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Trader Dick's visit
thejab
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2986
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
Posted: 2003-03-24 5:35 pm   Permalink

I just got back from Reno. We took the fun train there. It should be called the drunk train. I recommend it if you'd rather hang out with other drunks than with a bunch of families with kids. Adults only. You can bring coolers with beer, bottles of booze, whatever you want. It was my first time so I didn't know the ropes but next time I'm bringing a cocktail shaker, my travel bar, and more booze instead of just a flask!

You get a reserved seat in an old but very comfortable coach. Each car has an attendant. They are all very friendly and helpful. They'll bring you cups of ice, sodas, water, pillows, what have you. They bring your dinner to your seat (lunch on the return trip). There's a dance car with a cheesy band and dance floor. Try dancing after having a few drinks while the trains rocking back and forth. It's not easy! A piano lounge with an even more cheesy singer. Good times. We were already drunk by the time we were in Martinez!

Seven hours and many drinks later we arrived in Reno where you board a prearranged bus that takes you to your hotel. We opted to stay at the Nugget in Sparks so we could visit Trader Dick's. It was my second visit to Trader Dick's and I'm happy to report it's as good as ever. A little history of the place: It was first built in 1963 on the main drag in Sparks where the Nugget coffee shop had been since the 40s and was across the street from the Nugget motel. In 1973 they built I-80 right through town so they actually moved Trader Dick's under the elevated freeway! Semi trucks are roaring above you while you drink your Mai Tai but you'd never know it. JT's Tiki Bar Review pages report that it was remodeled in the 80s, but they did a great job.

We hit Trader Dick's on Friday before they closed and ordered individual scorpion bowls and a pupu platter. The scorpions are only $10, they taste better than the scorpion at Trader Vic's, and you get to keep the bowl! The pupu platter was very good - the egg rolls were outstanding as were the little roasted duck tacos. There are several tikis here and there, some partially hiding behind greenery, always a nice touch. You have to look real hard to see some of them. There is also a large (10-12 foot) tiki with glowing red eyes at the reception desk for the restaurant. But best of all is the 6,000 gallon tropical fish tank the entire length of the bar. The amazing thing is the fish tank was built around huge support pillars for the freeway and they disguised the pillars to look like rock formations in the tank! Topping the fish tank and other parts of the restaurant area are "thatched roofs" that are covered with masks along the edges. The lighting is really dark with subtle colored lighting and the music is soft hawaiian. There are no TVs but after 10 there is a dance floor area with a DJ off to one side that sometimes was audible but usually not loud enough to be heard from inside the restaurant.

On Saturday we returned to Trader Dick's for more drinks and dinner. I had the Cha-Cha that comes with a straw hat you can keep. Another tasty drink but not that exciting. Robin had the outstanding Sneaky Tiki. Then I had the Aku Aku that comes with a moai-like mug you get to keep and a flaming sugar cube floating on the top (they float a lime slice on top which holds the cube). The drink was nasty tasting though so I had the waiter dump it out so I could take the mug and I ordered a Navy Grog (good and strong). Dinner was pleasant and the food was pretty good. Robin's salad and seared Ahi tuna was good but my sesame crusted Ono was overdone. I would probably order a steak next time. They have flaming deserts that were tempting but I was too stuffed. I had a Pina Colada so I could take home another mug (a "peanut" mug). Here's their menu in PDF format:

Trader%20Dick%27s%20Menu.pdf" target="_blank">http://www.janugget.com/restaurant/menus/Trader%20Dick%27s%20Menu.pdf

The Nugget has some other good restaurants. John's oyster house is excellent and has a nautical theme. Yes, you can get good seafood in Reno (at far cheaper prices than here in the Bay Area). We had the pan roast - oysters, shrimp, and crab in butter, wine, garlic, tomatoes, and cream. mmmmm

I have pictures that I'll post later.

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cynfulcynner
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 24, 2002
Posts: 1800
From: Ocean Beach, San Francisco
Posted: 2003-03-24 5:41 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2003-03-24 17:35, thejab wrote:
I just got back from Reno. We took the fun train there. It should be called the drunk train. I recommend it if you'd rather hang out with other drunks than with a bunch of families with kids. Adults only. You can bring coolers with beer, bottles of booze, whatever you want.



Tell us more! I didn't know there was any train service to Reno besides the California Zephyr.


 
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thejab
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2986
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
Posted: 2003-03-24 5:48 pm   Permalink

For a facinating history of the Nugget by Joe Bob Briggs (like when Trader Vic sued the Nugget) check this out:

http://www.joebobbriggs.com/vegasguy/vg20010717.html

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thejab
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2986
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
Posted: 2003-03-24 6:11 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2003-03-24 17:41, cynfulcynner wrote:
Tell us more! I didn't know there was any train service to Reno besides the California Zephyr.



