Basques are the people of the Pyrenees Mountains region of northern Spain and southern France. Reno and other Nevada cities such as Winnemucca and Elko have significant Basque populations. The Center for Basque Studies is at the University of Nevada at Reno. Basque immigrants came to Nevada to work as ranch hands tending sheep, and Basque hotels offered these immigrants familiar surroundings and food and people who spoke their language. Many of the rooms were above restaurants, where the immigrants gathered for meals family style. That tradition is carried on in many of Reno's Basque restaurants.
A Basque restaurant menu might include any combination of typical Basque dishes, such as lamb stew, roast lamb, paella, Basque beans, scampi, rabbit, steak, lamb and pork chops, brochette, tripe, and sweetbreads. As you might expect, some of these dishes are an acquired taste. A hallmark of Basque restaurants is Picon punch, a combination of grenadine, club soda, brandy and Amer Picon and garnished with a wedge of lemon. Both these restaurants claim theirs is the best.
Louis Erreguible immigrated from Mauleon, Basses Pyrenees, France, to Reno and worked as a chef at local restaurants before he and his wife, Lorraine, opened Louis' Basque Corner in 1967. Louis' Basque Corner is just east of downtown Reno at Fourth Street and Evans Avenue on the ground floor of the old Basque Hotel. In the Basque restaurant tradition, food is served family-style, with seating on benches at long tables. If there is room, another party might end up sharing your table and helping pass around the food. All the servers are dressed in authentic Basque clothing. Louis' Basque Corner has been honored as the best Basque restaurant in Nevada and calls itself the "home of the world-famous Picon punch."
The old Santa Fe Hotel is in the shadow of Reno's newer downtown hotels, which makes it within walking distance of just about all of them. It's a family-owned business that's been around since the mid-20th century. The Santa Fe Hotel serves family style and is known for its terrific Picon punch.