Is it gilding the lily to prolong a vacation that was already a month long? One that has now been over for almost three weeks? Maybe so, but I’m doing it anyway. I still have vacation food photos to share, and they’re of some of my favorite places and foods in the world. This one leans more toward favorite places, but you know the food is good, too, or they wouldn’t be my favorite places.
Sparks, Nevada (the middle “a” sounds like the one in “hat,” not “blah”) has been a sort of home-away-from-home for me for a long time. (Except for the half-year I lived there, right after moving back to the US from France for the first time. You can imagine the culture shock.) Victorian Square, aka B Street, was the epicenter of my life there. I spent many a happy hour at the Nugget Casino’s Orozko bar, drinking half-price drinks and eating tapas, and a few late nights at their blackjack and roulette tables. I worked at the Great Basin Brewing Company, and I go back for a few pints and meals every time I’m in town.
I always have a hard time deciding between the signature Black and Blue burger and the fish and chips. On this particular occasion, I went with the former – a juicy burger seasoned with Cajun blackening spices and topped with blue cheese. It was every bit as flavorful as I remembered it. Since this was our second lunch there in a week, and I’d had a chance to chat with the head chef, Nick got a special experimental sandwich he was working on.
And was it ever good! Chicken breast, split open and stuffed with ham and cheddar cheese, then battered and deep-fried. It was possibly even more awesome than it sounds. Of course, they also make beer at Great Basin, and they are some of my all-time favorite beers anywhere. I especially like the Icthyosaur IPA, the Wild Horse Amber, and the Chilebeso Chili beer, but they’re always coming up with new seasonals, and I haven’t had a bad beer there yet. The bad news for those of you who don’t live in Northern Nevada is that it’s currently only sold on select local taps. The good news is that they may start bottling soon, so keep your eyes open!
Next door to the Great Basin is O’Ski’s pub, another fine drinking establishment. It’s ostensibly an Irish-Polish bar (get it?) but really it’s just a great beer bar, with an always-changing selection of microbrews, lots of sports and mardi gras memorabilia on the walls and ceiling, and a pool table in the back. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve shut this place down.
Newer on the scene is Blind Onion Pizza, which wasn’t there when I lived there but I sure wish it had been. Definitely a West Coast-style pizza, it has a thick, twisted crust and there are cups of ranch dressing and bottles of honey for dipping if you’re into that. (I’m not… well, maybe sometimes the ranch.)
They serve their beers in pint jars, from a small, rotating list of microbrews on tap. The pizza topping choices range from classic to slightly unusual, but there’s nothing you wouldn’t want on a pizza.
Several other bars and restaurants line the street, so it’s usually a pretty happening place, but the summer is when Victorian Square really jumps. Every Thursday is the Sparks Farmer’s Market, which has just as many fair-type trinket, craft, and junk food stalls as it does actual farmers. But that doesn’t stop the whole city from coming down and enjoying live music, good food and drinks, and the bustling scene. And on Labor Day weekend, The Nugget hosts the annual Best in the West Rib Cook-Off, which is tons of fun. Sadly, we missed it by a week this year. It’s a planning mistake we hope not to repeat.
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One more thing: a last-minute reminder to vote for me in round one of Project Food Blog. Voting is open until 6:00 pm Pacific time today, September 23. That’s 3:00 am on Friday the 24th for those of you in continental Europe! If you want to go back and read my entry post, you can find it here. A big thank you to everyone who’s voted so far – you really make me feel loved!
On this day in 2008: Oops, I Did It Again (What’s it? I guess you’ll have to click to find out.)