Best person to recognize
During the dark days of the Great Recession, businesses were closing left and right, but there was one bright spot in Reno: the Midtown District. Cool new businesses began to sprout there, and its influence spread throughout the community. Midtown had one champion leading the charge. It’s difficult to rename streets, but there’s an alley that runs between Thoma Street and Junkee Clothing Exchange & Antique Mall, part of which we think is currently named Taylor Place. We believe the Reno City Council should honor the person who led the charge for Midtown and name that alley Jessica Schneider Way.
If you went to the Burning Man arts festival last year, you might have encountered “Pier 2,” the giant shipwreck out on the desert floor. Though that artwork was the result of the work of dozens of creative, talented people, Matt Schultz was the lead artist. This year, that crew is taking a fabricated Ichthyosaur skeleton out there. Schultz is something of a renaissance man. He’s the executive director of the Generator. He’s also a filmmaker. His documentary The Roots of Happiness has won a bunch of awards. He’s a guy with big visions, bigger dreams and the follow-through to get shit done. And perhaps most important, he’s a great guy to have a few drinks with.
Best band to wear black and purple to
The band Cathedral Ghost was a fun part of the local scene for the last couple of years—upbeat, catchy, surfy, ’60s style garage rock. But there was a dark, goth undercurrent that would rear its dyed-black-hair-and-eyeliner head every once in a while, especially in the band’s lyrics (or, hell, the band name). So it wasn’t that surprising when, after Cathedral Ghost dissolved earlier this year, guitarist and vocalist John Ludwick resurfaced with a new project, Plastic Caves, which sounds a lot like Disintegration-era Cure. Over sympathetic support from versatile drummer Darren Barnes and rocker bassist Shandra Rivera, Ludwick uncoils melodic, psychedelic but sad guitar lines and intones moody vocals. It’s great stuff, still largely unseen, so keep your ears and eyes open—though the band is unlikely to ever appear before dark.
Best English muffin
Haven’t changed your clothes since last night? Uncertain what’s going to cure the pain in your head, the nauseating feeling in your tummy, and the numbness in your lips and fingertips? We’d like to recommend the English muffin at Big Ed’s Alley Inn, 1036 E. Fourth St. There’s just something about the absorbency and sponginess of the—what is it, pastry, bread?—that will make you feel so much better. All you have to do is apply liberal amounts of butter, a bit of orange marmalade and wash it down with two or three Bloody Marys. Mmm. Better.
Best drive-in to walk in
A&W restaurants had a hard time in Reno and Sparks in the 1960s and ’70s. One of them, on Prater Way, shut down and reopened as a locally owned establishment that has become a Sparks fixture—Scooper’s. It usually gets a lot of attention during Hot August Nights because it looks the part and is not a chain restaurant. It’s easy to imagine the Toad and Debbie and Curt and Milner here. The food is very good, and there is air conditioning inside—there’s a renovation going on and the walls have been stripped of memorabilia—and a patio outside, depending on how brutal the summer weather is. Besides the usual burger-and-fries menu, there are dozens of milk shake flavors and some exotic bottled soft drinks, plus hot dogs and ice cream in various forms (cones, sundaes, etc.).
Best drive-in to reminisce about the '90s
Sonic has been a late-night staple for one staffer’s family for as long as she can remember. She and her sisters constantly begged her poor father to drive them down to the classic drive-in chain. She still finds herself taking long lingering looks at the menu from the comfort of her car. But let’s just call that our little secret. Legend has it she was thrilled by the cute carhops rollerskating to her car. Maybe it’s the memories of going with her family, maybe it’s that tingle of a childhood crush on the carhops that keeps her coming back. “Nope,” she says. “It’s the slushes. I really, really love those things.” Watermelon is her favorite.
After an evening out downtown at the bars with our friends, we get hungry as all hell. High on our list of cravings are two things: bacon and cheesecake. At those desperate times, Tivoli Gardens in the El Dorado has become like mom’s kitchen. It’s open 24 hours, and it’s downtown, so it’s convenient, and mom doesn’t even have to know what we’ve been up to. And here’s the clincher, they serve breakfast and dessert all day and night. One staffer’s favorite thing to get there is cheesecake—white chocolate cheesecake is especially tasty. It’s seriously amazing, especially paired with bacon … and bacon, oh and eggs.
Best uncategorizical store
The Red Chair, 3434 Lakeside Drive, 770-0111, is too specialized to ever likely win a place in the Biggest Little Best of Northern Nevada. At least that’s what proprietress Aaryn Walker says. What the store mostly has is mid-20th century décor and furniture, but the best way to shop it is to tell Aaryn what’s on your mid-century wish list. “Yeah, I’m looking to replace my ceiling lights with something from the ’60s,” “Trying to find something cool to put on the floor in my basement.” If it’s not in the store, she’s probably got something squirreled away in storage.
Best place to read the Book of Joe
A used bookstore is your friend. In Portland, there’s a multi-story one that occupies a full city block. In Hagerstown, Penn., a former Borders bookstore is now occupied by a used bookstore—though the justice is not that poetic: It’s a chain used bookstore. There’s even a book, The Protocols of Used Bookstores by David Mason. The Book Gallery in Sparks has survived as other local used bookstores have come and gone. Joe Chiapetto is now in his second tenure as its owner. Here you may find those books you loved as a child or soaked up like a sponge in college—and if they aren’t here, the store can track them down for you.
