Hot!Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014

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EdSails
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2014/01/31 19:02:57 (permalink)

Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014


 
Driving up from Orange County for my trip to the Reno-Lake Tahoe area, I pushed myself to not eat along the southern part of the trip, instead focusing on a return to a favorite place I'd eaten at on a previous trip to Northeastern California----Jolly Kone in Bridgeport. Throughout this trip, the one thing that would dog me was the unseasonable weather, actually gorgeous and pleasant. In fact, one of the most poignant things I saw was a sign on a small motel in tiny Coleville, CA---”Pray for rain and snow in 2014”. I certainly did not expect that I'd be driving in January in areas that I usually needed chains for but instead cruised through with the sunroof open and just a T-shirt on.
 

 
After an 8 hour drive with hunger pangs hitting, it was disappointing to get to Jolly Kone and see the “closed for the season” sign. Last time I was there, it was summer, tourist/fishing/hunting season in the area and I hadn't even guessed they would be closed.

There is only one other place to eat in Bridgeport (unbelievably, it's the county seat) and I had tried it once----it is a butcher shop known for processing the hunter's catch into delicious sausages. Alas, as I found out last time, the sausages are not on the menu of the sandwich shop, only the regular ham, turkey and roast beef. There are a few other places in town, but half were closed and the other half didn't seem to be what I was looking for. It was another 3 hours to Reno, and by then, late enough so I just opted to wait for dinner. I picked up cloudtwo, or as all from the Mobile Glee Club Meeting know him, Sterling, who flew into Reno for the visit.
 
Reno seems to have several good places to eat. I had a few places targeted by Roadfooder's suggestions as well as many places I would find myself. Breakfast was a place with a name I could not resist. How could you not eat at a place called Peg's Glorified Ham and Eggs”? Peg's has five locations, originally starting several miles down the road in CA but now having two locations in the Reno area and several awards for “Best Breakfast in Reno”. It was in a mini-mall, with a typical “diner” look you find when places try to recreate that look. They had a nice menu. Not wanting a real big breakfast, I ordered the French toast. Huge pieces, four of them well dipped and perfectly cooked.

Sterling had a grilled turkey patty with eggs over medium and hash browns and seemed very pleased. It was a nice choice for breakfast.
 


 
As things had happened, my friend from Mammoth Lakes had planned to make an excursion to his favorite place in Reno, the Peppermill, so when he heard I was coming he changed the dates to visit when I was there. We rendezvoused there and had lunch in the Oceano, the Peppermill's huge sushi bar that features an AYCE sushi lunch and dinner. The lunch is a great value for sushi aficionados at $14.99. The sushi list is large, with many rolls not seen in other places.

The San Francisco Roll was great, with tempura shrimp, avocado, eel sauce and unagi sauce. After lunch, complimentary ice cream cones were brought, featuring a delicious ginger ice cream.

 
 
Thursday was a busy day, involving games of chance accompanied by liberal amounts of adult beverages. A surprise was the meal we had. Not wanting to drive, everyone opted for a meal in my hotel, the Grand Sierra Resort Hotel and Casino. We walked into the Grand Cafe, sat down and looked at the menus. All four of us focused on one item, a Grilled Pastrami Reuben with fries or cole slaw. The meat was very good and not salty or fatty. The bread was marble rye and they had the proper mix of sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and Swiss cheese topping it. They were big sandwiches and very tasty, not at all what I expected from a hotel restaurant. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera for this, because the sandwich looked great as well as tasted great. After that, it was back to the casino bar for round two.
 
Saturday was a road trip to Truckee, CA north of Lake Tahoe. BackRhodes had raved about JAX Truckee Diner and I had looked at their menu before the trip.

My quandary was that they had two of my favorites, Country Fried Steak and Chili Burgers. There was an easy solution to my indecision----eat both breakfast and dinner there! The diner itself is really neat, an authentic 1948 Kullman Car Diner brought from Philadelphia to Truckee. It was neat to see the photos of the diner being brought cross-country from Phildelphia.

Adding to the authentic feeling was the original stainless steel walls, glass bricks for light and the rumble of the trains as they crossed the Donner Pass, running on tracks less than 100 feet from my table. What an interesting experience it was, to watch the trains from the window. Now this was a real diner!

