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Abby’s Highway 40 is back (updated)

By Nora Tarte

The beloved dive bar reopened under new ownership

Dating back to 2000, Abby’s Highway 40 earned its following as a favorite dive bar near Reno’s Fourth Street, more recently known as the Brewery District. The same building has changed hands many times over the past 80 years, enjoying stints as The Rumpus Room and The Reno Bar. It was, however, first known as the Quilici Bar, opened by Roy Quilici in 1935 and moved to the 424 E Fourth Street location in 1940.

(Read more about the history of the bar in this essay by Alicia Barber for Reno Historical Society.)

After shuttering its doors in 2021, the building was purchased by Lincoln Highway Enterprises, and reopened on Oct. 21 under the same name.

So, who took over the storied bar on Record Street? Piper Stremmel and husband Chris Reilly (owners of The Jesse and Estella Tacos y Mezcal) purchased the property alongside Dash and Nicky Gopinath. They began renovations in May and relied only on a few small but necessary updates before reopening.

The main changes include modernized bathrooms with a vibe that intentionally doesn’t quite match the rest of the space, a dedicated pool room and expansion of the outdoor patio. Outside, guests will be able to watch live games and movies on an eight-foot, high-definition LED wall or sip cocktails around a shared table or firepit while also enjoying a selection of Xiao Long Bao, Shanghai-style soup dumplings, and other assorted snacks and drinks from Dumpling Queen, a dumpling kitchen housed inside of a renovated 1948 Airstream trailer. 

Asian-inspired ice cream flavors created by a local maker will also be on the menu. “We’re very excited to offer a place to serve late night snacks in the Brewery District,” Reilly said.

Walking into Abby’s today, guests can expect the same charms found in past iterations. 

“Most of the interior will remain the same,” Stremmel says. “The inside of the bar will remain similar in look and feel to the previous owner, Donny Shwartz, with darts, a pool table with the original felt from a craps table at the Nevada Club and gaming machines set to operate in 2023.”

The group of new owners also decided to keep the name of the bar the same, paying homage to Donny’s father. “The decor, neon signage and tchotchkes nod to Reno’s past,” says Stremmel.

Abby’s Highway 40, far right, has been a staple along East Fourth Street for decades. It was originally Quilici Bar, then changed hands over the years to become Reno Bar and Rumpus Room before landing on the current name. It was part of the 4th Street Block Party in April 2016.

In addition to the beer and regular cocktails Abby’s was known for, there is also a list of fun, specialty cocktails. “We don’t plan to take ourselves too seriously,” said Bar Manager Kristin Inman. 

There will also be local liquors and beverages from the surrounding area, including brews from the Brewery District.

“Aside from serving cocktails and food and on the same block of East Fourth Street, the brands will set themselves apart from our other ventures,” Stremmel says. “We always love to partner with other local businesses and this will allow us to further that in new ways.” 

While the group strives to offer the same comfortability felt at The Jesse, the overall tone will be more casual. 

The best way to learn about the new Abby’s Highway 40 is to visit yourself. The bar is open 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays through Fridays; noon to 2 a.m. on Saturdays and noon to midnight on Sundays. It will be closed on Tuesdays. 

Dumpling Queen plans to open in the coming weeks and will offer late night fare 5 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Monday and also be closed on Tuesdays.

This story was updated to correct the date Quilici Bar was built at the current site of Abby’s Highway 40 and to add a link to an essay documenting the bar’s past.

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