Press Room

Dining - Basque cuisine

Jul 13, 2011

Eat Like a Basque
Updated July 2011

Nevada is home to many people of Basque descent, people who trace their ancestry to the Basque region straddling France and Spain. Since the 1800s, when the first waves of Basque immigration brought them to the American West, to the present day, Basque people have made their mark in Nevada — in everything from politics to arts to food.

Basque dining in Nevada — hearty fare usually served family-style — originated with those early Basque immigrants, many of whom came to the area to work as sheepherders. To support these new immigrants, who spent long periods of time tending their flocks in Nevada’s mountains and valleys, hotels began springing up in rural Nevada ranching communities.  Those establishments served the substantial meals that still are the signature of Basque fare: beef and lamb steaks, homemade soups, salads, beans, spaghetti, bread, Picon punch and red wine, served chilled.

The Basque tradition of excellent food, hospitality and unique atmosphere can be found in any of Nevada’s Basque restaurants.  Here are a few well-known establishments:

  • Gardnerville: For decades, the Overland Hotel has proudly served Basque meals on Main Street south.  Across the street is another local favorite, the JT Basque Bar & Dining Room, which displays an amazing hat collection in the bar.
  • Winnemucca: In this Western-style town named for a famous Paiute Indian chief, stop by Ormachea’s Dinner House on Melarkey Street.  Entrées include meatballs, pork loin, chicken, leg of lamb, steaks and seafood; with pig’s feet, beef tongue and paella topping the list of specials.
  • Elko: Basque establishments, which line Silver Street, include Biltoki and the Star Hotel.  Biltoki, meaning “the gathering place” in Basque, offers a variety of delicacies such as bacalao (a salty fish), beef tongue, squid and pig’s feet.  Those with less adventurous tastes can try one of five types of steak, lobster or lamb. The Star Hotel, a longtime local favorite, has been serving Basque food since its doors opened in 1910.  Dinner entrées change daily and include steak, lamb, pork, chicken and fish.
    Elko is also home of the National Basque Festival each Fourth of July holiday weekend, which spotlights Basque food and culture.
  • Reno: Louis’ (Louie’s) Basque Corner and the Santa Fe Hotel are longstanding Basque eateries. Louis’ Basque Corner, recommended by the Frugal Gourmet and featured on the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” in 2010, is just blocks from the downtown casinos and has been a popular local eatery since 1967. Waitresses wearing authentic Basque clothing serve specialty dishes including paella, shrimp, tongue Basquaise, oxtails, tripas callos, rabbit, roast lamb and sweetbreads. At the Santa Fe Hotel, on Lake Street and just a block from the Reno Aces Ballpark, indulge in a hearty Basque meal before catching a game.
    Each summer in Reno, the aromas of chorizo sandwiches and other delicacies drift from the Reno Basque Festival as participants cook up delicious authentic food and fun.  Festival highlights include a dance, barbecue, sporting exhibition, wood chopping races and more.

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