Last Saturday, we took a well-advised exit off of Interstate 80 and on to Keystone Avenue in Reno. We were on journey to the 23rd annual Best in the West Rib Cook-off at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks and wanted a stretch and a bite.
Our destination was the landmark Gold 'n' Silver Inn restaurant. There, we met Sacramento Bee correspondent Mel Shields, who has covered the Reno-Lake Tahoe entertainment scene for this newspaper since 1976. His column appears each Sunday in the Living Here section.
The G&S opened in 1956 and continues to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner 24/7. And 365. It has been closed only one day in its life, for Christmas many years ago.
Mel and his breakfast club meet regularly at the G&S. "I use it as my kitchen," he said. "I eat here three times a week without fail, sometimes as many as five times."
The G&S is stuck in time - fortunately for its customers. It's the kind of old-fashioned diner where the waitresses call you "hon." Where the mottos are "Everybody fits in" and "We like kids." Where there's a daily special literally every day (pot roast Tuesdays, baked ham Sundays). It's steeped in a load of history and hospitality - and housemade brown gravy, which takes the chef two days to make. Predictably, the G&S was featured on an episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." Catch it at www.goldnsilverreno.com.
On the phone the day before, I'd asked owner Jeff Paine what makes his place so popular. "The history, the big menu, the value," he said. "We have employees who have been here 20-plus years, and it's like a family affair between them and the regulars."
On Saturday, sitting in one of the dining room's many booths, Mel and I joked with veteran waitress Judy Kane, who actually laughed at our humor as she took our orders. Uh, requests. After she'd left, Mel remarked, "I don't think there's a waitress here who isn't fun." If you enjoy live comedy, sit at the 12-stool counter by the kitchen and catch the great show starring the wait staff and the cooks at the order window.
The G&S menu goes on and on, with dishes priced from $4.25 for garlic fries to $16.95 for a 16-ounce charbroiled New York steak dinner. We counted 40 items on the opening page of the five-page menu.
I asked Paine about the house specials. "We sell so much chicken fried steak with country gravy that I can't even give you a number," he said. "And I can't tell you how we make our country gravy because you'd have a heart attack."
Naturally, we ordered the chicken fried steak with gravy, with two eggs over hard, fresh fruit instead of potatoes, and rye toast (shown in photograph; $11.95). There was a second breakfast guest with us, so to be safe I added bacon 'n' eggs with hashbrowns and toast ($8.75), eggs California (essentially eggs Benedict with avocado, $8.75), and a pound of "buttermilk breaded" fried chicken wings ($6.45).
As it turned out, leftovers were not an option.
The Gold 'n' Silver Inn is at 790 W. 4th St.; (775) 323-2696.