Back-Road Bites


There’s one thing Nevada’s lesser-traveled roads reveal: while there may be scenic views for days, there may not always be a place to eat. Some towns have just one restaurant with mercurial hours (think Austin), while others have none (sorry, Ione).

Lest you be discouraged, there are plenty of cafes, bars, saloons, and restaurants tucked into our rural corners. Here are but a few of the places ready to whet your whistle and fill a grumbling tummy. A word to the wise: if your plans allow, call before you head out to confirm working hours.

Many of these places don’t have websites, and hours may be subject to the ebb and flow of patrons.

Pittman Café, Tonopah

Tucked in the back of the Mizpah Hotel, the Pittman Café exudes the town’s mining heritage; décor is simple with a warm, welcoming feel. On a too-early morning, I had a perfect stack of incredibly fluffy pancakes, crispy bacon, and a mug of delicious coffee. Looking over the dinner and lunch menu, I saw a wealth of salads, sandwiches, burgers, pastas, and steaks which can be paired with cocktails from the full bar. I’d suggest the Lady in Red Bloody Mary—a nod to the hotel’s most auspicious spectral guest.

The Wigwam, Fernley

You wouldn’t know it from driving through town, but nearly 20,000 people call the Fernley-area home. The Wigwam has been around since the 1960s, and despite a brief closure in 2009, this casino-restaurant-Indian artifact museum is a town mainstay. The menu is straightforward— think tuna melts (my particular favorite here), patty melts, pancakes, and omelets, plus a small salad bar. You won’t find a lot of frills here, but I had a tasty meal, kind service, and a decent price. The building houses an Indian artifact museum, which was great to wander through while waiting for my meal. It’s chock full of arrowheads and other interesting memorabilia from the area’s Native American history.

Silver Café and Bakery, Pioche

Rough and tumble is the reputation in Pioche, and this little café has survived since 1907. It recently changed hands, and while I can’t compare it to the prior owners I give this version a thumbs up. Tacos, rib-eye steaks, and seafood platters top the menu, along with massive breakfast plates with eggs, bacon, and all the trimmings. A silly gift shop flowed into the small seating area with some of the strangest merchandise you’d expect to see in this old West town, but somehow it added to the flavor of the meal.

Hotel Nevada Café, Ely

A bit of an anomaly for rural Nevada, this delicious little restaurant is open 24 hours. Part standard coffee shop, part trendy café, the four-page menu has something for everyone. I had the Gold Miner burger and sweet potato fries and it was absolute perfection. Serving everything from chicken fried steak that looked like it covered the plate to specialty pizza ingredients that would make a big-city chef proud, the Hotel Nevada Café also serves up an eclectic display of artifacts that make your brain as full as your stomach.

Lane’s Ranch Motel Coffee Shop, Preston

The coffee shop at Lane’s Ranch Motel is about 30 miles south of Ely on State Route 318, and it doesn’t look like too much from the outside, but as I learned, looks aren’t everything. Attached to a convenience store, Lane’s has been around since 1982 (closing in 1995, but reopening in 2014) and it’s about as basic as you get…until you get inside. Staying at the motel, this is the only restaurant option, but it’s the only one you need. The restaurant has a warm, moderately upscale feel to it, and some of the tastiest burgers I’ve found anywhere. Wine and beer are served, and in the morning there’s hearty breakfast fare.


Yes, Nevada is rife with fantastic burgers, but that’s not all you’ll find when you divert from the highway and stop at that tiny restaurant you see as you’re slowing the car through town. Don’t wait for the next fast-food joint or chain restaurant, or you’ll be missing a real taste of the Silver State.


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