably know what to expect from her. And honestly, if you need a travel guide to find a Starbucks in a good-sized American city, you probably shouldn't be wandering around alone anyway.
2. I'll have the usual, almost
That said, some folks like to know what they're getting themselves into, especially first thing in the morning. There are numerous small-chain coffee shops around the area that offer a change of pace from Starbucks without getting too obscure. These include Moxie Java (465 South Meadows Pkwy., www.moxiejava.com) and The Human Bean drive-through (8050 S. Virginia St.). Both offer good, predictable coffee and straightforward deli-style sandwiches. Also, check with your hotel, as many of the big ones have an in-house coffee bar.
3. Get lifted
The Pneumatic Diner (501 W. First St., www.myspace.com/pneumaticdiner) would be tough to find if it weren't for the line of people running out the door at all hours of the day. Located upstairs in a small hotel building near the Truckee River, the space was making cappuccino long before most of Reno, and much of the country, knew what it was. The bar/artist's loft decor is eclectic to the point of chaos and the service tends to be less than attentive, but the food and drinks (including pasta, falafel and many unusual coffee and tea beverages) are unexpected and delicious. A great place if you are a curious sort and have some time to kill, but be advised that there is no meat on the menu and that they are not kidding about the cellphone ban.
4. Old school
The Java Jungle (246 W. First St., www.myspace.com/javajunglevino), another decades-old coffee establishment, has changed owners multiple times over the years but has recently returned to its original formula: Coffee meets art by the river. While you wouldn't want to plan a major meal around the Jungle's limited selection of scones and sweets, you could spend hours marveling at the elaborate mosaic floor, taking in a poetry reading or watching the river from the private patio.
5. Raise the bar
If it's food you want, The Chocolate Bar (475 S. Arlington Ave. and inside The Summit mall, 13945 S Virginia St., www.thechocbar.com) sells high-end chocolates, truffles and "small-plate" meals, along with top-quality coffee, hot chocolate and spirits. Expect to sit on stylish low couches near lawyers and city employees during lunch hours, couples on dates in the evening and twenty-something singles after hours.
6. Shake it up
The new kid in town, Tahoe Roasting Co. (616 W. Fourth St., www.tahoeroastingco.com) offers several unique coffee blends including Tail Wagger, Truckee River Rush, Sierra Sunrise and a special white coffee. Organizers also plan to offer a selection of sandwiches and breakfasts in the near future.
7. Handle with care
If you're a coffee snob, check out Bibo Coffee Company (680 Mount Rose St. and 50 W. Liberty St.). Both shops are spare, artistically designed spaces that attract more students reading books and businesspeople poking at Blackberries than poets itching for conversation. But Bibo hires some of the most painstaking, skilled baristas in the city and your drink WILL be perfect when it reaches your lips. Starbucks fans take heed: Bibo prepares most drinks fairly traditionally, which means your coffee will probably be stronger, smaller and less sweet than you'd get elsewhere.
8. The big one
Dreamer's Coffee House (17 S. Virginia St.), is perhaps the most impressive coffee shop in town, offering a view of the historic post office and Pioneer Center, rotating seasonal displays, art shows, vaulted ceilings and wildly varied clientele. The coffee is good, the staff is committed and the shop's grilled sandwiches and burritos trump day-old scones every time. One caveat: During public events such as Hot August Nights and Street Vibrations, Dreamer's can be a madhouse. Steer clear if you're in a hurry.
9. A local favorite
Though My Favorite Muffin and Bagel Cafe (259 E. Plumb Lane, 340 California Ave., others) is a franchise, the California Avenue location has been in business so long that many locals consider it, well, local. And with good reason: The coffee and smoothies are excellent, the salads and sandwiches are quick and fairly healthy and the baker's case sports dozens of varieties of fresh bagels, pastries and muffins in multiple sizes and variations. Pro tip: Get your frosted cinnamon-walnut muffin heated -- or better yet, fresh from the oven -- and you'll never go back to your hotel's Continental breakfast. While the rainbow of bagel types is far from traditional, you'll find a flavor for everyone, including finicky children.
10. The bagel conundrum
For all of Reno's progress on the coffee front, bagels have lagged far behind. Truckee Bagel Co. (18130 Wedge Pkwy., www.truckeebagelco.com) makes the only bread in the area that Easterners would consider a "real" boiled bagel, and while the bakery serves an impressive variety of spreads and sandwiches, it's geared more toward take-out orders than eat-in customers. Fortunately, several local restaurants stock Truckee River bagels, so be sure to ask before you order.
Article written by Matt Farley. Farley is a Nevada native who has worked for the Reno Gazette-Journal and Nevada Magazine and been syndicated by The Associated Press, Gannett News Service and the Las Vegas Review Journal.