The Greater Reno Grub and Gripe Group gathered last week at Louis’ Basque Corner in downtown Reno for a Chowdown. Or what was left of a group decimated by summer travel, Burning Man and the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off. Three of us went. Glenn, Tahoe Bill and me.
The idea was to compare Louis’ under its new owners with the Santa Fe Hotel, where we had gathered earlier this year. The dinner at Louis’ was nice, but for me Santa Fe comes out the overall winner for the meal.
The meal at Louis’ started with a simple vegetable soup. Not bad but nothing stood out here either.
Next up were the beans and salad. The beans are beans. I don’t know much you can do here except maybe add ham or bacon. Louis’ has more ingredients in their salad, so they are they clear winner here. Santa Fe offers iceberg lettuce with simple oil-and-vinegar dressing.
Then came a dish called Chicken Basquaise, a dish with green peppers, onions and garlic. This is where the first time there seemed to be significant diversion from my dining companions. This dish sounds good in theory. But it didn’t seem to come together for me. It seemed a little overcooked. I would have liked it if the flavors were more vibrant. They seemed to kind of blend together in an uninteresting way. We had a larger group for our meal at the Santa Fe and for this portion we got both spaghetti and oxtail stew. The Santa Fe spaghetti was old fashioned, like they would have served in the 1950s, but I loved it. The oxtail stew was fantastic. In my book the Santa Fe wins hands down here.
Then came the three entrees, which we split, and the French fries. Let me get the French fries out of the way. These were decent fries at Louis’ Basque corner. I think the oil may have been a little bit too new, since the fries weren’t quite crispy enough. But they were certainly good. The Santa Fe serves lard-cooked French fries. Un-fricking-politically correct fries cooked in animal fat. Let’s face it. Fries are a means to take a bland food and deliver delicious fat and salt flavor to your taste buds. Nothing does that better than lard-cooked fries, cholesterol count be damned. So the Santa Fe wins here hands down.
For the entrées, we split leg of lamb, top sirloin steak and a rabbit dish. We disagreed on one here, the leg of lamb dish. I thought it was too gamey. I still ate it. But I expect better lamb out of a Basque restaurant. The lamb chops I got at Santa Fe were just killer. Glenn and Tahoe Bill seemed to like it better.
No disagreement on the other two entrees. As Glenn noted, the top sirloin steak seemed to melt in your mouth. It was good quality meat that was cooked right. The rabbit came in a mushroom sauce. Both had nice flavors. I think I might give Louis’ an edge in entrees because they were good and they try to be more ambitious. The lamb chops at Santa Fe still rocked.
Dessert was ice cream with chocolate syrup. At Santa Fe it was just ice cream. No chocolate syrup.
At Louis’ the three of us sat family style. We sat at a table with a party of three and a college-age couple. We were a big enough group at the Santa Fe we had our own table, but I noticed they still sat small groups at their own table there.
At Louis’, the new owners remodeled and took away the lowered ceilings. This makes it much noisier. I was sitting across from the college couple but couldn’t hear them when they talked. And the woman was hot. I wanted to talk to her.
Like the Santa Fe, parking is difficult on nights of Reno Aces home games. I had to park at the last spot on the block with about a foot of the front-end my compact car in a red zone. I said a prayer to the patron saint of parking tickets and went in for my meal.
It seems like Louis’ successfully made the transition to the new owners. Someone told me he loves their lamb dip sandwiches, which is like French dip only with lamb. I’d like to go back and try other things on the menu.
Louis' Basque Corner
301 E 4th St
Reno, NV 89512
Santa Fe Hotel
235 Lake St, Reno, NV 89501
Louis' Basque Corner
301 E 4th St, Reno, NV 89512
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