 
 Breakfast was easy; I like being able to walk into a place and not have to even look at the menu. I ordered the Southern Fried Steak, two eggs over medium, an English muffin and hash browns. The coffee was a really good start and Rosie, our waitress, absolutely perfect. I had seen a TV show clip from he-who-will-not-be-named about the diner so I knew that the English muffins were fresh baked in the diner daily. What I didn't know was that they were also served with a fresh jam made from local strawberries with big chunks of delectable berries in the jam.

The country fried steak was delicious, cut from a nice piece of sirloin and lightly tenderized. I am not a big fan of CFS where the meat is machine tenderized or pounded to death. I prefer the chewiness of a real piece of meat. The crust was delicious, obviously hand battered with a nice crispiness to it. The meat was tender, with just enough chewiness to add some nice texture to the CFS.

 

Sterling got the Banana Pancakes which were huge and said they were delicious.

The service was great from Rosie and we felt like regulars. Here she is with Kelty, another waitress at the diner.
 
The next few hours were spent walking around Downtown Truckee. There was a bar that looked neat with the most amazing thing outside on the sidewalk—two ice sculptures!

 

Other neat places included a hotel with a nice restaurant and bar. Outside, there were pictures of the hotel from 1869 with a ox team and wagon in front of it. Finally, we had worn off enough of the breakfast to get ready to return to Jax for dinner. We were meeting some of Sterling's family who live about an hour west of Truckee and they were counting on my choice of a dinner place to be a good one.
 
This time at the Jax Truckee Diner, with six people, we were seated in the added on section to the original diner. Rosie introduced us to Jessie who would wait on us for dinner. Again, I didn't need the menu---I just ordered the Chili Cheese Burger with Cole Slaw.

Others at the table ordered a Greek Salad, Cheese Burger, Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich, Fish and Chips and a Pasta Pesto.

 

 

 

 

 

Although I would have preferred the chili without beans, it still worked well with the ½ pound, medium rare char-grilled burger. The bun was fresh-baked and excellent. 
 
Some of our group decided to try Jax' milk shakes. They got two thumbs up.

 
post edited by EdSails - 2014/01/31 19:09:11
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    Pancho
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/01/31 19:32:28 (permalink)
    Great report and fantastic photos! Wow, having spent a lot of time in that area I am shocked by the lack of snow. Usually Jax has drifts half way up the diner. That's very scary. I heard that no person in CA regardless of age has ever been through a drought as bad as this one. Did you hit any Basque places in Reno? I ate at a great place called Louis' last time through.
    post edited by Pancho - 2014/01/31 19:34:12
    #2
    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/01/31 19:38:07 (permalink)
    Looking good! Keep it coming. And oh, that chicken fried steak.
    #3
    EdSails
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/01/31 19:41:14 (permalink)
    Pancho, stay tuned for my Basque experience.
     
    Michael, more CFS to come!!
     
     
    #4
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/01/31 19:48:37 (permalink)
    Great start, Ed!  You almost make a case for eating breakfast 3 times a day!
    #5
    Pancho
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/01/31 19:48:46 (permalink)
    EdSails

    Pancho, stay tuned for my Basque experience.

    Michael, more CFS to come!!


    I just knew it!

    #6
    lleechef
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/01/31 20:18:06 (permalink)
    Beautiful pictures of beautiful food!!!! 
    #7
    Wintahaba
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/01/31 21:00:37 (permalink)
    ED, Stunning photos...great report!
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    EdSails
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 00:07:48 (permalink)
    Sunday was spent looking at an amazing museum, the National Automobile Museum. The bulk of the museum's cars were from the Bill Harrah collection. There were some amazing vehicles there, including a 1923 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, an 1892 Philion Road Carriage, a Mercer Runabout from 1913, a gorgeous one of a kind car from 1938 called the Phantom Corsair, an awesome 1933 Cadillac and even a 1948 Tucker. Newer cars included Elvis' 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible and Frank Sinatra's 1961 custom Ghia L6.4.
     

     

     

     

     
    After reading WJ's review of the Santa Fe Hotel, there was no question where we were going for dinner.

    We arrived at 5PM when the bar opened so I could sample the Basque restaurant's specialty, the Picon Punch. It definitely had a punch to it! By 5:50PM the bar was full of people waiting for the restaurant to open.

    At exactly at 6PM the doors opened and everyone was seated at the tables, family style. We had a delightful waitress.

