THE PLACE: Because we live out in Spanish Springs, my husband and I decide to head over to the original Great Basin Brewery on Victorian Square in Sparks before a show at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino early on a Sunday evening.
Great Basin makes its own beers — most notably, the Icky, an India pale ale that’s now offered in bottles at area grocery and liquor stores. The restaurant does sandwiches, burgers, salads, soups and a handful of sausages on a French roll.
THE LOOK: Great Basin’s first location is smaller than its South Virginia Street counterpart, but we like the homey feel of its scuffed wood floors, panoramic paintings on the walls and kegs piled up near the entrance to the restroom.
A few TVs show Sunday afternoon’s NFL games, and there is Cleveland Browns memorabilia hung along one wall. Our waitress tells us owner Tom Young is a Browns fan.
THE MEAL: We order the loaded nachos with grilled chicken (me, but I’ll share) and the willy dillys fried pickles (my husband).
The nachos come with black beans, jalapeños, green onions, cheese, sour cream and tomatoes and cost $11.45. The dill pickle spears are fried in beer batter and come with ranch dressing on the side. For $5.95, their portion size is generous. My husband declares they’ve got “good crunch.” I try one so I can write authoritatively on the subject and am reminded that I just don’t like pickles.
The nachos, on the other hand, work for me. Ingredients are evenly distributed so as to prevent both the plate from getting soggy (too many toppings) and the meal from being dry (too few toppings).
We come in under budget and head out to our show full and happy.
KUDOS: I ask for extra salsa because I love salsa, and Great Basin’s is a notch above your average restaurant salsa. I always cringe on the inside when I do this, because I’m afraid our server will be less-than-thrilled with my request. But at Great Basin, the favor is met with a big smile and a quick delivery of another ramekin for me to pour over our nachos.
QUIBBLES: I would’ve liked a little guacamole on the nachos, but otherwise the meal is just what we are looking for. Parking at Great Basin can be difficult during summer, with the many festivals and weekly farmers market on Victorian Square. During our visit, it’s not a problem.
ALTERNATIVES: I’m keen to return on Tuesday between 3 and 6 p.m. I know that’s a specific window, but there’s good reason. On Tuesdays, the brewery offers a special it calls Tightwad Tuesday, and most pints are just $2.50. We also see a homemade sign for $1 tacos from 3 to 6 p.m. each day during happy hour. With Great Basin’s generous salsa policy, I’m pretty sure I’d be more than a happy camper.
There also are plenty of alternatives on the regular menu, including chicken wings ($8.95), quesadillas ($8-10) and any number of salads if you’re looking for more healthful fare (the spinach salad, Caprese and California-style Caesar all come in less than $10).
RETURN TRIP?: The beer rivals that of any local brewery. And the pub food doesn’t disappoint.