Chicken-fried frenzy

Photo By David Robert

It was a dark and stormy night.

(OK, it was merely sprinkling.)

It was several months ago, and I was hanging out with my friend Kendall. About 11 p.m., he decided he was hungry. We were just west of downtown Reno, and I suggested we eat at the Wildwood Restaurant inside the Gold Dust West. I’d known the place thanks to my friend and then-co-worker, David Robert. My dining experiences there had always been good, and it was Wednesday, meaning the entire menu was half-price.

Kendall immediately rejected the suggestion. “No WAY!” he shrieked. It turns out that the last time he was there, he was kicked out. Explanation: Kendall is somewhat boyish-looking, and the Gold Dust West does not allow anybody in who is under 21. And even though Kendall’s 25, he’d forgot his identification.

Even though Kendall indeed had his ID with him on this dark and sprinkling night, he insisted we go to Jack in the Box instead. But when we arrived at the Jack at Keystone Avenue and Fourth Street, we saw about 14 cars in the drive-thru line.

It would be a wait. Kendall was hungry. He decided to give the Gold Dust a second chance.

We walked right in and were seated immediately (which never would have happened had we gone any earlier, because the word is out about the Gold Dust’s half-price Wednesdays—all day—and Sundays from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.). Kendall scanned the menu and let out a delighted yelp when he saw chicken fried steak ($6.95). He ordered it, while I just got a salad; I wasn’t that hungry.

After a brief wait, the waiter brought me a salad, and he brought Kendall half of a cow. OK, maybe not quite, but the breaded and fried steak literally hung off both edges of the plate. It was smothered with country gravy and came with mashed potatoes (also smothered with gravy) and the vegetable of the day (thankfully, not smothered with gravy).

Kendall took a bite. His eyes lit up, and he pronounced: “Oh my GOD! This is the best chicken fried steak I have EVER had!” Kendall is prone to pronouncing an inordinate number of things to be the “best ever,” so I took what he said with a grain of salt and requested a bite. He obliged.

It was the best chicken fried steak I had ever had.

Since then, I returned to Wildwood on a weekly basis until I moved away from Reno (and it was one of my first stops when I was back in Reno for Christmas). I have never been able to eat more than half of the steak—but the leftover portion makes for an amazing high-calorie breakfast the next day when heated up and slabbed between two pieces of toast.

Count on it: From now on, whenever I am within a 100-mile radius of Reno, I’ll be making a trip to the Gold Dust West for some chicken fried steak.

That is, after I double-check to make sure I have my ID.