Since I moved to Reno four years ago, I have experienced and appreciated some of the city’s best and unique food options. From Ikes to Gourmelt to Finbomb, Reno has made serious improvements in a short amount of time to their food scene which basically consisted of Süp and Archie’s. However, there is still room for improvement.

The majority of these restaurants aren’t chains and are owned by locals, which adds to the homegrown vibe the city has. However, an argument could be made that adding chain restaurants can bring economic success to the area, especially around the university’s campus.

When Roberto’s opened up on Virginia and 8th Street, they sold out of food and had to close their doors every day for a few hours despite being a 24-hour establishment for months before things settled down. This happened because there was a dire need for a variety of food options with hours past 10 p.m., and it reminded some college students of one their favorite restaurants back home. This success should be seen as a business model for chains expanding into new areas, and here are a few that should consider a move to Reno.

Cafe Rio

Cafe Rio is a Chipotle-style eatery, but much better. Cafe Rio is located in Vegas, Utah, California, Arizona and more, and its next expansion should be Reno. For the most part, Vegas people love Cafe Rio and talk about how much they miss it here at school. Considering one-third of the school is from Vegas, Cafe Rio would be an instant success should it open its doors relatively close to the university.

There is nothing bad at Cafe Rio, but what distinguishes it from the Chipotles of the world is their tomatillo ranch dressing. It is unlike any sauce other express Mexican food chains have to offer. You can smother your burrito in it enchilada style, dip your quesadilla into it or use it as a salad dressing. It’s versatile and delicious.

Cafe Rio’s tortillas are handmade in front of you and their meat is always fresh, never sitting in the cafe line for too long. All of their options are out of this world so you can’t go wrong. Some people say Costa Vida here in Reno is just the same, but once you’ve had Cafe Rio, you understand that they are not similar at all.

Panera Bread

Panera is a bakery, soup, salad, sandwich and pasta place located practically everywhere but Reno. One could say it is similar to a lot of restaurants in Midtown that serve the same types of things, but it is more reasonably priced because it is a chain and it has a lot more variety. You can’t go wrong with their “You Pick Two” deal where you can get a smaller portion of two options on their menu for the cost of one. Not to mention you can add a delicious, homemade cookie to your order for just a dollar.

Panera is the perfect pick for cold, winter days, and we sure do have a lot of those in Reno, so it would be mutually beneficial for one of their chains to open up here.

Tropical Smoothie

Let’s be honest, Reno needs a real smoothie place — especially on campus since Keva closed its doors to make room for more Starbucks. In all honesty, Keva was overpriced for the size and quality of smoothies they gave out. Sure, you could go to Midtown and try to hunt down a decent smoothie at an açaí place, or Tropical Smoothie could open up shop on campus or close by.

Tropical Smoothie is another fan favorite from Vegas, but also has chains in California. They serve larger than life smoothies that can practically last all day for a reasonable price. They also have a wide variety of smoothies you can customize for energy or health boosting benefits. Should they open a Reno location, there would be no need to decide between just three smoothies all with kale (or another reprehensible ingredient) in them — unless that’s what you want!

Jamba Juice, Smoothie King and Keva just don’t live up to Trop’s hype.

Dutch Brothers

Alright, yes Reno does have two Dutch Bros. locations finally after students would literally drive to Carson City just for some coffee. However, they’re located all the way out by the Meadowood Mall on Virginia…both locations. If they really want a bang for their buck, they should move closer to campus, if not on to campus. Students are at least half of their customer base anyways. And they’re much cheaper than Starbucks!


Madeline Purdue can be reached at and on Twitter @madelinepurdue.