If you stand at the corner of Liberty and Virginia streets in downtown Reno and look south, it would be easy to dismiss the view as simply a scattered menagerie of colorful lights, flashy signs and a hum of human activity. What you’re seeing, however, is Reno’s evolving Midtown District. Way back in the day, it was known as the Bungalow District, a nod to the quaint Craftsman-style homes that made up the region. Take a closer look today, and you’ll start seeing the district’s new nature, one of colorful sights, live music, clinking highball glasses, scrumptious eats and real-time happenings that give the place its kaleidoscopic brilliance.
There are way cool fashion shops. Craft brewers and spirits sellers. A host of eateries you definitely haven’t experienced before (and not a chain diner within sight). And a vibe that is patently earthyfunkhipsterglitz. As the New York Times’ Freda Moon recently wrote in an article about Reno’s transforming nightlife, “Nowhere is that change more apparent than in the Midtown District, a modest neighborhood south of downtown where a half-dozen new lounges, gastro pubs, craft breweries and cocktail bars have recently opened.”
Follow Your Feet
Midtown is best unearthed on foot. This gives you the mobility to wander up and down Virginia Street, which is essentially Midtown’s spine. You can easily veer down the numerous side street tangents as your eyes and curiosity dictate. (You’ll be quite safe walking, by the way.) The district stretches roughly north to south from Liberty Street down to Mount Rose Street, about seven blocks, and a couple of blocks to the east and the west on either side of Virginia. You can also hop a bus to get in the thick of things.
What’s in The Bag, Man?
Here’s where Midtown gets interesting. The neighborhood has some funky, wacked-out shops to wander. You don’t even have to buy anything, just stroll. There’s Junkee Clothing Exchange and the Melting Pot World Emporium to outfit the Burner (code for Burning Man aficionado) in your life. Carter Bros. Ace Hardware is really a step back about 50 years, when hardware stores had a little bit of everything and a whole lot of personality. Recycled Records, a locally owned business that’s been swapping vinyl, tapes and CDs since 1978, is to the music lover what Disney is to the kid. There’s College Cyclery, which has been a stalwart, pure cyclist shop for a long, long time (since 1973 to be exact). Happy Happy Joy Joy will supply you with gifts for the little and big kids in your crew. And though you’d never guess it by the name, the Chocolate Walrus will help fire up your romance. Finally, there’s The Spy Shop. Concerned that the maid is pinching your tie tacks, or that the neighbor’s dog is doing its duty on your lawn? The Spy Shop will help you get to the bottom of any nefarious activity.
Say, You Look Well Fed! You’re hungry?
You don’t want the standard grub found everywhere else? Midtown understands your hankering. Start with a bowl of something ridiculously delish at Süp. Or a cumin-roasted chicken pot pie at Midtown Eats. Slip into Wedge–A Cheese Shop for a slab of something savory and unpronounceable. And then MariChuy’s for a fresh take on great Mexican fare. That’s just an overview of Midtown’s dining affairs—you’ll find plenty more places to get in your carbs.
What are you waiting for? Head out for a stroll around Midtown and let the discoveries begin!
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Your challenge, should you care to accept it, is to find the Midtown watering hole that fits your personality. It would be difficult to log them all, but here’s a sampler, in no particular order:
- Reno Public House - Top-notch fermentations and distillations in a cool space.
- Brasserie Saint James - Atop its own spring-water well 285 feet below. The beers brewed with the water are quite remarkable.
- Ceol - Traditional Irish pub and an honest locals’ hangout.
- Chapel Tavern - Named one of the 10 best places to drink rum in the country by Zagat. It’s also just a place to get tasty beer in a great setting.
- Craft Wine & Beer - A comfy room to savor a special bottle of wine or crack open a beer to enjoy in good company.
- Picasso & Wine - Learn how to paint while sipping wine or beer. Fun for couples and groups.
- The Zephyr Bar - A cozy joint that continues to evolve as new generations discover it.
- 1864 Tavern - On the fringes of the Midtown District, the bar is named for the year Nevada became a state. (The state turns 150 in 2014!)
- Silver Peak Restaurant & Brewery - They make great beer. You drink the great beer. Repeat.Excellent rooftop dining, too