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This fabulous Fallon restaurant draws from Lahontan Valley’s bountiful farms.
Photo: Charlie Johnston (all)
Having written a lot of “Cravings” articles during my time at Nevada Magazine, I’ve had the pleasure of dining in a great array of Nevada eateries. From over-the-top opulent to greasy spoon and everything in between, I’ve lifted a fork in every corner of the Silver State.
An unfortunate side effect of all this culinary travel is that a restaurant rarely surprises me anymore. Enter The Slanted Porch in Fallon, an environmentally conscious eatery that seems as if it were plucked out of a trendy urban neighborhood and dropped into charming, laid-back rural Nevada.
This unassuming converted 1908 residence could easily be mistaken for a home if not for its sign. The building was renovated and expanded by owner Steve Hernandez and his wife, Peggy, over a three-year period. The loving detail that went into remodeling the century-old building is also present in the food. “I am a farmer/restaurateur,” says Hernandez, who is also the chef.
Hernandez got his start in the San Francisco restaurant scene after graduating from California Culinary Academy in 1996. In his Fallon venture, which opened in June 2008, Hernandez has combined his top-rate education with his upbringing as the grandson of Mexican migrant farmers. “My grandmother cooked on a wood stove with the freshest produce and meat you can imagine,” he says. “She literally plucked it right off the farm.”
Often still covered in dirt, potatoes for The Slanted Porch’s delectable homemade potato chips come from Fallon’s Workman Farms (the original purveyor of the nationally acclaimed Hearts O’ Gold cantaloupe). Spinach and other salad accoutrements make the less-than-four-mile trip from Lattin Farms (known for its farmers’ markets and family-favorite corn maze). Beef is hand-selected by Hernandez from the H5 Ranch, also in Fallon. “You see the immediate impact on the local farmers and ranchers when you buy products from them,” Hernandez says.
Equally important to Hernandez’s restaurant ethos is the impact—or rather lack thereof—that getting meals to his customers has on the environment. “I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint as a restaurant and minimize the fossil fuels used to get food to the table,” he says. Produce and meats from across town require a negligible amount of fuel to transport compared to products trucked from California. To this eco-friendly end, The Slanted Porch uses biodegradable compostable to-go containers, composts whatever food waste possible, and sells grease to an area biofuel company.
The farm-to-table movement has been sweeping across the country in recent years as restaurants and individuals become increasingly aware of where their food is coming from and its environmental impact. As Hernandez puts it, a big part of the movement is “making people aware of how they eat and what is going into their bodies.” If what people are putting into their bodies is food from The Slanted Porch, then they are off to a good start. Up to 75 percent of each dish offered has traveled a shorter distance to get to the restaurant than many of its patrons.
Lunch usually sees a full dining room and several people milling around the door waiting for to-go orders. The draw? More than 20 creative sandwiches and salads that could turn even the staunchest carnivore. Sandwiches include everything from the simple (the Alternate 95, a BLT with avocado), to the American classic (a half-pound local Angus cheeseburger), to the inspired (the Pinion with roast beef, green chilies, and dill havarti cheese). Sandwiches come with a fresh, local side salad or homemade potato chips, and the burger comes with homemade fries. Lunch salads are as popular as the sandwiches. The favorite spinach salad includes avocado, bacon, chopped hard-boiled egg, sunflower seeds, and onion and is drizzled with a warm sweet bacon dressing.
If The Slanted Porch stopped at lunch, it would still rank as one of my favorite Nevada eateries, but dinner on Fridays and Saturdays secures its position as a top contender. The simple, seasonal menu is complemented by a plethora of nightly specials, providing the opportunity for every visit to be new and exciting. Shrimp Catalon comes in a cast-iron pan with bubbling olive oil, roasted garlic, and red chilies. While not local, the plump juicy shrimp appetizer is a great start—make sure to save some bread to dip in the remaining sauce.
Main dishes—such as local, hand-selected T-bone steak with asparagus and steak fries drizzled in homemade bleu cheese sauce (see photo)—are treated with a degree of care and attention uncommon at most restaurants. I have never been a big fan of T-bones, and I have dined in some of Nevada’s best steakhouses, but I rank this steak among my all-time favorites. From the seasoning—complementing while not overpowering—to the top-quality beef, every bite is better than the last.
The Slanted Porch owes that consistency to Hernandez’s philosophy of serving the freshest local foods available—a philosophy that is as good at winning the hearts of diners as it is at running an environmentally responsible, sustainable restaurant.
“The biscuits and gravy are the best in Northern Nevada,” says Paul Carlson as he exits the Courtyard Café & Bakery. Talk to many Fallonites, and they will likely share Carlson’s sentiment about one or more of the restaurant’s dishes.
Since opening in December 2008, the Courtyard Café has built an impressive local following, and it’s no surprise why. “We pride ourselves in homemade food, baked and made fresh daily,” says owner Deb Nelson. “Fresh food just tastes better.” Nelson takes full advantage of produce from local outlets such as Lattin Farms and Workman Farms and is constantly searching for fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables from small farms in California.
Making a bad selection from the menu would be mission impossible, but some other dishes that stand out alongside the biscuits and gravy are hot cinnamon rolls, a ham sandwich with sliced apple and cheddar cheese, and the Southwest Omelet (pictured at right).
The melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon rolls are served fresh from the oven and lightly drizzled with homemade frosting. The ham sandwich with sliced apple and cheddar is served on grilled raisin bread, giving it a unique, Zen-like balance between salty and sweet. The accompanying salad with tangy homemade vinaigrette is unbelievably fresh and worthy of meal status all by itself. The fluffy, surprisingly light Southwest Omelet comes piled high with fresh homemade salsa, sour cream, and avocados. Spicy sausage and bell peppers combine for a complex but not overwhelming spice, and creamy Monterey Jack cheese seemlessly pulls everything together.
The Slanted Porch
310 S. Taylor St., Fallon
Lunch: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Dinner: Fri. & Sat., 5-9 p.m.
Courtyard Café & Bakery
55 E. Williams Ave., Fallon
Breakfast & lunch:
Mon.-Sat., 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
During the restoration of The Slanted Porch, one of owner Steve Hernandez’s friends pointed out that the porch was noticeably slanted toward the street. While this is an intentional design feature that allows water to drain away from the building, the episode proved memorable enough to give the restaurant its moniker.
WORTH A VISIT
Hearts O’ Gold Cantaloupe Festival
On Labor Day Weekend, September 3-6, visitors to the Churchill County Fairgrounds in Fallon can enjoy food, music, and arts and crafts. fallontourism.com, 775-423-4802
Lattin Farms, renowned in Fallon for its produce, is home to a popular corn maze in the fall. The maze opens Saturday, September 25 and will be open Fridays, 5-8 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., through October 30. lattinfarms.com, 866-638-6293