Go for the gold

The music is loud inside Sierra Gold, but the hamburgers, vegetarian choices and decor are great.

The music is loud inside Sierra Gold, but the hamburgers, vegetarian choices and decor are great.

Photo By David Robert

The restaurant’s name is Sierra Gold, but the largest sign visible from the road reads, “JACKPOTS - SPIRITS - FOOD.” Like many long-time Nevadans, I have zero interest in gambling, so “JACKPOTS” isn’t a great inducement—and the fact that “FOOD” gets third billing isn’t a good sign, either. But this is a case where low expectations led to a pleasant surprise.

Billed as “A Nevada Style Tavern,” Sierra Gold is an original restaurant owned by the same company that owns PT’s, a Las Vegas-area chain of restaurants. It’s sort of a sophisticated sports bar—with better food. Still, using video poker as a central selling point for a restaurant is tacky, especially when the restaurant has a surprisingly tasteful decor that includes a fireplace lounge and large prints by photographer Elliot Erwitt. There’s also outdoor patio seating, pool tables and a gorgeous bar.

One thing, however, that’s in keeping with the sports bar spirit is the music, which is so loud you can’t even identify the songs’ genre. You might catch a strain of classic rock here or contemporary dance music there, but mostly all you can hear is a bass thump, thump, thump.

The menu is a nice surprise, with lots to choose from, including tavern fare, pizzas and breakfast items. Danielle was happy that there were quite a number of vegetarian options. She started with the Arugula and Pear Salad ($9.99), which included candied walnuts, onions and goat cheese. It nicely started the meal, and I was glad she shared it with me because, instead of ordering a soup or salad, I ordered buffalo wings ($6.99). They were some of the best I’ve had (and I order wings just about every chance I get). These were meaty and spicy, just the way I like them. My only complaint about the wings was that they were served in an artsy cone with no place to leave bones.

The true culinary test of any tavern is the burger. It should be the cornerstone of any American bar menu, and if they don’t get the burger right, there’s no point in bothering to try anything else. I’m pleased to say they serve up a damned fine burger at Sierra Gold. The menu has a “Create Your Own Burger” page with a couple dozen accouterment options and even the possibility of ordering a portabella mushroom patty. I had the 10-ounce beef patty ($7.99) with Swiss cheese ($.75), bacon ($.75) and teriyaki ($.50) as extras.

Service was excellent: friendly and helpful. The wait staff appears to be exclusively young, attractive and female. In fact, I wasn’t surprised to find an advertisement for “The Girls of PT’s” pinup calendar on Sierra Gold’s sister restaurant’s Web site.

Danielle had the Grilled Vegetables Pannini ($8.99), a great pannini sandwich with veggies, pesto and mozzarella. For an extra dollar, she substituted onion rings for fries—worth the buck because the fries were unremarkable, but the onion rings were big, juicy and plentiful.

All the food was quite good, a definite step above your usual pub fare. However, the prices are likewise a step up. Sierra Gold is open 24 hours and also has a good drink menu with plenty of frou-frou martinis and mixed drinks and a number of good beers on tap. It was quite busy when we visited, hopping with a surprisingly diverse crowd enjoying the food, drinks and, no doubt, the jackpots. It’s not a great place for a quiet romantic getaway, but it’s a good choice for a late-night meal with friends.