Charmed, I’m sure

Lucky Beaver's Gambler burger has bacon, an onion ring, barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese.

Lucky Beaver's Gambler burger has bacon, an onion ring, barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese.

Photo/Allison Young

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Perhaps luck matters as much as anything in the restaurant biz, giving the Lucky Beaver an edge in a building that has housed everything from a family-style diner to a “breastaurant” since the 1970s. Currently, it’s an adults-only sports bar decorated with classic pin-up artwork and a high-tech rotating grill on display with chefs firing high-end steaks, burgers, etc.

My wife and I visited with a group of friends. We started with 10 jumbo wings ($11.50), available in a variety of sauces, served with celery and ranch dressing. We chose the classic hot wing sauce, and though not crispy or particularly “jumbo,” the wings were adequate if a bit overpriced.

Calamari fries ($9.50) were a better deal and enjoyed by all. Eight breaded, deep-fried strips were served with lemon wedges, cocktail and tartar sauces. With a crispy coating on tender, perfectly cooked squid, even the mollusc-challenged enjoyed them.

“Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors,” is prominently displayed, claiming, “humanely raised, small-farm beef, free of hormones or antibiotics fed a diet of grass, hay, then finished on corn.” Do the research, and you’ll find that “finished on corn” ends any benefit of starting with “grass and hay,” and the purveyor is a factory venture serving hundreds of hotels and tourist destinations. Having said that, the 10-ounce filet mignon I sampled ($43) was expertly medium rare, among the best I’ve ever enjoyed, despite the fact the sides offered were identical to those for burgers. Is it me, or is it weird to feature a top-dollar filet and pair it like a cheeseburger? The premium price seems odd in this context.

Speaking of which, sides sampled included fries, tater tots, parmesan-garlic fries ($1 extra), battered onion rings ($2 extra), side and Caesar salads ($2.50 extra). The fries were skin-on and covered in goodies, but barely fried, limp and disappointing. Both salads were crisp and tasty, if annoyingly overcharged for substitution. The onion rings were quite good. Tater tots are currently a hipster food truck trend, and these seemed like they came out of a freezer bag. We had to remind the server we ordered them; they were served at the end of the meal with no charge.

The “steak burger” section claims, “You’re about to enjoy the best burger ever!” To be fair, they weren’t bad. But from the $12 half-pound “Beaver Burger” ($1 extra for cheese) to the $23 Double Down full-pounder (or another $7 for the triple), the Beaver’s pricing indicates something special. I’ve enjoyed locally-raised, truly grass-fed beef, but I couldn’t detect anything extraordinary about these burgers. The bun is so thick that—combined with toppings—you completely lose the flavor of the meat. There are better deals in Reno for high-quality burgers, and one of my local favorite full-pounders is literally half the price and twice as tasty.

I did sample some of the seared, sesame-encrusted, “sashimi grade Ahi tuna flown in directly from Hawaii to our front door” ($18), and it was damned good. No complaints, other than you can spend the same for a full AYCE sushi dinner anywhere in Reno.

There are hot dogs and breakfast sandwiches and desserts and other stuff on the menu, but it’s a bar, so let’s talk beverages. The Lucky Beaver Pale Ale ($5) was a fine, full pint. The Horni Beaver ($10) and Bloody B….. ($9) were acceptable if not exceptional examples of a margarita and bloody Mary, heavy on the ice for the price. “Bloody B…..” is how that drink is listed on the menu. Apparently they’re OK with making you think “Bloody Beaver” but not with actually printing it.

Service was friendly and fast, unsurprising since the place was mostly empty at dinner hour on a weeknight. Still, they’re new on the scene and will likely take some time to find their footing. This location near the convention center might just be the lucky break they’ll need to succeed.