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Reno’s newest resort brings recreation to new heights.
Photo: Charlie Johnston (all)
“Woohoo! Yeah! You can do it!” A litany of encouragements emanate from a passing car of teenagers as I scale the outdoor façade of downtown Reno’s CommRow on a quiet Thursday afternoon. Their support is no match for the three-foot overhang I am awkwardly trying to negotiate. My grip fails, and in a split second I’m helplessly dangling 70-something feet above Virginia Street. Back on terra firma after a short rope descent, I remark about the uniqueness of a climbing venue where passing motorists can shout to climbers. My climbing partner, Karl Fendelander, tells me I should witness the exuberance of weekend crowds.
Fendelander, digital media and general marketing manager for the property and an avid climber, is doubly invested in downtown Reno’s newest attraction, the non-gaming, non-smoking, activity-oriented CommRow. With a professional background in online marketing and a 10-year passion for climbing, Fendelander and CommRow—home to the world’s tallest artificial climbing wall—are a perfect fit. “I used to feel a disconnect between my personal and professional lives,” he says. “I knew immediately I wanted [CommRow] to succeed.”
Given the tools at the resort’s disposal, that success seems very likely. In addition to the state-of-the art 164-foot exterior climbing wall, CommRow also boasts an indoor bouldering gym that rivals the best in the world and bars, concert venues, and dining options to compete with downtown Reno’s finest.
The second-floor bouldering gym, Base Camp, was designed by some of the country’s top climbers and Vertical Solutions, an innovator in artificial climbing wall designs. Vertical Solutions also built the outdoor wall that utilizes dual density holds made to withstand varying weather and allow the wall to remain open throughout the year. “It’s going to be cold and occasionally, it’s going to snow,” Fendelander says. “It was built for that.”
First-time climber Jessee Walsh of Reno describes Base Camp as “just awesome” and is noticeably pleased to learn that one-year passes for college students are $149 (rates range from $7 for an adult night pass to $350 for an annual family pass). And while folks such as Walsh, Fendelander, and myself fit the typical active 20- to 30-something demographic you might expect to find at a bouldering gym, Fendelander is quick to point out that, since CommRow opened in October 2011, they have seen every description of person at Base Camp, including an 80-year-old man who gushed over the advances in climbing since he last tried his hand at the sport in the 1940s. “I love seeing the little kids,” Fendelander says. “They scramble up [the indoor bouldering walls] with no fear, drop like rocks, then go right back up again.”
Up Body Fuels, a juice bar specializing in power foods, juices, and smoothies, is steps from Base Camp and offers nutritious treats to energize a day of conquering bouldering problems. Also climbing gym-adjacent and named for one of the most difficult conceivable problems in bouldering, V15 bar is the perfect spot to enjoy a post-climb refreshment while cheering on other climbers or to sip an adult beverage on the outdoor deck overlooking downtown Reno.
For those disinclined to climb, the first floor of CommRow is best described as an upscale trendy take on food courts, where trays of room-temperature mystery food slopped onto plates by unenthusiastic teenagers are replaced with mouthwatering gastronomic creations meticulously prepared by real chefs, and nondescript fountain drinks and artificial shakes are supplanted by inspired cocktails and hard-to-find Mexican beers.
Checkout, just inside the Virginia Street entrance, offers coffees, teas, desserts, and an honor library where guests are invited to trade and read used books. People in the know suggest ducking into the coffee joint’s antique phone booth to make a call on your cell phone if the party outside is too loud to hear your conversation.
Directly across the main floor, Twisted Sweet Treats is the sugar-high ying to Checkout’s caffeine-rush yang, where soft-serve ice cream with mountains of toppings, candy by the pound, and popcorn bring out the kid in everyone.
Coffee and sweets are great, but only real food can sustain an entire CommRow adventure. The center of the property’s main floor takes an affordable (no dish costs more than $10) culinary world tour to provide fresh market-inspired Mexican, Chicago-style street vendor grub, and zesty Mediterranean.
Qué Taquitos y Gorditas specializes in mini tacos, fresh salsa and guacamole, made-to-order gorditas, and homemade chips. Vegetarian corn mini tacos are as tempting as the chicken, beef, pork, and shrimp choices, and cheese- and salsa-topped crispy fried gorditas steam with perfectly spiced fillings.
Da Stand Italian Beefs is named for the only way true Chicagoans will eat their Italian beef and sausage sandwiches: standing. The chest-high counter requires patrons to take “da stance”—and saves their laps from copious amounts of delicious drippings—as they sink their teeth into the eatery’s signature sandwich, a sweet pepper- and sausage-topped Italian beef drenched in savory au jus gravy.
Lemóni Mediterranean Grill’s wares are so beautiful they decided to put the kitchen on display so guests can watch as chefs slice, dice, and flambé their meals. Traditional lamb gyros are overflowing with juicy, flavorful meat carved from a vertical rotisserie. Greek fries, sprinkled with dill and lemon juice and served with a side of Greek tzatziki sauce, will change everything you think you know about fried potatoes.
Drinking on CommRow’s ground level doesn’t exactly reach the bar set by the property’s dining options—it reaches it four times over with Centric Cabaret, Lucky Lane Lounge, Órale Tequileria, and TarTarBar Tartares & Libations. The 150-person-capacity Centric serves as the lobby bar for the upcoming HANG Hotel—set for an April opening—and showcases local talent on its intimate stage. Lucky Lane takes a cue from Prohibition-era speakeasies with a mahogany bar, expansive whiskey selection, and new-school twists on old-school cocktails.
Under the expert stewardship of Melissa Ollua—who also happens to make a phenomenal lavender margarita that is hands down the best in Reno—Órale features more than 100 tequilas and rejects pre-made mixes in what CommRow calls its Church of Agave.
Chic, sexy TarTarBar specializes in sake, sparkling wines, and ultra-modern cocktails shaken with top-shelf vodkas and gins. Crisp chilled ceviches, tartares, and oysters up the elegance ante at CommRow’s date-night destination.
The resort’s answer to nightclubs is the third-floor Cargo, which it bills as hosting “events outside the box.” The 500-plus-person-capacity venue features a full bar, top-quality live music and special events by night, and core fitness, yoga, and other classes by day. The Hold, also on the third level, provides another bar, overflow space for concerts and events at Cargo, and seating for private parties of more than 150 people.
Visitors to CommRow needn’t worry about ditching their four-legged friends at home. Reno’s hippest canine club, Doggie Lounge, lets pups socialize while people fetch an order of Greek fries.
No one would fault downtown Reno’s hippest new attraction if it stopped at its current lineup. But what visitors see today is only the beginning. In addition to HANG Hotel, an outdoor Adventure Deck promises to add to Base Camp’s already impressive offerings. HANG proudly boasts that its no-frills rooms will sport “the ugliest wallpaper in town” amid top-of-the-line bedding, linens, and bathrooms. As CommRow’s Communications Director Natasha Bourlin puts it, the people who stay at the hotel will stay for the vibe of the whole resort, not to hole up in their rooms.
The Adventure Deck, set to open in the summer atop CommRow’s six-story parking garage, will feature an outdoor bouldering gym, BMX park, skate park, and seasonal restaurants. There have been rumors about an eventual zipline in the vicinity of the Adventure Deck, the climbing wall deck, and the ReTrac courtyard between Commercial Row and Third Street, but you didn’t hear that from me.
Editor’s Note: Shortly after this issue was sent to press, it was announced that the first floor of CommRow will be closed for renovations through January 21. Read more here.
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255 N. Virginia St., Reno, NV 89501
Greek Flare of Lemóni Mediterranean Grill