Reno, NV 89503
It was a sunny day, and my husband and I were taking my mom and dad out to dinner. After perusing the internet, we decided on the Hacienda Restaurant and Bar, mostly because it boasts outdoor seating.
The seating was indeed outdoors, but unfortunately our only view was of a parking lot. No matter. We seated ourselves in the waning sunlight and ordered a round of drinks. Our server, an energetic and cheerful youngster, took superb care of our drink orders and eagerly shared her encyclopedic knowledge of the menu. The Hacienda’s signature Margaritas, by the glass or by the pitcher, were yummy ($5.25 a glass with well tequila) and the choices of beer ample. We stuck with the Margaritas and tasted banana, strawberry and guava. Mom had a fruit smoothie ($3.50). (Yes, she was the designated driver—call me the infant terrible.)
Up to this point everything was great: family time in the warm Reno sun and good drinks. Fresh corn chips accompanied serviceable salsa, and we munched on seconds and then thirds. It was when cocktail hour ended, and we moved indoors for dinner that the disappointment came.
The problem was not atmosphere or service. Our indoor server was also terrific. He was professional, quick and friendly. There was pleasant music, and the décor, while not exactly original, was clean and not overbearing. The problem, to put it simply, was the food.
The Snapper El Diablo (Pacific snapper with blackened spices, seared and baked, served with cilantro lemon sauce, $13.50) sounded delightful, and I ordered quickly. Regrettably, when it arrived the edges were not just blackened but very burnt. I ate from the middle out and finished not even half of the meal. I could only stand the taste of so much charcoal. My husband had the equally disappointing Enchiladas Del Mar (two enchiladas filled with crab, whitefish and bay shrimp, covered with ranchera or tomatillo sauce and sour cream, $10.75). While the seasoning was decent, the whole affair was rather bland and left him with nothing to do but have another Margarita. Mom had the fish tacos with cod (battered cod fish or red snapper and cabbage, with pineapple salsa or pico de gallo, $12.50). The fish was a tad limp and the salsa inadequate to cover other deficiencies.
Before I go on, though, I must add that my father was quite happy with his meal, two beef enchiladas ($12.00). I’m not sure what the lesson is here, but I’d wager it’s that the simpler meals at Hacienda are the better ones, or maybe it’s that their cooks are more comfortable with beef than seafood. I don’t know—I just know that with the ample offerings of outstanding Mexican restaurants in town, I very much doubt I will be going back.
Hacienda’s menu is extensive and offers all sorts of combos (from $10.50 to $12) and specialties such as T-bone steak ($13.95), chili verde (11.75) and chicken mole ($11.50). There are also chimichangas ($11.50), burritos ($10.75) and a variety of fresh fish dishes, like the tequila shrimp tacos (shrimp marinated in tequila butter, $12.50) and the Yucatan snapper (red snapper with butter and lemon, $13.50). All of these sound great, and perhaps many of them are. Maybe we just had a bad night, and were unlucky in our choices, but we weren’t left with enough hope to gamble on a repeat visit.