RENO, NEVADA — This being a seafood restaurant, the menu not surprisingly offers “Fresh catch of the day,” but never specifies what the catch is, or how much it costs — save for the classic “Market price” listing in italics that mysteriously tempts you to go for it and worry about the cost later.
I’ve done that before, ordered the catch of the day without first inuqiring about the price, and lived to regret it — most recently last October when my father treated me to a fine, family-owned seafood restaurant in Tiverton, Rhode Island, and the price turned out to be about three times higher than the average meal. No matter how full and satsified your tummy is, those guilt pangs haunt you for days.
I have no clue what the catch of the day was at Fairchild’s Oyster Bar, because I neither asked nor ordered it on the spur of the moment. Besides, I didn’t feel that I needed to. It is, after all, an oyster bar, and frankly, there are few things in this world that I can resist than an oyster dinner. Fairchild’s very name called out to me, and I responded.
It’s not a large restaurant, and in fact is designed like a half circle. You have the option of being seated at one of the tables on the sides of the main entrance where your host greets you, or you can sit at the oyster bar itself, and watch the chefs do their magic.
And magic, I have to admit, it was. Under the listing “Hot specialties,” there it was, at the top of the list: Fresh Bayou Oysters, priced at just $12.95, offering oysters fried in cornmeal crust with a side of French Fries.
Other items on the menu tempted me as well — the Pan Fried Salmon ($14.25), or the Southern Fried Catfish ($13.95), the Coconut Prawns (five jumbo prawns dipped in beer batter, rolled in coconut and fried to a crisp golden brown, and served with Cajun rice — so, so tempting, at just $13.75), and, mostly irresistably, the Chicken and Seafood Jambalaya, a spicey version of the Lousiana classic, also for $13.75.
But I resisted all of those mouth-wateringly tempting plates, and went with my favorite, the oysters. What I hadn’t expected was that they would be serving me jumbo oysters, large enough to play golf or baseball with, along with a unexpectedly spicy side of cole slaw. Dipped into a cocktail sauce, the oysters were absolutely cooked to perfection.
I couldn’t resist also ordering a cup of clam chowder, and as I waited for the meal to arrive, I experienced more than a small amount of amusement at the notion of a restaurant in downtown Reno, Nevada, a big gambling town, offering a seafood menu with meals best known in other parts of the country: the oysters and chowder so prominent in New England, the Crabcakes that are a specialty in Baltimore, Maryland, the Jambalaya that cries out New Orleans. I wondered if Reno simply lacked its own specialty dishes … except for the fact that the osyters and chowder were both first rate. They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and the chefs at Fairchild’s sure know how to flattery their counterparts in other regions of America.
I could say that Fairchild’s is also appealing because it’s nestled in the mountains, with a stunning view of them all around you … except that wouldn’t be quite accurate. Fairchild’s has no windows; it offers a view of tourists and gamlbers, to be precise.
The restaurant’s casual bistro setting is situated inside the hallway of a local hotel, the Silver Legacy, located right in downtown Reno amidst all the casino establishments. Silver Legacy has its own massive casino right below the level where guests register for their room, and several fine looking restaurants — Fairchild’s being one of them — are ready to serve the visitors.
And your view as you dine, interestingly enough, is of the folks heading to the slot machines. It’s amusing to watch, to be sure. Some of them look excited, a few appear bewildered, and a couple of them look like they just lost their shirt to the slot machines. Everybody, it’s been said, has a story, and sometimes it reads clearly on their faces.
As for Fairchild’s, it has a pleasant and inviting decor; there are paintings of fish on the wall, along with a large swordfish and the wooden steering wheel from a ship — all, I suppose, intended to get you into that seafood-type of mood, or perhaps to create the ambiance of being on an oceanliner. Their superbly cooked oysters do that a lot better for me than the swordfish mounted above me.
There are other options to pick from at Fairchild’s, including a Bay Shrimp Salad Sandwich served on a croissant ($9.25), the North American Crab Trio (North American King Crab, Snow Crab and Dungeness Crab, for $23.95), or a Classical Seafood Louie salad, with the option of adding shrimp, crabmeat or both to the mix.
Desserts are on the list as well, including a Boston Cream Pie, Bourbon Street Bread Pudding, Mississippi Pecan Pie and Mount Rose Berry Cheesecake. Clearly, Fairchild’s borrows from the best.
It’s a very appealing place to dine, in a hotel that offers plenty of entertainment without the need to even leave the resort itself. Welcome to Reno, folks: they understand what visitors want, like, and will come back for.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.