Legislators and Lobbyists Guide to Power Dining in Carson City

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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.Nevada Legislature Building, Carson City 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.

Adele's Carson CityIt 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.

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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 CaféArtisan bakeworks, Carson City

701 S. Carson St. – 775-283-0164

Just a couple blocks south of the Legislature, Artisan Cafe and Bakeworks got its start in the Brewery Arts Center Artisan Cafe & Bakeworks, Carson Cityspace and moved over to Carson Street to accommodate the traffic it generated for its tasty danishes, muffins, paninis and quiches.
Open for breakfast and lunch, this is another popular spot if you’re looking to catch legislators and lobbyists in the wild during the work-week.

The BasilThe Basil, Carson City

311 N. Carson St. – 775-841-6100

The Basil offers a change of pace for Carson City dining, because it puts a creative spin on traditional Thai dishes.

The Basil, Carson City

The restaurant has been a staple of downtown for several years. Vegans should ask for their special menu. (As in vegetarians, not Las Vegans.)
The Basil has one thing in common with the Nevada Legislature. With six owners, it is run by committee. We have no idea how they decide the tie votes.

Two NewbiesBattle Born Social, Carson City

Battle Born Social 318 N. Carson St. – 775-301-6695 and Gather 402 N. Carson Street – 775.433.0200

Gather, Carsdon CityHere are two new restaurants adding to the choices in downtown Carson City, with divergent styles and atmosphere.
Battle Born Social (right) is built on small plates and a bar vibe, while Gather (left) offers a farm-to-table philosophy and an atmosphere summed up in its “food + family” subcontext.
Both have a chance to create an identity with legislators and lobbyists as a new session convenes. Locals take their buddies to Battle Born for drinks and their families to Gather for dinner.

Comma CoffeeComma Coffee, Carson City

312 S. Carson St. – 775-883-2662

The closest restaurant to the Legislative Building — if you don’t count the Caucus Deli inside the building — is Comma Coffee.
“If life were a sentence Comma Coffee would be the comma … the pause … the breath … the break between two thoughts.” If that self-description seems a bit literary, then you need only walk through the front door to find it fits — bookshelves, secondhand furniture, barristas, coffee beans and, likely, somebody strumming a guitar.
Comma Coffee, Carson CityComma Coffee is also the politically funkiest place in Carson City. A decade after it opened, by the campaign leading up to the 2008 election it had become the must-be-seen place for presidential aspirants to visit in Nevada’s capital. Hillary Clinton’s motorcade of black SUVs blocked Carson Street so she could walk across the street without having to wait for a light. And a few wondered just how friendly Joe Biden was going to get on-stage with owner June Joplin before his stump speech. If you’re thinking of running for president in 2020 — and, really, who isn’t? — check out Comma Coffee.

The Cracker BoxCracker Box, Carson City

402 E. William St. – 775-882-4556

“The Box” is right up there with Adele’s as a venerable location for Nevada politicians when they’re in Carson City — although with the completely opposite setting. It’s an old-school diner that dates to 1980 when owner Jerry Massad decided to offer the best breakfast in town — chicken-fried steak and eggs, flapjacks, omelets. Cracker Box, Carson CityThe lunch menu includes burgers, liver and onions and a Cobb salad.
It’s the kind of place you could expect to sit down at the counter with the governor, which was fairly likely to happen when Kenny Guinn was in office.
Here’s the thing that Nevada politicians (and everybody else) should know about the Cracker Box: Cash, a check — but no credit cards. That’s how to keep your budget balanced.

El Charro AvitiaEl Charro Avitia, Carson City

4389 S. Carson St. – 775-883-6261

Carson City has enough Mexican restaurants that you could eat at a different one every week for a year (if you count the fast-food joints too), and El Charro Avitia is among the longest-standing and most authentic.
El Charro Avitia, Carson CityIt’s a relaxed but busy place on the weekends for the good food. It’s best known, however, for the margaritas and its chips, beans and salsa Happy Hour. Since legislators are in town only for about 16 weekends, and many of them head home for the weekends before crunch time, check out El Charro for $1 Taco Tuesdays at the bar.

Expresso Yourself CaféExpresso Yourself, Carson City

449 W. King St. – 775-883-1978

Don’t overlook this spot just because it’s slightly off the beaten path. Lobbyists who have offices on the historic west side of Carson City and residents in the neighborhood know it well. Located inside the Brewery Arts Center, the capital’s cultural center, the building originally was the brewery for Tahoe Beer — “Famous as the Lake” — and dates to 1865.
Expresso Yourself, Carson CityUnfortunately, the rumors of a tunnel to run kegs straight to the capitol during Prohibition were merely the product of somebody’s imagination.
The cafe has gone through some name changes in recent years, but the attraction remains the relaxed setting amid locally crafted art just a few blocks west of the Legislative Building. The restored ballroom upstairs is also an excellent spot for a small reception.

Garibaldi's, Carson CityGaribaldi’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.garibaldi's Carson City 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.


Glen EaglesGlen Eagles, Carson City

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.
Glen Eagles, Carson CityThe 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.


