’Tis the seafood
Sparks, NV 89431
My wife, Kat, and I recently got a puppy. He’s only bad about 10 percent of the time, but we spend 90 percent of our time nervously waiting for him to misbehave. So it was a relief when, on a dank and nasty Saturday, we were able to sucker my brother into dog-sitting, so that Kat and I could venture out for some cold weather comfort food. I haven’t eaten at Sparks’ The Steamed Clam in a year-and-a-half. If this past Saturday was indicative of anything, it’s that time has not been easy on the restaurant.
The last time I was there, the place was packed. The food is as good now as it was back then. However when we arrived, 45 minutes before closing, it was empty aside from the bartender/server and some dapper gentleman wandering about the place. They were engaged in a lengthy conversation about turning the restaurant around. The server was gung-ho about lunch specials to draw people in and give them a taste of the seafood. I will admit, this place isn’t perfect, but the seafood is a hell of a lot better than your average lobster tank chain.
Part of the problem is the building; there is no curb appeal to this place located on a busy stretch of North McCarran. Another issue might be the price—because neither our oceans nor our stock portfolios are getting any healthier. This makes it tough to pay a $50 tab for two, especially when drinks aren’t even involved. However, for seafood in Reno, it’s prudent to pay a little more, lest you have to deal with the consequences.
Kat ordered the dinner special, fettuccine with a lobster cream sauce ($17.95), and I had the fish and chips ($14.95). Kat’s meal came with two pieces of garlic bread and a garden salad. It also contained asparagus—the single thing I will never eat.
However, I was able to eat around the asparagus, stealing pieces of the sizeable portion of lobster tail laid across the top. The sauce was thinner than expected, but I’m also pretty ridiculous in my craving for rich foods.
My meal started with a delicious bowl of clam chowder. It was loaded with potato and celery and sprinkled with chives. It was a comforting start to my first meal in a week enjoyed without a dog chewing on my ankles. My beer battered cod was fantastic. It tasted like butter as each piece melted down my throat. I’d recommend eating it very quickly because while stealing from Kat’s meal, I let mine cool down, and the batter got a little soggy.
I’ve got to recognize the bartender/server, the sole employee presiding over the dining room. He had a very calming effect and a way about him that suggests he has worked at busier and finer restaurants in the past. It’s an air of competence and maybe a touch of haughtiness that contradicts the general “upscale fish shack” ambience of the place.
One of my favorite details from my first meal was the bottomless goblet of chalky mints at the bar. Where have the chalky mints gone? I missed them so much. Along with the clam chowder and battered fish, they were the other thing I was looking forward to.