I'll try to keep this as food-centric as possible, with just enough interlude to indicate why were in certain places (and to add some flavor). Thanks to Janet, Tonya, and Barbara for their quick replies before we left -- and, of course, many thanks to those who posted in the past, whose suggestions comprised a great deal of our itinerary.
We left the SF bay area mid-morning, so had to stop for food on the way to Reno. Suggestions from ba.food indicated that Colfax (past Sacramento by about 30mins) had two good options; Auburn (just before Colfax) also looked decent. But we went on to Colfax, where we ate at:
Lunch (day 1): Rosy's in Colfax (520 S Auburn St; exit the highway, right twice, left, then it's on the left). I got the "Colfax Club", which was really good for a club sandwich. She got the special chicken fingers, which were extremely good. Everything was tasty, but it seemed a bit pricy to me -- about a dollar or two more than I would have expected that food to cost. Still, huge portions, so worth it.
$22 (with tax+tip, as all further prices will be).
Rosy's is Mon-Tue 7am-2pm, Wed-Sat 7am-9pm, closed Sunday.
[a few blocks away was the "Little Red Hen" that was also recommended; it's a much smaller place with a similar menu, but slightly cheaper. Didn't try it, though.] [also: gas is a lot more expensive in Colfax than in Auburn. Unknown why, but gas up before hitting Colfax.]
Arrived in Reno, got our hotel room, relaxed after the drive. Talked about dinner. Drove past "Louis's Basque Restuarant" (which got good reviews), but didn't feel like a large prix fixee dinner interacting with others, so went on to my top choice for the evening:
Dinner (day 1): Beto's in Reno (575 W 5th, between Keystone and Arlington) for Mexican food. Hard to find since it was dark and their sign wasn't lit. But very much well worth it! "Combos" (your choice of three items) were just under $5. Margueritas were good and strong. Zero atmosphere, but also zero tourists -- hard enough to find that it's a local hangout. Every car in the parking lot had NV plates.
Great enchiladas, good tacos, okay sopas (if you're into those). I even liked the rice and beans, which I usually don't. Definitely a *great* find. I highly recommend Beto's if you're in the area. Even if you're staying in
a downtown casino, it's only 4-5 blocks away from the main area. We managed to spend $16 (with a whopping tip).
Still, I was told Beto's had huge portions, and we were still hungry (after the long drive). We wandered the casinos for a bit, then did a quick tour of "potential places to eat in the future". One of the places we stopped to look at the menu for was still open! They kindly offered to make anything; breakfast, dinner, whatever. So we had a snack at:
After dinner snack: Deux Gros Nez (249 California, about 1.5 blocks west of Virginia, the main drag; on the left as you go away from Virginia). She got dessert (scone with whipped cream and strawberrys); I did too (small green salad -- yeah, I have weird notions of what "dessert" means). Both were excellent. The vinagrette dressing was very good. Decaf coffee was even good; a rarety. $9.
Locals seemed to be doing the smoothie thing. They have many options for ingredients, and substitutions seem to be free. Jazz in the background, and a variety of board games and newspapers were offered.
One can't resist the mid-week pricing for the casino buffets. We went downstairs to the Atlantis buffet (since that was our hotel), but they were doing construction, and the noise was unbearable. Plus the odours from the salsa bar were enough to drown out any other smells. So we went on to:
Breakfast (day 2): Peppermill breakfast buffet (Peppermill is just north of the Atlantis, about 2-3 miles south of "downtown central", on Virginia, of course). $8 per, so $18 total. They have so many items that I recommend checking out the entire selection *before* getting food (as, alas, we didn't do). I ended up with half a plate of barely edible things, and half a plate of good food. There were certainly good choices to be had: the hash browns were very pristine (and tasty), a good "breakfast taco"
(although I prefer my tacos without black olives!), good eggs. Basically a good buffet; but a buffet it was, so nothing was astounding.
From there we went on a driving tour of Virginia City and Carson City. When we went to the AAA office the day before, a nice gentleman suggested that we dine in Virginia City, but was unable to suggest a place. (side note: he was *very* helpful. Astonished that someone would have come to Reno to do touristy things, rather than to hang out in casinos).