    First to the table was a bottle of red wine. There was no label, but the flavor was good and that is what counted. Next came a bean soup, thin but with a smoky, rich flavor and great for dipping the crusty fresh bread into. 

    Right after we finished the soup, out came a nice grilled chorizo sausage and the necessary Basque beans.

    Finally the entree arrived. Several at the table ordered ribeye steaks but I got my favorite, lamb chops. The lamb chops came as three perfectly cooked to medium rare chops, juicy and with a nice char on the exterior. With the meats came baskets of hot French fries for the diners to pass around. They were simply amazing, flavorful and extremely tender.

     

     

     
    A small bowl of ice cream was the perfect capper to the filling meal.

     
    Monday I was out on my own, driving to Carson City for two things. The first thing was lunch at a place called the
    Cracker Box. The place has been around for 31 years, in a fairly nondescript building that looks oddly like a cracker box.

    They are only open for breakfast and lunch. It was obvious when I walked in that the place was very popular with the locals.

     
    I decided upon an order of fried oysters. It came with two sides of your choice. I ordered the oysters with a side of cole slaw, a creamy slaw with an interesting twist of having raisins in it. My waitress, Tessa, had mentioned home fries as one possibility and I asked about it.

    They were superb, with nice slices of potato fried with a decent amount of crusty edges, chunks of fresh tomato and freshly chopped scallions. The oysters were perfectly fried, golden brown and hot.

    All they needed was an occasional dip in the tartar sauce on their way to my stomach.
     
    Next on the list was the Nevada State Railroad Museum. Attention Mayor Al! The museum consists of an inside museum with exhibits and an interpretive center, outside areas with track, rolling stock and a 60 foot manual turntable, plus the “barn”, with the restoration shops, maintenance shops, rolling stock, locomotives and other items of interest. Many of the units are in operating condition, still being used for rides and motion pictures. An interesting locomotive was the #22, the Inyo, an 1895 Baldwin Locomotive Works steam engine used in the 1939 movie Union Pacific, McClintock, How The West Was Won, Meet Me in St. Louis, Red River, the Wild Wild West and many more movies and TV shows.

    It was gorgeous, fully restored and operates every year on Independence Day.

     

    Other locomotives in their collection were used in Apache, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Brothers Karamazov and The Reivers.




     
    Another interesting car was the motorcar McKeen #22, built in 1910 as a 70 foot gasoline powered passenger railcar for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. After the end of its use in 1945, it became two different diners and then a plumbing store. Several years ago, the plumbing store moved to a new location and donated the body to the Museum. Several years after that, it is fully restored to 1910 condition and in good operating shape, regularly carrying museum visitors during the summer months. I was lucky enough to be invited for a personal tour of the inside, beautiful with its polished wood, brass and leather interior. The whole visit was spectacular and I can't wait to go back when the trains are rolling.

     

     

     

    Monday night involved a visit to Joe's Diner in Reno. Joe's has really captured the look of a 50's diner.

    The specialty at Joe's is......drumroll.........the Sloppy Joe. They come in several different styles accompanied by either fresh cut French fries or fresh cut and fried potato chips. The flavor was quite impressive, not the tomatoey stuff I have been used to out of a can but a much more subtle sauce with nice chunks of sauteed onion and their mix of 15 spices. The original Sloppy Joe was delicious.

     

    Sterling opted for a variation, with avocado and cheddar cheese. He seemed to really enjoy it.

    He did, however, leave enough room for one of their sundaes.

    My only disappointment was asking about the story and history of the diner and building and being met with a blank stare.
     
     
    #9
    will_work_4_bbq
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 06:50:30 (permalink)
    What a great trip!  I cannot decide which of your meals was more spectacular!  All of the food looks fabulous!  Maybe the lamb......I don't often see it on a menu.  But I also find myself craving a sloppy joe now!  Fun sights and good eats, Ed!
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    myterry2
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 08:43:15 (permalink)
    What a great trip...been up in the area a few times, but now I need to go back...thanx again..appreciate the fine photos.
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    joerogo
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 09:15:05 (permalink)
    Very enjoyable report Ed, thanks for taking us along!
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    leethebard
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 09:48:54 (permalink)
    Oh that train museum. I do love trains. If you're ever going through Lancaster Pennsylvania, check out the Penn train museum there, Thanks!
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    ann peeples
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 10:13:55 (permalink)
    Superb, Ed! Great food choices and beautiful pictures!
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    ChrisOC
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 10:37:40 (permalink)
    Terrific report.  Thanks
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    pnwchef
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 12:04:58 (permalink)
    Ed, Great report, the pictures of the food look wonderful.........Great job my friend, you found some good Roadfood memories.............Bill
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    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 12:41:35 (permalink)
    Nice!
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    EdSails
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 13:22:44 (permalink)

