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T

I just got back from Reno. We took the fun train there. It should be called the drunk train. I recommend it if you'd rather hang out with other drunks than with a bunch of families with kids. Adults only. You can bring coolers with beer, bottles of booze, whatever you want. It was my first time so I didn't know the ropes but next time I'm bringing a cocktail shaker, my travel bar, and more booze instead of just a flask!

You get a reserved seat in an old but very comfortable coach. Each car has an attendant. They are all very friendly and helpful. They'll bring you cups of ice, sodas, water, pillows, what have you. They bring your dinner to your seat (lunch on the return trip). There's a dance car with a cheesy band and dance floor. Try dancing after having a few drinks while the trains rocking back and forth. It's not easy! A piano lounge with an even more cheesy singer. Good times. We were already drunk by the time we were in Martinez!

Seven hours and many drinks later we arrived in Reno where you board a prearranged bus that takes you to your hotel. We opted to stay at the Nugget in Sparks so we could visit Trader Dick's. It was my second visit to Trader Dick's and I'm happy to report it's as good as ever. A little history of the place: It was first built in 1963 on the main drag in Sparks where the Nugget coffee shop had been since the 40s and was across the street from the Nugget motel. In 1973 they built I-80 right through town so they actually moved Trader Dick's under the elevated freeway! Semi trucks are roaring above you while you drink your Mai Tai but you'd never know it. JT's Tiki Bar Review pages report that it was remodeled in the 80s, but they did a great job.

We hit Trader Dick's on Friday before they closed and ordered individual scorpion bowls and a pupu platter. The scorpions are only $10, they taste better than the scorpion at Trader Vic's, and you get to keep the bowl! The pupu platter was very good - the egg rolls were outstanding as were the little roasted duck tacos. There are several tikis here and there, some partially hiding behind greenery, always a nice touch. You have to look real hard to see some of them. There is also a large (10-12 foot) tiki with glowing red eyes at the reception desk for the restaurant. But best of all is the 6,000 gallon tropical fish tank the entire length of the bar. The amazing thing is the fish tank was built around huge support pillars for the freeway and they disguised the pillars to look like rock formations in the tank! Topping the fish tank and other parts of the restaurant area are "thatched roofs" that are covered with masks along the edges. The lighting is really dark with subtle colored lighting and the music is soft hawaiian. There are no TVs but after 10 there is a dance floor area with a DJ off to one side that sometimes was audible but usually not loud enough to be heard from inside the restaurant.

On Saturday we returned to Trader Dick's for more drinks and dinner. I had the Cha-Cha that comes with a straw hat you can keep. Another tasty drink but not that exciting. Robin had the outstanding Sneaky Tiki. Then I had the Aku Aku that comes with a moai-like mug you get to keep and a flaming sugar cube floating on the top (they float a lime slice on top which holds the cube). The drink was nasty tasting though so I had the waiter dump it out so I could take the mug and I ordered a Navy Grog (good and strong). Dinner was pleasant and the food was pretty good. Robin's salad and seared Ahi tuna was good but my sesame crusted Ono was overdone. I would probably order a steak next time. They have flaming deserts that were tempting but I was too stuffed. I had a Pina Colada so I could take home another mug (a "peanut" mug). Here's their menu in PDF format:

http://www.janugget.com/restaurant/menus/Trader%20Dick%27s%20Menu.pdf

The Nugget has some other good restaurants. John's oyster house is excellent and has a nautical theme. Yes, you can get good seafood in Reno (at far cheaper prices than here in the Bay Area). We had the pan roast - oysters, shrimp, and crab in butter, wine, garlic, tomatoes, and cream. mmmmm

I have pictures that I'll post later.

On 2003-03-24 17:35, thejab wrote:
I just got back from Reno. We took the fun train there. It should be called the drunk train. I recommend it if you'd rather hang out with other drunks than with a bunch of families with kids. Adults only. You can bring coolers with beer, bottles of booze, whatever you want.

Tell us more! I didn't know there was any train service to Reno besides the California Zephyr.

