THE PLACE: SoDo occupies the prime southeast corner of the loftishly renovated 275 Hill St. building. Its partners, Joe Giandalia and chef David Stern, worked together at Charlie Palmer Steak, and their new project, open since late spring, has reunited them. Elliott Baldridge, another longtime local chef, is SoDo’s sous chef.
THE LOOK: SoDo’s interior is fairly sleek, though still comfy, and features a roomy bar, a mix of tables draped with tablecloths and a back area that can be used for larger parties. Two walls of windows, especially the southern stretch, admit lots of natural light. A terrace set with tables, popular in warm weather, follows the restaurant’s corner.
THE MEAL: My friend and I find ourselves peckish about 3 p.m. one recent weekend. We don’t feel like sandwiches or Asian, and we don’t want to leave downtown Reno. At 3 p.m., many restaurants that even offer weekend lunch have stopped their lunch service in anticipation of dinner.
But then I recall the bar bites menu at SoDo that’s served from 1 to 6 p.m. daily and that features incentive pricing: one plate (the dishes are far more than bites) is $5, two are $8, three are $10, while four plates are $15, five are $18, six are $20 and so on. With the purchase of every two plates, a drink from the bar bites drinks list — three wines, three spirits — is $1.
In sum: Two can eat and drink well for $20 during bar bites hours, which is what my friend and I proceed to do.
Flatbread pizza is topped with end-of-season heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and dots of gelled balsamic. Fish tacos (three of them) arrive with creamy tartar slaw, while beef tacos (also three) get a boost from black bean and corn salsa. A snarl of onions rings breaded in Tabasco batter, fried and paired with housemade ranch dressing is one of the best things SoDo does.
Turkey club sliders are made, via special request, with thick seven-grain bread swiped with avocado aïoli and layered with bacon, roasted turkey and pea shoots, fresh and green. The plate generously is portioned, so I take half of it home.
We’re wine snobs, we cheerfully admit, so we skip the $1 drinks and go with something from the main wine menu (which means those glasses are excluded from our 2 for $20 calculations).
KUDOS: SoDo isn’t skimping on the quality just because the bar bites are so reasonably priced. The ingredients and the chefs are the same as with the regular menu.
QUIBBLES: More of a hint than a quibble: I hope the bar bites menu continues and changes fairly frequently. I’d love to see what the kitchen could do, this fall, with pot pie, pork buns or cool meatballs.
ALTERNATIVES: A tasting of all the soups du jour, BLT and tuna sliders, jalapeño crab poppers, salmon tartare and whatever salad the chefs are feeling.
RETURN TRIP?: I’m already there. And you should be, too.