    Tuesday morning, I dropped Sterling off at Reno Airport and headed to Mammoth Lakes, CA. After my experience at the Cracker Box in Carson City on Monday and finding out that their CFS was something special, I headed back there to try it.

    Indeed, the CFS was phenomenal. Cut from a chuck steak, I was told that they hand pounded it and dipped it in batter. Instead of deep frying it, they put it on the flattop to grill.

     

    I ordered it, getting a side of tomatoes topped with a little fresh parsley rather than the eggs that usually came with it. The country fried steak was just amazing. The gravy was creamy and not lumpy. The country fried steak was perfectly grilled. I knew that since I got to watch it being cooked. The country fried steak came with the same delicious home fries I had been impressed with the day before.
     
     
     
    An English muffin came on the side, tasty with some orange marmalade on it. The crunch on the country fried steak was good and the steak, although chewy, was perfect for me, having more of the texture of steak and less like those frozen cube steaks. I am not a fan of CFS that has no “bite” to it. Needless to say, I would find it a pleasure to work through the Cracker Box's entire menu. The people there were very nice too, making me feel like a regular.
     
    After spending the night in Mammoth Lakes with friends I headed down towards home. I stopped to try breakfast at Tom's Place, both a town and a store/cafe. Unfortunately, they seem to be on the fishing season schedule also, since the place was closed.

    Next stop, in Bishop, I knew I could get some coffee. First, I went to one of the two places that I always stop at in Bishop, Meadow Farms Mahogany Meats Smokehouse. There, I picked up some house-smoked elk, bison and beef jerky, a buffalo sausage similar to salami and some German style Land Jager dried sausages. I got a nice photo of the woman who helped me standing in front of the window where all of the freshly smoked bacon was.

     

     

    Next, I stopped at the other must-go place in Bishop, Eric Schat's Bakkery. Their baked goods are delicious, with everything from Swedish breads to French pastries. The place is always packed with travelers stopping by for fresh-baked items and sandwiches. A few samples and a cup of coffee later, I left with two loaves of bread for the house.

     

     
    I took some time to stop on the way at Manzanar National Historic Site. It is a chilling reminder of how fragile our freedom is and what fear and prejudice can cause. The internment site for over 120,000 people, primarily of Japanese ancestry, it held even third generation American citizens. It also supplied most of the soldiers for the U.S. Army's 442nd Infantry Regiment, whose members became the most decorated U. S. Army Infantry Regiment in history and was nicknamed the “Purple Heart Battalion”, even as family of many of the soldiers were interned in the camp during the war.
     

     

     

     

     

     
     
    I had chosen two places to eat in the next major town, Lone Pine. The one that was my favorite, the Mt. Whitney Restaurant, I stopped at first. Last time I had not been thrilled any more with the food or service. When I asked to see the menu, I could tell that the hostess was not thrilled to be working. I decided I would try a new place instead. A block down and around the corner is the Alabama Hills Cafe and Bakery.

    Lone Pine is known for several things, one of which is the part of the Eastern Sierras known as the Alabama Hills, named so by Civil War soldiers who felt that the rolling hills in front of the Sierras reminded them of home. Lone Pine is also famous for many westerns that were filmed there with stars such as John Wayne, as well as the Humphrey Bogart movie High Sierra. They hold a film festival there every year and have a film museum. Finally, Lone Pine is the location of Mt. Whitney, whose bulk towers over the area.
     
    When I walked into the small Alabama Hills Cafe, I knew I had come to the right place. It was full with what sounded like half the town's locals. Just listening to the table next to me told me that this was the place to be for good food.

