A commitment was made at the inception of this website to do what I have not been able to perform for the 16 years that I’ve been putting up a website, the Blue Plate Special for 14 years, now the Ol’ Reno Guy. That commitment was to make a post-a-day, but nowhere does it say that that post shall be of great quality or social benefit. Today is such a day, and this post will fall short in many readers’ view.
For it is Friday, and just as I was preparing an offering of some substance, the phone rang: “Miguel’s. Six.” Then a deafening quiet. How could one turn down such a well-articulated invite? One couldn’t.
We remarked while we were dining tonight about Miguel’s long heritage – arguably one of the first Mexican restaurants in Reno, and I’ll hear about that, but can’t think of one that predates it. We went there in high school, which would be the latter half of the 1950s, and diagonally parked our ’52 Chevy sedan in front of Miguel Ribera’s little restaurant. The FNB to the north had recently opened, with the olfactory delight of Rauhut’s bakery next to it in the same building (now Heritage Bank), wherein was installed the first drive-in window in Reno, which is like saying the first Mexican restaurant in Reno. “First,” “longest,” “oldest,” “highest,” and so forth are words we learn never to use in a column because somebody will always make a liar out of you. “First drive-in window in Reno” is probably correct; there was one in almost a dead heat in Sparks at the Greenbrae FNB, and I’m told another in Las Vegas in another bank’s branch.
But the thrust of this piece that will keep the post-a-day alive is Miguel’s. I could also probably write “one of the oldest restaurants in continuous operation” in Reno. But I won’t. At some point in the 1960s Miguel, some say, was abducted aboard a space ship by alien life forms (Miguel was one of the earlier seekers of intelligent life outside our solar system) where while aboard he was convinced that he should move his little restaurant further out South Virginia (Mt. Rose Street was the county line during all this time), and so he did, to a brick building across from the present Peppermill that’s been a number of things like a golf shop and a dance studio and at this time might be a music store. Voila – a new Miguel’s was born; to pay the rent on the original restaurant he opened a seafood restaurant, well-remembered by local diners as the Cove, which as most recall was as good a seafood as any place in town, the barometer of seafood then being the Holiday Hotel’s offering, a buck-ninety-nine businessman’s lobster lunch. But, the Cove was a big hit and did a great business.
Alas, an ugly rumor about Miguel’s started to be heard around our hamlet, something to do with the disappearance of some local horses contemporaneously with some new offerings on the Miguel’s bill-of-fare. As all know, the substitution of horsemeat for more accepted cuts of beef, sheep and dead chickens is never good, and business at Miguel’s new South Virginia location tanked. Intervention by Miguel’s former associates in the space ship did no good whatsoever, so that location closed. The Cove, then doing a hell of a business and not tainted with the suggestion of horsemeat in the seafood, continued for a time while the townsfolk forgot about the culinary travesty foisted in the second location, and the local dining scene calmed down a bit. In time, Miguel Ribera was able to return to his second love, his restaurant (his first love by this time was establishing a destination drive-in restaurant for space travelers, as reflected in his menus and wall décor. He was hooked on flying saucers and those who traveled in them.)
Thus, he made a business decision and the town said Adios to the Cove, and welcomed back the old favorite Miguel’s – now proudly offering meat primarily from cows, sheep, goats and chicken on its lunch and dinner menu.
Miguel has left us, possibly for some new life somewhere in the Milky Way. His Miguel’s, where we ate tonight, was jumping – a great place to spend a Friday night with friends.
Miguel Ribera, aside from a minor transgression in judgment and the possibility of a slight reduction in the pony population in our valley, was a civic asset, and a great guy. And the restaurant, eponymous with his name, and even without the diagonal parking out in front and those funny little cars from Germany being sold in the VW dealership across the street and the pleasant aroma of fresh-baked bread as in days gone by, remains a darn good place to go for dinner on Friday night when one should be writing a column…