April cravings: Bibimbap, expert French onion soup and a burrito with fries as a filling!

For this column, I typically try to find a common thread that connects the best three dishes I’ve eaten in the last month. Sometimes it’s an ingredient that each dish shares; other times it has to do with the time of day—heck, it’s even been about what I wore when I went out.  

This month, I realized there wasn’t a connection among the dishes themselves, but there was regarding what preceded them: cravings—a piping bowl of rich French onion soup on a chilly spring evening, a sizzling pot of bibimbap that satisfied a need for something healthy (but not too healthy), and a California-style burrito when the sun was shining and I was on the move.  

I am blown away by our ever-growing food scene and the diversity of cuisines Reno’s starting to boast, making it easy to satisfy a craving no matter what mood strikes. 

What: Stone pot bibimbap with bulgogi  

Where: Hana Garden, 1605 Sullivan Lane, Sparks 

Price: Stone pot bibimbap ($16.99) with bulgogi ($6.99) 

Contact: hanagardensparks.com; 775-351-1616 

For those who may not have experienced it before, stone pot bibimbap is the fajita equivalent in Korean restaurants: a large sizzling stone bowl filled with rice, perfectly julienned vegetables and a fried egg. It makes quite a statement as your server weaves through the restaurant and carefully places it on the table. If you’ve been craving some extra attention lately, this is the dish for you. 

In all seriousness, we are lucky to have Hana Garden serving traditional and delicious Korean food. I often crave bibimbap when I want something nutritious without sacrificing flavor. The portions at Hana Garden are ample, and I usually leave with leftovers. The rice gets wonderfully crispy on the bottom of the stone pot; the vegetables are always fresh; and adding bulgogi beef takes it over the edge. Main entrees are served with a selection of banchan, small side dishes often including kimchi and other pickled or dressed vegetables, which add extra flavor and textures to every meal.  

I also highly recommend ordering mandu, the fried pork dumplings, as a starter—they are delicious. 

What: French onion soup 

Where: Beaujolais Bistro, 753 Riverside Drive, Reno 

Price: $16 

Contact: beaujolaisbistro.com; 775-323-2227 

I lived in Paris for almost two years and became heavily acquainted with French onion soup. Each bistro seemed to make their soup a bit differently, and I learned that I have some pretty specific preferences on how I like mine. Fortunately for me, those preferences are reflected in the French onion soup at Beaujolais Bistro. 

The rich, silky broth is beefy (but not too beefy); the onions still have a slight give but mostly melt in your mouth; and a crostini topped with cheese accentuates the dish by adding melty goodness—without overpowering, of course. It’s a quiet slice of luxury to be surrounded by tables adorned with fine cutlery and white tablecloths as you enjoy gentle hum of contentment filling the space—and eat a bowl of really delicious soup. I highly recommend the experience. 

What: Carnitas California burrito 

Where: Speedy Burritos, 1420 S. Wells Ave., Reno 

Price: $10.99 

Contact: speedyburritosreno.com; 775-324-1339 

Speedy Burritos is my go-to spot when I’m craving a burrito, which is often. The service is always friendly and fast (dare I say speedy), delivering exactly what I’m looking for when I want a delicious and affordable meal that’s the size of my face. 

I recently tried the California-style burrito—the usual rice and beans are substituted with French fries—and it was a smart move. Apparently, “Cali” burritos are contentious (folks either love them or hate them) but I feel like they are a fun option when the mood strikes. The crispy fries added a salty textural element while allowing more room for the delicious pork carnitas and guacamole. One of my favorite features of burritos is how portable they are, making them the perfect food to pick up and enjoy during a riverside picnic in the sunshine.