You might be asking yourself how three men from Illinois became pioneers in the Reno food and drink scene. It all started with a bartending gig in Champaign, Illinois, in 1999 when Ryan Gold and Justin Owen bonded on work shifts.
“We were a close group at the restaurant we worked at in Champaign,” Gold said. “We would all go out for drinks after shift, play cards and be up for hours.” After a while, the duo decided to move in together and started hosting get togethers at their place.
When it was time to move on, Owen and Gold were set on keeping the party going.
“Our now partner Ravi, who is originally from Illinois as well, owned some property in Reno and suggested we take a couple visits,” Gold said. “We fell in love with Reno, the climate, the mountains and, most of all, the people.”
So, they uprooted their Midwest lives—Owen and Gold grew up two hours outside of Chicago and Ravi lived in a Chi-Town suburb—and made the move west.
Upon relocating, the pair opened Imperial Bar & Lounge in 2007. It was a lot of work, but it was also a move in the right direction—one that took them from management jobs in bars and restaurants to being their own bosses.
“Imperial blew away our expectations,” Gold said. “It was an incredible time for us personally and professionally.”
“We’re family,” Gold said. “Spend holidays together, go on vacations together and our kids are in the same class and go to school together. We know what bothers each other and what to avoid. We also know how to motivate each other.”
“We argue like a married couple quite often.”
Over the years, Owen and Gold have owned Imperial, Lincoln Lounge, Calvin’s Sausage, OGSE and Royce Burger Bar. They also consulted on and helped to build the menus and concepts for Overland Gardnerville and Redwood Rotisserie.
Today, they still have ownership of Royce Burger Bar (with a new location that just opened in April on Ridge Street) and Group West Construction. With every venture the twosome worked together but also complemented each other in important ways. “The key to our longevity is the ability to divide and conquer between us,” Gold said.
Royce Burger Bar is where the team—including third partner Ravi Anne—is focusing their energy.
For a time, they were cooking their signature burgers at Granite Street Eatery, but now they’ve got their own brick and mortar to work with. The space inside is cozy with comfortable couches flanking a fireplace and outdoors a large patio offers an ideal place to sip a beer or glass of wine while you browse the extensive menu.
“Royce is a neighborhood bar downtown… directly west of Old Granite Street Eatery,” Gold said. “The bar is located in a building that was originally built in 1930 and was part of the El Reno Apartments before being moved to its current location.”
The Royce Burger has long been the staple, but with a new space came an extended menu of fries, wings and other new options. “We just added a new back room full of cozy booths and really upgraded the outdoor patio with improved lighting and fixed gas heaters.”
While Gold and Owen have long been a duo, their restaurant family is expanding fast. Each has a wife and kids and Ravi is part of the team now, too. The employees, however, are the bread and butter.
“Our employees over the years have been so important to our success.”
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Nora Heston Tarte is a long-time Reno resident living on the southside of town. In addition to food, her hobbies include wine, hiking, yoga and travel. She is also the managing editor of a regional, lifestyle publication and freelances for other publications most frequently in the travel space. She graduated from California State University Sacramento with a bachelor’s in English and is pursuing her master’s in Professional Journalism as we speak. You can follow her travel adventures, and local exploits, on her Instagram account @wanderlust_n_wine.