I just got back from Reno, Nevada. Some thoughts on my short vacation:
1. Not including the more isolated Peppermill and Atlantis hotels, the best downtown Reno buffet is El Dorado, especially if you have a sweet tooth. Their dessert options were incredible. Fruit tarts, cakes, little chocolate pies, flan, more tarts, and gelato.
2. When factoring cost, the best overall Reno restaurant is Harrah's Cafe Napa. I had a wonderful steak and shrimp scampi there ($9.99) and a rib-eye steak the next day. (The Peppermill would be a close second, but it's not really on the downtown strip).
3. I discovered a new drink, the "Brandy Separator." I don't usually drink at all--I order virgin pina coladas and mineral water with lime when gambling--but when I saw this milky concoction, I had to try it. Absolutely yummy. Otherwise known as "Gorilla Milk," it's 1 1/4 parts brandy, 3/4 part Kahlúa liqueur, and 3/4 part heavy cream.
4. The first two rounds of 2009's March Madness were fantastic. At one point, two games were in OT, and then one of them went to double OT. That, my friends, is why you want to be in Nevada during March Madness. You can watch all the games on the multiple casino screens instead of relying on CBS to switch you to a particular game.
One complaint? I hated the refereeing. Some calls were atrocious. Not to take anything away from Siena, but one foul call against an Ohio State player during the last twenty seconds might have cost Ohio State the game. (The player never touched his man.)
Best coached team? Utah State. Every single play was perfectly executed. If their two best players hadn't fouled out at the last minute, they would have won. (See comment about refereeing above.)
Softest team? Wake Forest, i.e. this year's bracket buster. Wake Forest had no defense whatsoever. They could shoot well, but couldn't guard anyone. Wake hasn't produced a Final Four team in several decades, despite counting Tim Duncan and Chris Paul as alumni.
Biggest heart? University of Northern Iowa. After barely making it to the dance (they had to mount a miraculous comeback in an OT conference game to get an invite), they pushed Purdue to the limit. If some calls had gone UNI's way, we'd be looking at a potential Cinderella.
UNI also has the player with the coolest name: Ali Farokhmanesh.
MVP so far? UNC's Ty Lawson. Without him, UNC would be at home right now, watching the games on television. At one point, he was the only UNC player who scored in a four minute time span, which stopped the other team's run.
5. Best Reno sportsbook? Club Cal Neva (not to be confused with Tahoe's CalNeva). Club Cal Neva, during March Madness, had everything a guy and his buddies would want. Two girls in skimpy outfits offering jello shots; huge nachos for five bucks; multiple pitchers of beer everywhere; three rooms of television screens and plenty of seating; and drawings for sports memorabilia. If it wasn't March Madness, though, I'd probably go to Harrah's. They have a classy joint, and it shows.