Louis Basque Corner celebrates 50 years in Reno

Reno, like many cities, has seen its ups and downs. Finding a restaurant that can survive past a few years, yet alone a few decades, is hard to do in any city. In the case of Reno's Louis' Basque Corner, it's a restaurant that has been a local favorite for decades and occasionally gets a tourist who's not interested in casino buffets or chains. 

Established in 1967, they are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. I have yet to see any kind of announcement on their Facebook page or website, but I'm sure they'll be celebrating the accomplishment somehow this year.

Louis' reminded me of Poor Red's up in Shingle Springs in that it features long communal tables and a set menu that includes soup, salad, appetizer, and dessert along with whatever entree you choose. They are also similar in that they are famous for a signature cocktail. 

Louis’ signature drink the Picon Punch, which is known in some corners as the "Basque cocktail" is based on a bitter orange spirit called Amer Picon made of bitter oranges, gentian and cinchona. It was invented by a Frenchman named Gaëtan Picon in 1837, and the drink evolved from a French aperitif and stomachic on its own into the punch through the hands of the Basques, especially in the earlier Boarding Houses and the Basque-American restaurants. 
I, of course, did not drink that (allergic), but we did enjoy the friendly service by the attentive staff and the very young owners! The original owners, Louis and Lorraine Erreguible, have apparently retired and sold the business to two young men, Chris Shanks and Brian Elcano. Turns out they were serving us and I only discovered this when reviewing their website tonight.

You can tell this place is a local favorite as it was packed with people. We had ended a long drive up from Sac and arrived at 8:15. Large parties had just left and so most tables were now empty, but we were seated at a table that already had two other couples enjoying their meals. 

As to the food, there were hits and misses. First we were served a vegetable, beef barley soup. This was a hit - hearty with ingredients, it could easily be a meal in itself. There was plenty of bread to sop it up as well. 

The salad was on par with Olive Garden or a crab feed. Not memorable. After that we were served the first course of mussels and rice along with the included Basque beans and our entrees. The beans were the hit with meaty flavor from the stock and pork. Turns out the owners shared the recipe back in 2005 and you can find it here.

The mussels were the disappointment. Basically steamed and thrown on some rice with no seasoning. It would have been nice if they had been served with a nice wine and herb jus from the steaming.

The entrees, though, were winners. Basque are eaters of offal and being that I host Have an Offal Day, I had to have the sweetbreads!  I've always had sweetbreads as an appetizer, not as an entree, so I was a bit overwhelmed by such a generous serving! I had mine with peppers, onions, and garlic. It also includes mushrooms, but I'm not a fan and asked for those to be left out. The sweetbreads, though, were wonderfully tender and fried up crisp. 

As an FYI, they apparently also occasionally serve tripe and other offal dishes as specials, but the sweetbreads are on the regular menu.

My friend ordered the lamb chops and was served two very thick chops, grilled to his preferred medium rare.

Dessert is cheese and fruit plate or vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. Since we were stuffed, we passed on dessert.

I recommend Louis' if you keep in mind the communal tables and family style dining are both hits and misses. You never know if you'll get friendly dinner companions at your table and the quality of the courses will be as mentioned above. But it's good value for your money, service is friendly and attentive, and a piece of Reno dining history that looks to continue on for another generation.