    I ordered an interesting sounding burger, the Mountain Man Burger. When it came, it looked as huge as Mt. Whitney. They brought a huge steak knife and I knew why----it would be impossible to pick this thing up whole. I had ordered it my usual medium rare. I'm used to medium rare at burger places meaning anywhere from just north of raw to well done. I was shocked when I cut it in half and there it was, a perfect pink medium rare ½ pound Angus burger. I was impressed! Of course, it also oozed from the grilled onions, grilled mushroom and real cheddar and jack cheeses on it, as well as pickles, lettuce, Thousand Island dressing and two big fresh tomato slices. On the side was half a ton of french fries. The burger was delicious and despite how large an amount of food it looked like, I ate it all. This will definitely be the place I stop at for breakfast or lunch on my next trip up US 395.




     
    Back on US 395 heading south, I passed by a nice old sign of a place that no longer existed. In it's day though, I'm sure there was some great Roadfood there. I decided to take US 395 as far as it went south, passing ghost towns such as Randburg and small towns such as Red Mountain.
     

     

    Overall, I had some awesome meals and found a lot of great new places that I'll be visiting again. 
     

     
     
    post edited by EdSails - 2014/05/13 01:19:15
    #18
    JudgeMaven
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 13:39:51 (permalink)
    What a great report! Thanks for sharing.
     
    Shani
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    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 14:00:56 (permalink)
    Fantastic report. But I have a question. How the heck do you eat a burger like that? It appears as if you'd need the jaw of a python to bite into it.
     
    Not, of course, that I'd eat anything that has mushrooms.
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    EdSails
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 14:22:58 (permalink)
    Michael Hoffman

    Fantastic report. But I have a question. How the heck do you eat a burger like that? It appears as if you'd need the jaw of a python to bite into it.

    Not, of course, that I'd eat anything that has mushrooms.

    The knife they gave me for use in cutting it in half looked like Crocodile Dundee's. This was a small burger, anyways. They have a double cheeseburger (without mushrooms) that has two 1/3 pound patties. 
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    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 14:32:49 (permalink)
    Fantastic trip and report, Ed!
     
    And after all that food I'm surprised you didn't have to hire one of those trains to haul yourself back home...
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    lleechef
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 15:01:41 (permalink)
    Beautiful trip report Ed.  I want that burger!! 
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    Pancho
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 15:33:29 (permalink)
    Good choice with Mahogany....I've been ordering online from them for years.
    #24
    EdSails
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 15:43:22 (permalink)
    Pancho

    Good choice with Mahogany....I've been ordering online from them for years.

     
    Thanks, I've been stopping there since I was 17 years old.
     
    How did the Santa Fe Hotel look compared to what you found at Louis'?
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    Pancho
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/01 15:53:29 (permalink)
    EdSails

    Pancho

    Good choice with Mahogany....I've been ordering online from them for years.


    Thanks, I've been stopping there since I was 17 years old.

    How did the Santa Fe Hotel look compared to what you found at Louis'?
    As a matter of fact, I was like an eyelash away from suggesting the Santa Fe as well. I love them both. If you ever venture further east into interior Nevada, this is my all-time favorite Basque restaurant (in the US anyway, Bilbao is another story).
    http://themartinhotel.com/
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    EdSails
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/02 01:13:59 (permalink)
    ScreamingChicken

    Fantastic trip and report, Ed!

    And after all that food I'm surprised you didn't have to hire one of those trains to haul yourself back home...

    Didn't need it. When I was at the museum, the volunteer put me to work on the museum's hand car, going back and forth on the tracks. I worked off a day's meals pumping the handle up and down!

    #27
    ann peeples
    Sirloin
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/02 07:56:13 (permalink)
    Really enjoyed this report( along with all the others you have shared) I need to travel with you-interesting sites and great food!
    #28
    agnesrob
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/02 08:30:43 (permalink)
    What a great report Ed! Thanks for sharing!
    #29
    FriedClamFanatic
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    Re:Reno, Carson City, Truckee, Mammoth Lakes and other US 395 spots January 2014 2014/02/02 12:08:39 (permalink)
    Super report....and a nice reminder that I haven't had a CFS in a long,long time.......And the train museum looked awesome.  Sounds like a trip to Lancaster is in order.   BTW.......if you get to the train museum there.about a 1/2 mile further down on the opposite side, there's a "motel" and restaurant where you can sleep and eat in railroad cars (mostly converted cabooses (cabeese?).  Never have stayed there, and I think it may be more fun if you are under 13, but the food was surprisingly good.
    #30
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