Best secondary use of an app
Did you ever get so drunk that you allowed yourself to be picked up by a cougar in Panther Valley? And then when you woke up, you didn’t have a car, know where you were, or know how to tell people to find you? Us, either. But we heard in such a case, a friend can install “Find My Phone” on Android or iPhone, and through the magic of triangulation, track you down to the most hidden lair in the most remote trailer in the valley. We also hear tell this is a great app for keeping track of your children.
Best civic innovation
Free parking in downtown Reno is the absolute best innovation this city has to offer. Who would have guessed the last City Council would spend so much dough to make our parking free? Those never-have-ever-functioned-ever parking meters had to be on purpose, right? It’s hard to believe that those bureaucrats would have ever come up with such an awesome idea on their own, but that’s apparently what happened. We certainly have enjoyed the amenity of free parking downtown these last two years. It’s fingers crossed that the current City Council continues to operate with such competence!
Best place to climb a cloud
Since opening about two years ago, the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum has provided a place for people of all ages to learn about the ecology and environment of the Truckee Meadows, Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake through interactive exhibits and educational programs. Young visitors can ascend the three-story Cloud Climber structure as they learn about our region’s water cycle, generate an “earthquake” by jumping on a special scale or explore a mine or a Native American tule house. Youngsters are encouraged to play and create in galleries located throughout the building. The Discovery, 490 S. Center St., also hosts special events like The Discovery After Dark event for students in grades 7-9 and its Social Science evening event for adults. Call 786-1000.
Best place to cool off
Families looking for an inexpensive place to take the kiddos during the hot summer months should head out to Melio Gaspari Water Play Park for an hour or two of wet fun. Located at the Lazy 5 Regional Park, 7100 Pyramid Lake Highway, in Spanish Springs, the water park has a giant sunflower sprinkler, spilling buckets, “spitting” horses, a water tower and other water features to cool down little hot ones. After they’ve had enough time in the water, they can continue their day of fun at one of the park’s two playgrounds or stop by the Spanish Springs Library to read a book. Admission to the water park is $3 per person. Kids age 2 and younger and adults over age 61 get in for free. The water park will close on Aug. 11. Call 823-6500.
Best place to check your GPS
OK, let’s review: Last summer, Chapel Tavern, a popular Midtown watering hole, moved from its a former location at 1495 S. Virginia St., at the corner of Virginia and Mount Rose Streets, up a couple of blocks north, to 1099 S. Virginia St., at the corner of Virginia and Caliente Streets. The new location used to be the 1099 Club. The original Chapel Tavern, formerly Mr. O’s, is now 40 Mile Saloon. With us, so far? The new Chapel is bigger and brighter, with great cocktails and staff, and is frequently bristling with beautiful people. But there’s something appealing and homey about 40 Mile Saloon. It helps that they’ve had a bunch of great rock ’n’ roll shows. Both are great bars, but whereas the new Chapel is a place to see and be seen, 40 Mile Saloon, on the other hand, is just a place to relax and party.
Best place to hear the call of the wild
For more than 30 years, Animal Ark has provided a home for injured, abandoned or non-releasable animals that can’t survive in the wild. Black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, wolves, foxes, hawks, owls and some exotic animals like cheetahs and tigers live on the 38-acre site located at 1265 Deerlodge Road, about 25 miles from downtown Reno. The wildlife sanctuary aims to “inspire environmental stewardship through wildlife education,” which includes special events and tours of its facilities. On Aug. 17, visitors to the Ark will get to experience the nocturnal behavior of some of its resident animals during Ark at Dark. The event often sells out quickly, so call (775) 970-3431 for tickets.
The arboretum. The rose gardens. The giant dog park. The Wilbur Day May Museum. The Basque monument. The Frisbee golf course. The tennis courts. The log ride. The hiking trails. The mountain biking trails. The picnic areas. The ranch house—ideal for weddings, family reunions, random parties. The baseball diamonds. The petting zoo. The pastures. The playgrounds. The balloon races. The kite fliers. The soccer players. The grass. The plants. The animals. The trees. The long, romantic walks. The candlelit dinners. The sense of humor. It’s basically like Rancho San Rafael takes one long, sensual look at every other park in the area and just says, “Suck it.”
Best place to consider your heart
If you’re into hiking, you need to try the Jumbo Grade. During the Comstock era, ore was taken over the mountain and down into Washoe Valley, then across a bridge that spanned Washoe Lake to the Ophir Mill (which still exists alongside U.S. 395). In the 20th century, a mining camp called Jumbo sprang up along this route, giving its name to the road. It’s clearly marked on the Washoe Valley side. It comes out about where Gold Hill meets Virginia City. For hikers with less energy, starting at the top and coming down might be a better idea. Spring and autumn are the best times for this hike, particularly in these years of scorching summers. And if you’re not into hiking, the Grade is still nice for a drive and a picnic.