Tacos, pizza, eggplant! Our humble food scribe discusses three restaurant dishes she can’t stop thinking about

As summer comes to a close, I’ve been preparing myself for the sleepy coziness of fall and reaching for creature comforts. These are three of the best dishes I ate this month from a few of my favorite spots in town.

Cauliflower apple tacos

Where: Mexcal, 516 S. Virginia St., Reno

Price: $5.95

Contact: 775-433-1080; www.mexcalreno.com

I’ve never had a bad meal at Mexcal. The service is prompt and friendly; the food is great; the is bill reasonable. I was recently reminded of one of my favorite dishes, the cauliflower apple tacos.

What seems like an unlikely pairing is actually a delightful surprise: Perfectly soft yet crispy cauliflower is topped with thinly sliced apples, a spicy sauce, pickled red onions, and a zesty salsa. It’s savory, sweet, spicy and overall delicious.

Pepperoni pizza

Where: Smiling With Hope Pizza, 6135 Lakeside Drive, No. 101

Price: $26

Contact: 775-825-1070; www.smilingwithhopepizza.com

When Smiling With Hope Pizza—one of the best pizza places in town, with a mission to employ people with disabilities—went up for sale earlier this year, I was nervous. After reading that new owners Andrew and Robin Silvaroli kept the name and recipes, I had to go check it out.

I don’t think pepperoni pizza can ever be bad, but when it’s good, it’s great—which is what I experienced. The 16-inch New York thin crust was flavorful, light and crispy, with the right amounts of bubbles and char. The ratio of cheese to sauce, and, of course, a healthy layer of pepperoni cups ensured that even amidst ownership changes, it’s still one of the best pizzas in town.

The only changes this writer noticed were the decor (Buffalo Bills fans, rejoice), expanded hours and ease of ordering (no more calling in at 3:30 p.m. to have a chance at getting a pie).

Claypot Szechuan eggplant

Where: Kwok’s Bistro, 275 West St.

Price: $17

Contact: 775-507-7270; kwoksbistro.com

As I grew up in Reno, one of my favorite restaurants was Panda Express. Moving to San Francisco for college expanded my palate for Chinese cuisine and its regional nuances. While I’ll still get down with some orange chicken from time to time, it’s amazing to me that we now have phenomenal Chinese food in town, thanks to Kwok’s.

One of my favorite dishes is the claypot Szechuan eggplant—delicate Japanese eggplant stir-fried with minced pork, garlic, ginger, scallion and plum sauce. I’m not much of an eggplant fan, but this dish converted me. The eggplant melts in your mouth, and combined with the spicy, sweet, garlicky and gingery sauce, it is a must-order whenever I go.