Michael Bolton in V.C.?!?

Photo by Adrienne Rice

For the rest of my life, damn it, I am going to associate Virginia City with Michael Bolton. And how wrong is that?

This unlikely association developed one recent Friday, when Adrienne Rice and I headed up Geiger Grade to kill three birds with one stone (art review, restaurant review and theater review all in one day). After we viewed the art exhibit and before we reviewed the play, we ducked into the Firehouse Restaurant & Saloon to whack that second bird, so to speak.

We were in complete and total Old West mode, thanks to the unique atmosphere that Virginia City provides. I, especially, was mentally immersed in Old West Nevada, seeing as we had just came from the old Fourth Ward School, where we saw pictures including many of my deceased relatives who had called Virginia City home.

The Firehouse initially fit in with this mode. A friendly waitress sat us in the near-deserted restaurant (although the adjacent bar was full of people). We enjoyed the Old West-style decor—lots of gray, aged wood and red tablecloths highlighted the atmosphere—and laughed when we witnessed a trolley car full of tourists being pulled down the street by, of all things, a tractor.

We gave things a more modern feel by ordering some onion rings ($3.95) as an appetizer. The vegetarian Adrienne decided to get “The Veggie” sandwich ($6.50) with some potato salad, and I—a boy who grew up on a cattle ranch—went for the tri-tip dinner ($12.95) with BBQ beans, a baked potato and vegetables. I also decided to test a cup of the vegetable beef soup ($2).

It was after we ordered that our Western mood started to crash. During a lull in our conversation, it dawned on me what song was playing overhead.

“Is this Michael Bolton?” I asked Adrienne.

She listened for a second. “Oh my God, it is!”

Michael Bolton? Playing in a restaurant in Virginia City? One can make the case that his music is universally inappropriate, but it is indisputably out-of-place in Virginia City.

Whatever. Our onion rings and my soup had arrived. We dove into the hot, beer-battered onion rings, which were perfectly delicious. The same couldn’t be said for the accompanying ranch dressing, which tasted bland. However, Adrienne aptly pointed out that ranch dressing shares a trait with sex and pizza: Even when bad, it’s good.

My soup was quite tasty. A laundry list of vegetables—potatoes, mushrooms, pinto beans, carrots, green beans, celery and tomato—joined a smoky-flavored beef base with barley to make for a wonderful appetizer.

As we munched, another conversation lull occurred, during which we realized: Michael Bolton music was still on. This was not one song; it was an entire Michael Bolton album the restaurant was playing! Inappropriate!

Our meals came, and we tried to ignore the overhead music as we ate. My meal was pretty good. The tri-tip was so juicy and tender I could cut it with a fork. However, the taste was surprisingly bland. I am used to marinated tri-tip, so maybe my expectations were amiss. The accompanying beans and potato were good, but not spectacular.

Adrienne quickly ate her sandwich, although she was disappointed with it. There was nothing wrong with it, but nothing was right with it, either. Lettuce, tomato, avocado and Jack cheese with mayo on store-bought wheat bread. That’s all it was. The menu didn’t lie, but for $6.50, Adrienne expected something a bit better than what she could make at home.

All in all, it was a decent, if uninspiring dining experience. The food was decent, and the service was very good. But that Michael Bolton music simply has to go. It’s Virginia City, for crying out loud!