Northern California casino resorts are taking a weeklong break from live entertainment, providing a prime opportunity to pay tribute a Reno institution celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Harrah’s Steak House opened on May 26, 1967, and established itself almost immediately as a destination restaurant.
As other restaurants have grown sleek, even industrial, in their design, the Steak House has purposely remained retro, dark woods and elegant upholstered booths and seats. Relocate it to San Francisco and it could have been used for Kim Novak’s entrance in “Vertigo.”
Harrah’s menu has remained pretty intact as well, emphasis on steaks and seafood, and it still emphasizes table-side service with Caesar salads tossed in front of the patrons and Steak Diane and Café Diablo set aflame.
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Its awards are among the highest in the industry, including most recently a steady stream of DiRoNa (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) awards of excellence, and the AAA Triple Diamond.
It also offered prime star-gazing opportunities in the showroom upstairs.
Nearly every performer who played Harrah’s had been spotted dining there, from Don Rickles to Tony Bennett. Michael Kerivan, the room’s maitre’d for 30 years, can list most of them, but he remembers most fondly Sammy Davis Jr. (who would host an after-hours party at the end of each engagement and even rent movie theaters to treat the staff); Billy Crystal and Robin Williams dining together; and one night when Jack Nicholson and Sean Penn showed up (“both very gracious and even offered autographs”).
And for non-celebrities, check out these two: a woman identified only as Edna who died earlier this year at 115, a survivor of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906; and a man affectionately called only “Chicken Dinner” by the staff, who only had dessert and coffee and then would ask how many were on staff that evening, down to every dishwasher and cashier, peeling off a $100 dollar bill for each of them.
“He is missed very much,” said Kerivan.
Along with the full menu, the Steak House is offering an anniversary prix fix four-course dinner through the end of the year ($50). (caesars.com/harrahs-reno)
This weekend downtown Reno hosts its fifth annual Biggest Little City Wing Fest, a two-day chicken wing competition, topped with free entertainment, most notably Saturday’s Trent Harmon (the winner of the “American Idol” final season), and Sunday’s Craig Wayne Boyd (winner of the seventh season of “The Voice”). Both perform at 8 p.m.
At Tahoe, two big nights in the Harveys Summer Concert Series: Rebelution is joined Friday night by Nahko and Medicine for the People, Collie Buddz, and Hirie (5:30 p.m.; $37.50), and Sunday finds Sammy Hagar and the Circle (7:30 p.m.; $69.50 in advance, $75 at the door; Ticketmaster or apeconcerts.com). Both are general admission shows with limited unassigned bleacher seating.