basque nevada

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.

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

Have a blast with the Basques this summer. Download the free Basque Adventure Challenge and embark on an anything-but-ordinary journey through Nevada’s Basque Country. Digitally check in to at least three locations by July 31, 2024, and you’ll be entered to win an Elko getaway, gift cards, and Travel Nevada swag.

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

most northern nevada

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.

man serving a drink at the martin hotel
The Martin Hotel

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

garlic loaded basque lamb shanks
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.
children at the national basque festival
National Basque Festival
two men chopping wood at the national basque festival
National Basque Festival

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 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.

traditional basque family style meal
Louis Basque Corner

David Calvert Photography

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!

Bakarra Basque Bistro- Winnemucca, Nevada. Seriously good eats with mouthwatering lunch specials! #winnemuccanevada #winnemuccadining #travelnevada #goodeats #basqueamerican #bakarrabasquebistro
I’m missing the lamb chops in this place. Only a short 500 mile drive (or ride) from Vegas and absolutely worth it. The Star is my go to place for dinner in Elko. Everything is served family style, if you go away hungry, it’s your own fault. Great food, drinks and people. Try a Picon Punch and don’t forget to tip your waitress. 
#BattleBornAdventureReady #AWorldWithinAStateApart #ExploreNevada 
#Nevada 
#NevadaLife
#DontFenceMeIn 
#TravelNevada #NevadaBackroads #NevadaBackcountry
#only_in_nevada  #elkonevada  elkostarhotel
Keeping things Nevada with a #picon and dinner at the elkostarhotel a couple weeks ago.

A well deserved treat after spending days in the mountains scouting for elk!

#nevadanative #basquefood #tradition #howtonevada
The Martin Hotel #Winnemucca 🤠🥩🍷
#ExploringwithZ #travelnevada
Nevada's Basque dining scene makes it into Newsweek's
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.
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.
@karenasplindh giving me the boot in Elko Nevada at the @elkostarhotel after an incredible meal and a couple of Picons. 
#BattleBornAdventureReady #AWorldWithinAStateApart #ExploreNevada 
#Nevada 
#NevadaLife
#DontFenceMeIn 
#dfmi
#TravelNevada #NevadaBackroads #NevadaBackcountry
#only_in_nevada 
#elkonevada  #discovernevada
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
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
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