Basque Nevada

Topa! Dig into Nevada’s Basque Culture

Whether it’s a Picon [PEE-khan] punch or a generous family-style Basque feast, if you tour Nevada, you’re bound to encounter the Nevada rite of passage that is this regional cuisine—and the culture that crafted it. The Basques (pronounced BASKS) are a hearty, welcoming and vibrant people from a region on the northern border between Spain and France. Emigrating to Nevada first for gold in the 19th century, and then again later to put their sheepherding skills to use in northern Nevada’s rugged mountainous terrain, Nevada’s Basques intertwined their unique culture with other influences that would shape the region, putting their distinct stamp on Nevada’s personality that still thrives today.

Highlights

  • Picon [PEE-khan] Punch—Nevada’s Unofficial State Drink
  • Best Basque Food in NV
  • The National Basque Festival
Basque In It

The Basques [pronounced BASKS] are a strong, friendly and vibrant people from a region on the northern border between Spain and France.

So…What is Basque?
Big Hearts. Bigger Stomachs.

Season

All Seasons

Region

Northern, Northwestern & North Central

As one of the oldest ethnic groups in Europe with one of the oldest living languages (seven dialects across Spain and southern France to be exact), you better believe that this culture is full of many different flavors. 

Festivals, folklore, and family-style feasts have always been central to Basque culture and community—and it’s that last one that you’re sure to encounter here in Basque Nevada. Course after course of braised lamb (telltales of their sheepherding heritage), hefty steaks, and signature chorizo; endless soup, salad, and sides of beans, spaghetti, and even french fries—all of it covered in garlic—with plenty of freely flowing red table wine (and of course a Picon or three) to wash it all down… point is, show up hungry, thirsty, and ready to make a few friends.

The Martin Hotel

Above: Your first glimpse at a Picon punch at The Martin Hotel.

Garlic-Loaded Basque Lamb Shanks

Celebrating Traditional Basque Culture

In generations past, men mostly worked as sheepherders in the high desert mountain terrain of northern Nevada, while women held various hospitality roles at Basque boarding houses. When the men returned to town for supplies or an off-season, they headed for the familiarity of these Basque-run establishments, where they could grab a bite to eat, drink, play traditional games, bunk together, and swap tales in their own language with their fellow countrymen.

Solo shepherding was a lonely lifestyle and having a strong Basque community meant holding onto their culture and weaving it into the fabric of their communities for generations to come. Its significance can still be felt today. 

Get a taste of today’s Basque influence at a handful of still standing—and still authentic—Basque boarding houses across northern Nevada, like the Star Hotel, the Martin Hotel, Louis’ Basque Corner, and J.T. Basque Bar and Dining Room

Do as the Basques Do

Turn it up a notch and head for a handful of annual Basque festivals—including the Congressionally recognized National Basque Festival in Elko—to immerse yourself in traditional dancing, music, handmade crafts, Basque rural sports competitions—like woodchopping, weightlifting, and tug-of-war—and more. Not only will you meet proud Basques in traditional garb, but you’ll also get the chance to cut a rug to the tune of lively accordions, tambourines, clarinets, flutes, and stringed drums. 

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

Pick up a bota bag and fill it with red table wine—you’re going to need it for later.
Wood Chopping Competition

If you haven’t figured it out already, Bascos know how to party, and if you think you can keep up, don’t miss the Saturday night “Grand Finale.” Be sure to wear white—this is where your table wine comes in. Everyone goes with the intention of imbibing freely and dancing to their heart’s content. Out here, red wine splotches on your white wardrobe aren’t stains; they’re badges of honor.

The National Basque Festival is typically held during Independence Day weekend in July. Consider swapping the ol’ hot dog routine for some seriously killer chorizo. Spectators welcome; participants encouraged.

Basque, Nevada Basque, Basque Dinner, Basque Meal

Basque Food: Better Come Hungry

Where do we even start? Basque food is nothing short of amazing. And there is a lot of it. From chorizo (we just can’t get over it) and garlic steak sandwiches at a traditional Basque bar to multi-course dinner house affairs, featuring mains like lamb chops, huge juicy steaks, sweetbreads, and sides like braised oxtail soup and fresh-cut french fries, it’s enough to make a person reconsider their go-to dinner choices.