Virginia City is a very touristy place. The train ride (to Gold Town and back) was fun, but food options in town were basic pub fare, and not too exciting. We drove on to Carson City. Options that were mentioned here for Carson City were "a Greek place somewhere on the main drag" (we never saw it) and the "Villa Basque Deli" (which we did find). So:
Lunch (day 2): Villa Basque Deli in Carson City (730 Basque Way, a tiny drive off of the main drag. From I395 ("Carson Blvd") turn off onto Hot Springs Road (on the north side of town, a slew right if driving north). A few streets down, you pass a gas station, hang a quick right, then a quick left. Next to a BBQ place). This Basque deli was truly amazing. She had the Basque beef stew; aside from an Irish Guinness beef stew I once had, this was probably the best beef stew I've eaten. Very tender beef, good (if a tad salty) stew, well balanced. I had the chorizo sandwich special (with "Basque baked beans", which here means "with chorizo"). Amazing. More chorizo than I would want at one meal, but we shared, so it was just the right amount.
$21 (you just have to tip well if the food is amazing).
They also sell chorizo, tamales, etc. But in the middle of our vacation, we couldn't really get any. Next time we'll be prepared with a cooler full of ice.
Hard to leave, since the waitress and guests were gregarious and inviting. Even while we were eating, random people would strike up conversations! Not sure if that's a Basque thing, or just a small community of locals (they seemed amazed that we were from out of town). Either way, it made for a pleasant lunch experience.
Bloated and tired of driving, we returned to our hotel to rest. Did another casino romp in the evening, blowing an entire dollar at nickel slots (oooh!). Still full from lunch, we walked a lot in the hopes of working up an appetite for dinner, since there were still a number of untried places (Bangkok Cuisine, the Awful Awful burger at the Nugget, Pho 777, 4th Street Bistro, BJ's BBQ in Sparks, ...). Ended up just getting a snack at Arby's. (yes, that seems lame, but there's nary an Arby's within 20 miles of us, so a roasted beast sandwich was quite the treat).
Darkness always comes.
Of course, we headed back to:
Breakfast (day 3): Deux Gros Nez (249 California, see above). Felt weird to eat at the same place twice on one trip, but the night before we had been tempted... and although three times is too many, two is okay. ;-)
I got the "Brutus" (eggs with scallions, spinach, and cream cheese, plus taters and toast, but I subst'd tomatoes and mushrooms for the cream cheese, no extra cost!). She got the "Eggs Ed" (eggs with scallions and cheddar, plus taters/toast). Coffee. We split a scone. Maybe $18 (don't recall).
If I lived across the street from Deux Gros Nez, I think we'd end up eating there weekly, if not more often. Scary, since I don't like going out for breakfast. But it's a very friendly place.
Checked out of the hotel, took the I50 drive to Tahoe, went up and down the shore, then went to a place I randomly (maybe not so randomly ;-)) came across for lunch:
Lunch (day 3): Tudor Pub in South Lake Tahoe (upstairs from the Dory's Oar, on 1041 Fremont; just NE of the "South Lake Tahoe Recreational Area" -- look for I50 from Reno to turn from west to south in the central S Lake Tahoe area, and it's just before that, in the mess of streets named after CA cities).
Traditional Irish pub fare. The shepherd's pie was sublime, with real mashed potatoes on top. Stuffed baked potato was perhaps less authentic, but well executed. Pints are $5 (unlisted). Smoky and hot upstairs in the pub; a distinct contrast from Dory's downstairs, which is cool, fancy, and (of course) serves the standard overpriced California fare (but only for dinner). I'd go back to the Tudor, but it was a bit smoky and hot to make it a regular hangout. But with our 15% off coupon [search the web!], a deal. $20 even.
Then we drove back home, stopping briefly in Apple Valley for a large box of apples, and some apple cider donuts, in Camino (half way between Tahoe and Sacramento along I50) -- the Larson farm (for apples) and the one just south of it (forget the name, but they have a donut sign). Then we drove fast to try and beat the rush hours on Friday night (mostly a failure, but worth the effort).
"I wouldn't visit these cities without also going to":
- Beto's in Reno (mexican).
- Deux Gros Nez in Reno (healthy *and* tasty).
- Villa Basque Deli in Carson City (basque).
"Pretty good, if you're in the area, may as well try":
- Tudor Pub in South Lake Tahoe (irish pub) (search online for the 15% off coupon!)
"Untried but others suggested these, may try in a future trip if the other
amazing places are closed or we get tired of them":
- Bangkok Cuisine in Reno (thai) [55 Mt. Rose].
- Pho 777 in Reno (vietnamese) [201 E 2nd St].
- 4th St Bistro in Reno (??) [3065 W 4th, way off Virginia].
- Womack's BBQ in Reno [near the 4th St Bistro?].
- Louis's Basque in Reno (basque, prix fixee) [301 E 4th].
And to update some previous suggestions on chowhounds postings:
- Sapna (indian, Reno) is not in the phone book. Not sure if it still exists. Doesn't appear to be on the main drag.
- Sunset Grill (basque, Reno, between Peppermill and Atlantis) is no more.