L.A. BakeryLA Bakery, Carson City

1280 N. Curry St. – 775-885-2253

If you haven’t been to L.A. Bakery since last legislative session, you’re in for a surprise. It’s bigger. Much bigger.
Owners Leila Tavakoli and Ali Arbabha — you didn’t think it stood for Los Angeles, did you? — started in an upstairs kitchen at the Brewery Arts Center, moved the business into a house on the west LA Bakery, Carson Cityside and, then, two years ago built a 2,500-square-foot restaurant next door.
Open for breakfast and lunch, it features freshly made pastries and tasty wraps and paninis. The restaurant has quickly become a West Side neighborhood fixture, a block from Adele’s.

Mangia Tutto, Carson City

Mangia Tutto

200 N. Stewart St. – 775-461-3353

Another restaurant arriving with downtown’s resurgence is Mangia Tutto, just east of the capitol on Stewart Street. Owners Richard Bragiel and Catherine Rolewicz brought deep-dish pizza with them from Chicago, as well as calzones, lasagna and a selection of wines.
Mangia Tutto Carson CityThe restaurant is intimate and quiet, although it’s casual and the Nevada Wolf Pack game was on the television over the bar the last time we were there. Legislators and lobbyists looking for a new spot to try can walk there for lunch or dinner.

 

Oh, and what’s the name mean? “Eat it all up.”

The Martin HotelThe Martin Hotel, Carson City

308 N. Curry St.- 775-461-0441

The newest addition to Carson City’s burgeoning downtown restaurant scene could also be considered one of the oldest, because owner John Arant brought it with him from Winnemucca, where it’s been a mainstay for more than 100 years.
Arant located the traditional Basque restaurant in a just-finished retail-office-residential building on Curry Street that promises to become a centerpiece for downtown’s new atmosphere.
The Martin Hotel Carson CityWith the traditional family-style serving, it offers an entree — including the iconic lamb shanks — and a steady stream of side dishes including soup, salad, green beans, corn, carrots, fresh baked bread, french fries — and for dessert, bread pudding.
Because the original Martin is so famous, even before the session started the Martin already was drawing legislators and local dignitaries to see who could hold their picon punch.

McFadden Plaza (Fox Brewpub, Mom & Pop’s Diner, Scoups, Bella Fiore)

Bob McFadden PlazaWe’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.

Mom and Pops Diner, Carson CityDoug 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.

Scoups, Carson CityScoup’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.

Bella Fiore, Carson CityAt 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.
Fox Brewpub Carson CityThe 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 GrillRed's Old 395 Grill, Carson City

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, Red's Old 395 Grill, Carson CityFlat 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
Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint Carson City

1500 Old Hot Springs Rd. – 775-884-4471

Sassafras, Shoe Tree and Carson Hot Springs are a true triple threat on the north end of the capital city.
Returning legislators may remember Sassafras from downtown Carson City, when it was situated in the building that now holds Battle Born Social (and for years was known as B’Sghetti’s.) Now it has moved north but still carries its offbeat attitude as an “eclectic food joint.” Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint Carson CityThat translates into dishes such as “Eviled Eggs” and “Superfraggacheesalicious Loaf.”
The best description of Sassafras is “off the beaten path,” for both location and menu. So which kind of legislator will you find there — conservative or liberal, urban or rural? Or maybe just call them Nevadan, which fits the description.
Shoe Tree Brewery Carson CityShoe Tree Brewery’s Jeff and Paul Young have been making names for themselves in the brewing brotherhood since their days at Carson Hot Springs Carson CityHigh Sierra Brewing Co. Now they’re winning awards for their own business.
And then there’s the iconic Carson Hot Springs, which has been an attraction for visitors since before Carson City existed. As governor O’Callaghan could tell you if he were still around, February is a good month for a dip.

Paul Schat’s BakeryPaul Schat's Bakery Carson City

1212 S. Stewart St. – 775-888-9090

The Schat name is synonymous with bakeries along the Eastern Sierra, from Bishop to Mammoth. Paul Schat Carson CityCarson City got its own version in the Carson Mall nearly 10 years ago, and has been gobbling up the pastries ever since.
It’s open for breakfast, including Fresh Dutch Toast, and lunch for salads, soups and sandwiches made with this morning’s still-warm bread.

The UnionThe Union, Carson City

302 N. Carson St. – 775-885-7307

Stroll a few blocks north on Carson Street to get to The Union, opened in 2017 not long after the last legislative session ended. Expect it to be a popular lunchtime spot for craft brews and a menu with locally sourced highlights brought to Carson City from Reno’s Mark Estee and executive chef Tommy Linnett.
The Union, Carson CityThe historic building, given a fresh renovation before The Union opened, has for years housed a local taphouse and features two outdoor patios. It’s the kind of place that would name one of its beers for the governor. In fact, it did — The Governor Hefeweizen,  which honors ex-gov Brian Sandoval. The description — “a high wheat content delivers the soft grainy notes” — kind of fits him, too.

Z BistroZ Bistro Carson City

725 Basque Way – 775-885-2828

Unless there’s a special session, which nobody likes to think about before the Legislature’s even convened, you won’t be able to wait until Bastille Day to take in the French-style cuisine at Z Bistro, one of Carson City’s lesser-known gems.

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 Z Bistro Carson Citycreate 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.

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