Urban safari: Observe Legislators and Lobbyists
At Work from a nearby table in Carson City
by Barry Smith
As 63 legislators and hundreds of lobbyists arrive in Carson City for the 2019 session of the Nevada Legislature, which began February 4th, they’ll continue a tradition that dates to the beginnings of Territorial government when Abe Curry and his cohorts settled in at the Warm Springs Hotel: they’ll talk about it over food and drink in Carson City’s finest restaurants. While mixing government and gastronomy might sound like a recipe for heartburn, it’s actually a fascinating opportunity for the Nevada constituency to simultaneously rub and bend elbows with their elected representatives.
There are power breakfasts, power lunches and power dinners. Be assured that, since the 120-day limit was imposed on legislative sessions, there isn’t as much power drinking as in the freewheeling old days. But it isn’t exactly work, work, work either.
For the Lucky 13 freshmen legislators coming into their offices in the Assembly and Senate for the first time, here are 19 restaurants you will visit during the 2019 Session — there are many more that might have been included — check out the full list — but here are what we consider the hard core, where visitors to Carson City can satisfy their palates and get a peek at politics at the same time. It’s a little like Eagles and Agriculture in Carson Valley.
Cafe at Adele’s
1112 N. Carson Street – (775) 882-3353
If you haven’t been to Adele’s, there is some question whether you’re actually a legislator or lobbyist in Nevada.
Since 1977, when Paul and Adele Abowd opened it, the restaurant has set the standard for dining in the capital. For the better part of that 40-term, it’s been operated by renowned chef Charlie Abowd and his wife, Karen, who recently retired from her own political career as a Carson City supervisor.
It is, as the Abowds describe it, a “haven for Nevada’s movers and shakers.” The amount of Nevada state politics settled at Adele’s should never be underestimated.
The restaurant, in a converted 1864 mansard-style Victorian house, features Charlie’s signature Continental cuisine and dishes playing up locally-sourced ingredients.
Be aware: if you don’t make it to Adele’s this session, you may not have another opportunity. The property is for sale — but not the name “Adele’s.”
Artisan BakeWorks Café
701 S. Carson St. – 775-283-0164
311 N. Carson St. – 775-841-6100
Battle Born Social 318 N. Carson St. – 775-301-6695 and Gather 402 N. Carson Street – 775.433.0200
312 S. Carson St. – 775-883-2662
The Cracker Box
402 E. William St. – 775-882-4556
El Charro Avitia
4389 S. Carson St. – 775-883-6261
Expresso Yourself Café
449 W. King St. – 775-883-1978
Garibaldi’s Italian Kitchen
307 N. Carson St. – 775-884-4574
A longtime staple of Carson City dining out, Garibaldi’s has been operated by chef Mark Claypool since 1995. It is a popular place for quiet conversation, classic Italian cuisine and a splendid wine list. As such it’s a pleasant venue for watching off-campus legislative business being done.
The menu is strong on familiar Italian favorites — pasta in every shape and size from angel hair to ziti — and even the garlic bread is locally famous.
3700 N. Carson St – 775-884-4414
In more recent sessions, a portion of the political power has shifted its dining and drinking base north on Carson Street to Glen Eagles restaurant.
The full menu offers seafood, pasta, big steaks and a variety of other dishes. Live music is a regular offer in the bar.
The 20-year-old restaurant has a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, and it’s far enough from the capitol campus to give lawmakers the illusion they are getting a respite from legislative life.
1280 N. Curry St. – 775-885-2253
200 N. Stewart St. – 775-461-3353
The Martin Hotel
308 N. Curry St.- 775-461-0441
McFadden Plaza (Fox Brewpub, Mom & Pop’s Diner, Scoups, Bella Fiore)
We’re combining all the restaurants on the plaza that used to be Third Street, close enough to the Legislative Building across Carson Street to skip out of boring testimony but still get back in time for the committee vote.
Doug and Jamesa Cramer have been operating Mom & Pop’s Diner (775-884-4411) for more than 20 years now, and it’s the easiest place to spot a legislator or a lobbyist during the session. The lobbyists are wearing name badges and doing most of the talking.
It’s familiar American fare at a good price with a cozy atmosphere, which means it’s easy to eavesdrop. And there’s no extra charge for Doug’s opinions.
Scoup’s, (775-297-3471), as the name should suggest, is a small place that offers homemade soups and ice cream. The newest restaurant on the block, opening prior to last session with its hot-and-cold menu, it’s where you can spot Las Vegas-based legislators beginning to thaw in late May just about the time they’re migrating back south.
At the west end of the plaza is Bella Fiore (775-888-WINE) a wine bar with a limited Italian menu. It’s notable for being the most frequent venue on the Legislature’s official after-hours social calendar, because the lobbyists can literally wine and dine their targets here. It also adopted a “no press” policy to keep out the prying eyes of the capital press corps. No shirt, no shoes, no scribes.
Fox Brewpub (775-883-1369) was Firkin & Fox when it opened.
The name was shortened prior to last session, because nobody knew what the firk it meant. Actually, when a 10-year franchise agreement ended the name was adjusted slightly. This is the place when you’re more likely to have a beer with lunch, or looking for fish-and-chips or a shepherd’s pie. It also has the college basketball games on during March Madness, so hoops fans don’t have to sit in their office and pretend to be watching Assembly Ways & Means. (A firkin, by the way, is a small cask. What were you thinking?)
Red’s Old 395 Grill
1055 S. Carson St.- 775-887-0395
If your brand of politician is more likely to be quaffing beers than sipping wine, then spend some time at Red’s, just off Carson Street south of the capitol complex. There’s 101 beers on the wall, and if you take them all down and pass them around, you get your name forever inscribed on the Red’s Hall of Fame, or something similar.
The restaurant is also family friendly, offering entrees such as the double pork chop, Flat Iron steak and a range of barbecue including the triple-threat sausage plate of linguica, bratwurst and andouille. It has a fun, rustic decor with lots of artifacts to see, like the authentic 150-year-old Haladay Standard windmill out front.
It’s the kind of place softball teams celebrate their wins and drown their losses in the warmer months. And after the legislators’ annual grudge-match basketball game, you can hear the trash-talking continue.
Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint
& Shoe Tree Brewery
1500 Old Hot Springs Rd. – 775-884-4471
Paul Schat’s Bakery
1212 S. Stewart St. – 775-888-9090
302 N. Carson St. – 775-885-7307
725 Basque Way – 775-885-2828
Although it’s been around for a decade, Z Bistro still attracts mostly locals who understand Chef Gilles Galhaut and his wife, Tina, are going to create something new for each week’s menu.
It all depends, Chef Gilles told Edible Reno-Tahoe, on “what I’d like to eat that week.”
Politicians should admire somebody who sticks to his principles instead of bending to whatever the polls say.