T

For a facinating history of the Nugget by Joe Bob Briggs (like when Trader Vic sued the Nugget) check this out:

http://www.joebobbriggs.com/vegasguy/vg20010717.html

T

On 2003-03-24 17:41, cynfulcynner wrote:
Tell us more! I didn't know there was any train service to Reno besides the California Zephyr.

This is their 40th. year and I just found out about it myself. It runs most weekends in January through March only. The price includes round trip, meals on the train, 2 nights hotel, transfer to hotel, and coupons. The price varies by hotel but the Nugget was $250 per person. It has older equipment then Amtrak (including some from the streamliner era). The staff is from Amtrak and are all friendly and fun people. A nice thing about it is that it stays in Sparks during the weekend so it leaves Reno on time on Sunday morning, while the Zephyr was 3 hours late arriving in Reno from Denver. The only complaint I have is the windows weren't very clean. They also run one during the weekdays called the Snow Train.

http://www.keyholidays.com/funtrain.html

I would definately ride it again next year.

T

correction: $239 per person

They also have a similar package deal on board the Zephyr year round - with the screaming kids and no dance car or piano lounge.

On 2003-03-24 18:23, thejab wrote:
They also have a similar package deal on board the Zephyr year round - with the screaming kids and no dance car or piano lounge.

Screaming kids on Amtrak is more pleasant than screaming kids on a plane. At least on the train you can move to another seat and get away from them, and some Amtrak lines have playrooms.

Man! I wish I had a scanner. I've got a old post card of that "golden rooster", and a ton of other Trader Dicks pics from when it was being decorated. Is there still a golden wood carved dragon on the wall behind the bar? I got a pic of the dude carving it.

...How was the weather this time of year?...

T

I don't remember seeing a dragon carving.

It's cool this time of year but not cold. Highs in the 50s and 60s, lows in the 30s and 40s. Still lots of snow in the mountains that makes for scenic views around Reno.

The interesting thing about Trader Dick's is that it was decorated by TWO Tiki veterans: While ELy Hedley did the decor, Milan Guanko carved the Tikis. On page 249 of the BOT you can see him showcarving at Trader Dick's. It would be interesting to survey the existing ones and see which are in his style. I was there so many years ago, I don't remember.

The text from Dick Graves' menu is one of my all time faves:
"...Folks, I’ve never been to the South Seas...none of these recipes are mine...none of these have made the place ‘famous’. How could they? Trader Dick’s is brand new. I’ve connived, schemed, borrowed and begged for all the ideas and recipes we have here...They are the very best I could steal from all the top Cantonese and Polynesian Restaurants from Honululu to New York. And I ought to know...I’ve snooped in all of them...I’ve swiped menus, bribed and talked to bartenders and cooks and copied every good thing I could find.”

My wife and I were in SF a few years ago, and met a bunch of great people in an obscure bar called the Horseshoe (I think?). Anyway, they couldn't promote this journey enough. Perhaps it was even more fun than being in Reno....

Anyway, Thanks for posting the thread as it's helping me to remember fragments of one of the longest, unexpected, and enjoyable drinking sessions I've had on vacation!

Trader Woody

T

I believe the tikis are still the Milan Guanko ones, as many have that cartoony look. Most of the tikis are near the bar. There are none in the dining rooms. I looked all around (while the waiters were staring, probably wondering what I was looking for) in the restaurant. I doubt the Ely Hedly decor is still intact because they remodeled twice since it opened in 1963. I did notice a half-tiki above the bar that had 3 faces - one in front and one on each side that shared the eyes with the face on the front - that reminded me of the similar carved poles at the Islands in San Diego. Who did the Islands' tikis?

I don't have recent pictures because I didn't finish my roll of film yet and I kept forgetting to bring my camera along, so here's a few pictures I took there a couple years ago:

This is me in front of the tiki with glowing red eyes.

The tiki mug in front comes with the Pina Colada and Chi Chi. I'm drinking from the Cha Cha, which comes with the straw hat.

The scorpion bowl is in front and still comes with the scorpion for $10. I believe the tall hula dancer mug comes with the Fog Cutter, but I didn't order one last weekend.

