Spend a spirited fall night in Carson City.
When it comes to nightlife, it can be easy to overlook Carson City. Let’s face it: Reno-Sparks and Lake Tahoe, with their burgeoning food-and-drink scenes and growing rosters of events, keep locals busy year-round.
But a night in Carson City can be culturally enriching, as casual and friendly as a hug, and full of surprises. It offers small-town friendliness with plenty of rich history, but with an increasingly urban vibe — a result of new establishments and activities cropping up in Carson seemingly every day. In short, it offers everything your heart desires in a night out.
Fall is an especially good time to visit our state’s capital, when the yellow aspen leaves provide a spectacular backdrop, and the approaching Nevada Day holiday brings with it many special events and opportunities for visitors to explore The Silver State’s fascinating history.
My husband and I, along with some friends, had the opportunity to check out the city’s many haunts one recent fall evening, and a spirited time was had by all.
We began our evening on Carson Street, just a couple blocks north of Bob McFadden Plaza and the Nevada State Capitol, for cocktails and delicious food at Great Basin Brewing Co.
The state’s flagship brewery was recently purchased by locally renowned restaurateur Mark Estee, and its newest location in Carson exemplifies Estee’s talent for creating comfortable-yet-elevated dining experiences. The menu is packed with comfort foods prepared in unexpected ways, made with in-season, locally produced ingredients and flavors.
We started with specialty cocktails: I ordered the bramble, a not-too-sweet, refreshing gin cocktail featuring blackberry liqueur, while my husband enjoyed a smoked old fashioned, a twist on the classic cocktail boasting a smooth, smoky flavor that feels like the essence of fall.
We followed that up with smoked heirloom tomato soup containing fresh tomato pulp and just-off-the-vine flavor, which is drizzled with basil oil, and an order of indulgent sticky fries for the table. The fries are topped with the perfect amounts of delectable pulled pork, shredded white Cheddar cheese, chopped bacon, and sweet barbecue sauce; the fries are crisp, not drowning, thus complemented perfectly.
Pulled-pork lovers also will enjoy Great Basin’s pork belly mac ’n’ cheese — fusilli pasta in rich, creamy cheese sauce topped with chunks of crisped pork belly and a potato-chip crust. The brick chicken, meanwhile, is a locals’ favorite; roasted under a hot brick, the chicken is moist inside and crispy outside. It’s served with roasted potatoes, broccolini, and carrots, and it’s all covered with a sauce so rich and flavorful you’ll want to lick it right off the plate.
With our full bellies warming us, we walked south to McFadden Plaza just in time to meet local performer Mary Bennett, aka Madame Curry, our spirit guide for the Carson City Ghost Walk, now in its 29th season.
Accompanied by a team of Spirit Wranglers, Madame Curry (wife of Abraham Curry, considered the father of Carson City) leads participants on a 90-minute walking tour along the downtown streets of Carson City, past some of its most historic, haunted locales. Madame Curry will regale you with witty, spooky tales about our capital city’s Wild West days, when mining reigned, the railroad brought workers to town, our state was in its infancy, and a local journalist named Mark Twain had begun to capture the world’s imagination. Your own imagination will run wild as you hear incredible facts from Carson City’s diverse history and meet many of the city’s most storied spirits.
Be sure to dress in comfortable shoes — plan for hills and some uneven terrain — and bring a jacket for cool nights. Evening tours depart at 7 p.m., so you might consider carrying a flashlight. Your tour will take you past such historic structures as Bliss Mansion; the former home of George Ferris Jr., inventor of the Ferris wheel; and the governor’s mansion. Tours run rain or shine.
Our evening concluded with a night cap at one of Downtown Carson City’s most sophisticated bars, Bank Saloon, at 418 S. Carson St. in the former Jack’s Bar location, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In this setting that feels dignified, but not stuffy, our small group grabbed seats at a high-top table and ordered from a menu of craft beers, wines, and distinctive cocktails that are elegant in their simplicity and prepared with fresh, local ingredients, including premium local spirits, fresh fruits, and herbs.
The menu is full of beloved classic cocktails, from the bees knees to the sazerac, Manhattan, sidecar, and, of course, the Nevada-born picon punch. But it also features innovative concoctions such as the peanut butter chocolate martini, spicy Mexican mule, huckleberry corpse reviver, and impressive collection of creative mocktails.
A gin lover through and through, I ordered a French 75, a classic cocktail made with Source One Juniper Grove gin (made down the street in Minden by Bently Heritage Estate Distillery), along with fresh lemon juice, elderflower liqueur, sugar, and Champagne, presented beautifully in a coupe glass with a flower as garnish.
We toasted to a thoroughly delightful evening out and wasted no time planning our next exciting discoveries in Carson City.
Jessica Santina is the managing editor of edible Reno-Tahoe magazine and a freelance writer specializing in telling stories about local arts and culture. She intends to work her way through Bank Saloon’s entire gin cocktail menu.
For details about Carson City’s many attractions and to plan your visit, start at Visitcarsoncity.com.
Bank Saloon (bar) Banksaloonnv.com
Carson City Ghost Walk Carsoncityghostwalk.com
Cucina Lupo (Italian restaurant) Cucinalupo.com
Eve’s Eatery (breakfast restaurant) Eveseaterynv.business.site
Great Basin Brewing Co. (brewery/restaurant) Greatbasinbrewingco.com
Nashville Social Club (Southern cuisine, bar, live music) Find Nashville Social Club, Carson City on Facebook
Old World Coffee Lab (coffee/tea) Oldworldcoffee.co
Piazza (wine, cocktails, and small bites) Carsonpiazzabar.com
Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint (restaurant, bar, and live music) Sassafrascarsoncity.com
Scoups Ice Cream & Soup Bar (waffle cones, sundaes, soups, and salads) Scoupsbar.com
Shoe Tree Brewing Co. (brewery) Shoetreebrewing.com
Tee Jay’s Corner Café (homestyle cooking) Teejayscornercafe.com
The Basil (Thai restaurant) Thebasilcarsoncity.com
There’s no better place to be than Carson City this fall
The anniversary of Nevada’s statehood is Oct. 31, and a full slate of activities is planned throughout the month of October, culminating in the statewide holiday on Oct. 28 and the annual Nevada Day Parade on Sat., Oct. 29. For the schedule of Nevada Day events in Carson City, visit Nevadaday.com.