This is their 40th. year and I just found out about it myself. It runs most weekends in January through March only. The price includes round trip, meals on the train, 2 nights hotel, transfer to hotel, and coupons. The price varies by hotel but the Nugget was $250 per person. It has older equipment then Amtrak (including some from the streamliner era). The staff is from Amtrak and are all friendly and fun people. A nice thing about it is that it stays in Sparks during the weekend so it leaves Reno on time on Sunday morning, while the Zephyr was 3 hours late arriving in Reno from Denver. The only complaint I have is the windows weren't very clean. They also run one during the weekdays called the Snow Train.

http://www.keyholidays.com/funtrain.html

I would definately ride it again next year.
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thejab
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2986
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
Posted: 2003-03-24 6:23 pm   Permalink

correction: $239 per person

They also have a similar package deal on board the Zephyr year round - with the screaming kids and no dance car or piano lounge.
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cynfulcynner
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 24, 2002
Posts: 1800
From: Ocean Beach, San Francisco
Posted: 2003-03-24 6:43 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2003-03-24 18:23, thejab wrote:
They also have a similar package deal on board the Zephyr year round - with the screaming kids and no dance car or piano lounge.



Screaming kids on Amtrak is more pleasant than screaming kids on a plane. At least on the train you can move to another seat and get away from them, and some Amtrak lines have playrooms.


 
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RevBambooBen
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 12, 2002
Posts: 7441
From: Huntikington Beach
Posted: 2003-03-24 9:03 pm   Permalink

Man! I wish I had a scanner. I've got a old post card of that "golden rooster", and a ton of other Trader Dicks pics from when it was being decorated. Is there still a golden wood carved dragon on the wall behind the bar? I got a pic of the dude carving it.

 
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bongofury
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Oct 15, 2002
Posts: 1538
From: Ventura County
Posted: 2003-03-24 9:27 pm   Permalink

...How was the weather this time of year?...


 
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thejab
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2986
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
Posted: 2003-03-24 11:15 pm   Permalink

I don't remember seeing a dragon carving.

It's cool this time of year but not cold. Highs in the 50s and 60s, lows in the 30s and 40s. Still lots of snow in the mountains that makes for scenic views around Reno.
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11107
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2003-03-26 12:32 pm   Permalink

The interesting thing about Trader Dick's is that it was decorated by TWO Tiki veterans: While ELy Hedley did the decor, Milan Guanko carved the Tikis. On page 249 of the BOT you can see him showcarving at Trader Dick's. It would be interesting to survey the existing ones and see which are in his style. I was there so many years ago, I don't remember.

The text from Dick Graves' menu is one of my all time faves:
"...Folks, Iíve never been to the South Seas...none of these recipes are mine...none of these have made the place Ďfamousí. How could they? Trader Dickís is brand new. Iíve connived, schemed, borrowed and begged for all the ideas and recipes we have here...They are the very best I could steal from all the top Cantonese and Polynesian Restaurants from Honululu to New York. And I ought to know...Iíve snooped in all of them...Iíve swiped menus, bribed and talked to bartenders and cooks and copied every good thing I could find.Ē


 
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Trader Woody
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2301
From: Tiki Manor, Forest of Bowland,UK
Posted: 2003-03-26 3:21 pm   Permalink

My wife and I were in SF a few years ago, and met a bunch of great people in an obscure bar called the Horseshoe (I think?). Anyway, they couldn't promote this journey enough. Perhaps it was even more fun than being in Reno....

Anyway, Thanks for posting the thread as it's helping me to remember fragments of one of the longest, unexpected, and enjoyable drinking sessions I've had on vacation!

Trader Woody


 
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thejab
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2986
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
Posted: 2003-03-27 12:50 pm   Permalink

I believe the tikis are still the Milan Guanko ones, as many have that cartoony look. Most of the tikis are near the bar. There are none in the dining rooms. I looked all around (while the waiters were staring, probably wondering what I was looking for) in the restaurant. I doubt the Ely Hedly decor is still intact because they remodeled twice since it opened in 1963. I did notice a half-tiki above the bar that had 3 faces - one in front and one on each side that shared the eyes with the face on the front - that reminded me of the similar carved poles at the Islands in San Diego. Who did the Islands' tikis?

I don't have recent pictures because I didn't finish my roll of film yet and I kept forgetting to bring my camera along, so here's a few pictures I took there a couple years ago:

This is me in front of the tiki with glowing red eyes.


The tiki mug in front comes with the Pina Colada and Chi Chi. I'm drinking from the Cha Cha, which comes with the straw hat.


The scorpion bowl is in front and still comes with the scorpion for $10. I believe the tall hula dancer mug comes with the Fog Cutter, but I didn't order one last weekend.




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Tiki Royale
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 06, 2002
Posts: 891
From: The Aloha Room in Beautiful Belmont, CA!
Posted: 2003-03-27 9:49 pm   Permalink

Great review and pics Jab!
I'm definately going to put Trader Dick's on the list for the next trip to Tahoe/Reno.

Mahalo



 
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RevBambooBen
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 12, 2002
Posts: 7441
From: Huntikington Beach
Posted: 2003-03-27 10:10 pm   Permalink

p.s. ELI !!! The Book of Tiki made a "journalistic" error and spelled it "Ely". I should know, it's my middle name!!! Thanx.

 
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woofmutt
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 26, 2002
Posts: 2599
From: Seattilite Telstar
Posted: 2003-03-27 11:11 pm   Permalink

This is the best write up I've read on Trader Dick's. Thanks for all the details. I've always wondered about this place, especially as it is so seldomly mentioned here.

 
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