Going for a quick drink in a Basque bar or out to feast at a Basque restaurant in Nevada can be a little overwhelming if you’re not accustomed to it. Luckily, as lovers of the culture, the parties, and the absolutely amazing food, we’ve got the lowdown on how to enjoy Basque traditions the way they were meant to be enjoyed—alongside family and friends—new and old, with lots to share.

Our Favorite Basque
Restaurants in Nevada

The best way to learn about Nevada’s unique ties to Basque culture? Straight up experience it! Step into storied boarding houses across the Silver State for hearty meals, lively celebrations, personal history lessons, and one mighty memorable cocktail.

#TravelNevada

Ready to show your friends how to Basque in northern Nevada culture? Bota bags are required. Tag #TravelNevada so we can commemorate your first Picon or your first dance! If we love your photo, you may find yourself featured here!

How do we love thee, Picon Punch? If we tried to count the ways, we’d be here all night.
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@vansounds traveled to the state’s most iconic Basque boardinghouses and learned the cocktail’s history and regional differences straight from the experts. We recommend enjoying this podcast (linked in our bio) about Nevada’s unofficial state drink with a Picon in hand!
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#NVEats 📷: @sydneymmartinez
📍: @elkostarhotel
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#DFMI #TravelNevada #PiconPunch #Basque #NVHistory #Elko #ExploreCulture #DiscoverNV #BeyondVegas
Winnemucca Basque Festival! #winnemuccanevada #travelnevada #bascofiasco #basque
🔵Reason 358🔵
Toki Ona
A trip to Elko isn't complete without a visit to Toki Ona's, right in the heart of the downtown. Order up some traditional Basque fare, or stick with some classic American dishes at this local favorite.

📍 Elko
📸 Sydney Martinez
#Nevada365 #TravelNevada https://t.co/WYv89Tc6H9
Cheers! 
Have you tried the famous Picon Punch at jtbasquenv?
#whyCV 
#CarsonValley #CarsonValleyNV #MyCarsonValley #TravelNevada #DFMI #exploreNevada #EasternSierra #EasternSierraLove #EasternSierraNevada #hwy395 #westernstyle #piconpunch #piconpunchdrink
The 100th anniversary of the Reno Rodeo has come to a close... Can't get enough of cowboy culture? We think that means it's time for a road trip to Elko, NV.
Enjoying a northern Nevada classic, Picon Punch, at the historic Star Hotel in Elko. The Star was built in 1910 and even served drinks in a private room during prohibition. Picon Punch is considered to be brought to the area by the towns' substantial Basque population around the same time the Star opened.
Road trip! Never pass a Basque restaurant without stopping- closed or not! #basque #nevada #explorenevada #bestfood #basquefood #outwest #sheepherder #bakarra #restaurants #bestchefs
Nevada's Basque dining scene makes it into Newsweek's
This Basque mural depicts James “Toutoun” Ithurralde. He was a native of the Basque Country and immigrated from Lasse,,France, as a 19 year-old. He first worked for several sheep outfits before purchasing two bands of sheep for his own grazing them around the hills of Eureka. He raised his family here. The mural was created by Antone DAmele, who based it off of an old photograph. With the help of local artists Abby Sweet and Adeline Callaghan, the mural was completed summer of 2018.
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#Eureka #Nevada #TravelNevada #Travel #Explore #Mining #OldMiningTown #neverstopexploring #EurekaOperaHouse #NevadaMusic #EurekaSentinelMuseum #PonyExpressTrail
Home means Picons at Louis’ Basque Corner! 
#HomeMeansNevada
#5OClockSomewhere
#LouisBasqueCorner
#BasqueRestaurant
#NorthernNevada
#NevadaHistory
#BasqueFood
#PiconPunch
#FamilyStyle
#BasqueBar
#5oclock 
#Nevada
#Basque
#Family
#Sheep
#Picon
#Reno
#Bar
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