Great review and pics Jab!
I'm definately going to put Trader Dick's on the list for the next trip to Tahoe/Reno.

Mahalo

:tiki:

p.s. ELI !!! The Book of Tiki made a "journalistic" error and spelled it "Ely". I should know, it's my middle name!!! Thanx.

This is the best write up I've read on Trader Dick's. Thanks for all the details. I've always wondered about this place, especially as it is so seldomly mentioned here.

Wow, what a coincidence! I haven't posted to Tiki Central in months. I, too, was just in Reno and also had a great time at Trader Dick's. I have to say, though, that the review of it at the Tiki Bar Review Pages almost made me want to skip it, but I'm glad I didn't. Anyway, it's a fun place. There was a band when we got there that was playing old standards like "Just In Time" and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Everyone agreed that this was exactly what we wanted to here in a place like this. After the band, there was Hawaiian music playing on the PA. I was with my girlfriend and her sister, both of whom are decidedly NOT hardcore tiki-freaks, and they both loved it. In my opinion, Trader Dick's has everything you could ask for in a Tiki bar: Tiki's (duh), stiff drink's, apropriate music, ambiance, and Tiki mugs that you can actually take with you when you're done. What more could you ask for?

After Reno, we flew to Vegas the next day, and I was surprised to find a Tiki Bar at the Venetian: "Paradise Cove." It was supposed to open at 5:00, but when we were there at 5:30 it was closed, so I couldn't check it out. Anyone know the story behind this place? I seem to remember either Crazy Al of Bone Productions or Bosko being consulted for a Vegas Tiki Bar. Seems like an odd place for a Tiki Bar, although I'm not complaining!

M

In my opinion, Trader Dick's has everything you could ask for in a Tiki bar: Tiki's (duh), stiff drink's, apropriate music, ambiance, and Tiki mugs that you can actually take with you when you're done. What more could you ask for?

Yes, it seems as much. Kudos for the great review and other information, they are a good resource. Well done, The Jab.

After Reno, we flew to Vegas the next day, and I was surprised to find a Tiki Bar at the Venetian: "Paradise Cove." It was supposed to open at 5:00, but when we were there at 5:30 it was closed, so I couldn't check it out. Anyone know the story behind this place?

Uh, it is a story...but it ain't a nice one. Trader Dick's was fun wasn't it?

Seems like an odd place for a Tiki Bar, although I'm not complaining!

I would offer that you're not complaining for a very good reason: Taboo Cove was closed.

midnite

Great review, Jab!

My sister lives in Truckee and I've promised myself that next time I go to visit her I'm going to TDs. I've got several mugs from there, but I'm willing to drink for more!

On 2003-03-24 17:35, thejab wrote:
I just got back from Reno.

C

I left Reno/Tahoe before I hit drinkin age so I guess I can't feel bad about never going to Trader Dick's. My trips back always include the Peppermill Lounge and an Awful Awful burger at the Nugget. I'm feeling the need for another trip!

T

The Nugget's Awful Awful burger rules! I had one for breakfast and then one as a midnight snack!

My first encounter with trader dicks was back in 1969 as a kid on a bike in sparks and I rolled up on this cool place that looked very different. I remember as a kid how cool to be a grown up and be inside. They had these huge ship anchor chains out front and I could hear music inside. Years later it was moved across the street in the main Nugget but still cool but not as rustic, but had this huge tropical fish tank! When I turned 21 I would cash my paycheck at the nugget and they would give you 2 free drink tokens... well I had 2 zombies at traders and weaved out of the casino with an ear to ear grin... I guess I drove home. Years later I returned at my 10 year high school reunion at the Nugget... Couldn't wait to scan the drink menu... it was so classic! I plan on going to kauai this summer.. and I have a feeling I am going to be disappointed in the true tiki. Trader Dicks will be my measuring stick, well see... I just now heard about the fun train to Reno from "sac" boy, I can't wait... I am there for sure! And I will return once again to partake of the wholesum nectar of tiki!

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