Gold ‘N Silver Inn

Croissant club

Tasty tradition is the cornerstone of landmark Reno restaurant.

STORY BY MEGG MUELLER
PHOTOS BY KIPPY S. SPILKER

There are many sayings that talk about the importance of sharing mealtime with family, but quotes come and go. If you want to experience the difference a dash of familial love makes to your meal, you need to visit Reno’s Gold ‘N Silver Inn.

A staple of Reno’s dining scene for 60 years, the Gold ‘N Silver is the oldest casual dining restaurant in the city; it’s only been closed for one day since opening in 1956. Jeff Paine’s family has owned the restaurant since 1962, and as sole owner for 28 years, he’s seen the ebb and flow of Reno’s mercurial restaurant business first hand. When asked how in an industry that sees an 80-percent failure rate in the first two years the Gold ‘N Silver has defied the odds, Jeff says simply: “More than anything, it’s our employees.”

DEEPER THAN BONES

There are other reasons, to be sure, but the feeling of family is embodied in the staff. There are employees who predate when Jeff took over from his father; Georgina Moore for example, is a server and has been there for 37 years. Busser Tomas Rodriguez has worked there for 32 years, and Tami Campbell has been the bookkeeper for 37 years. Her daughter is the cashier, and will soon have a baby shower at the restaurant, with most of the staff in attendance. While every family has its bumps and bruises, the feeling of being a part of something greater than yourself is a tangible quality at the Gold ‘N Silver.

Meatloaf sandwich

Oh, and then there’s the food. Let’s not forget the perfect biscuits and gravy, or a delightfully tasty vegetarian pizza, or the mahogany-sauced tri-tip sandwich—the best-selling item on the menu. The Gold ‘N Silver made a name for itself with that sandwich, and also the sweet-spicy lemonade pork chops and ground beef pounder when The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” brought its cameras to film Jeff and his crew in January 2010.

Busser Tomas Rodriguez and server Georgina Moore have worked at the Gold ‘N Silver for 32 and 37 years, respectively.

“It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life,” Jeff says. “It still gets mentioned at least every day, and we’ve had people from every state in the country come in because of it.”

When Jeff got the call that his restaurant was being considered, it was in the middle of one of the restaurant’s darkest times. The recession pummeled discretionary income, and restaurants everywhere were feeling the hit. Jeff was borrowing money on his house to keep his 55 employees paid and the doors open. When the episode aired in April 2010, there was an immediate 25-percent bump in traffic to the restaurant, and it’s one of the reasons Jeff says they made it through that tough time.

STICK WITH WHAT’S WORKING

The climb back from the recession has been a long one, but today, the Gold ‘N Silver is standing on more solid ground. Jeff also credits patience when talking about why the restaurant is still packing them in.

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“We’ve evolved slowly,” he explains. “We’re in tune with food trends, and we make additions, but we don’t take things away. There are a lot of things on the menu that were on it in 1989.”

Comfort food is the hallmark of the Gold ‘N Silver; from chicken fried steaks to meatloaf platters, a classic clubhouse to giant omelets made to order, the entire menu is available 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. The crowd you’ll find during your visit largely follows the clock as well; regulars take up roost at the counter for breakfast, business lunches happen regularly—albeit with fewer three-martini meals than in the ‘70s, Jeff reports—and the overnight hours are often haunted by the after-party young adults looking to feed their beer-soaked bellies. Whatever the reason, whatever the hankering, the Gold ‘N Silver fills the bill.

NOW THAT WAS A PARTY
The restaurant today.

A commotion of sorts occurred at the restaurant in June this year when it celebrated its 60th anniversary with three days of 1950s prices on various menu items. For 10 cents, a cup of coffee was yours; for 95 cents, a grilled cheese with fries or spaghetti dinner. It was a delicious deal that few could pass up.

The venerable restaurant sits at the corner of one of Reno’s oldest neighborhoods and as neighborhoods are wont to do, it has slipped slightly off the hipster radar over the years. But each day during the celebration, the line of eager patrons that circled the block grew. Jeff notes that on each of those three days, the number of customers outpaced a normal day by more than half.

“It was beyond anything I could have imagined,” Jeff says of the turnout. “I was apologizing to everyone for the wait, but people were so positive. Some even came in two times a day, each day.”

No stranger to the restaurant, Governor Brian Sandoval even braved the crowds to show his support for the celebration. He and his son ate at the counter, and while they ordered from the regular menu, Jeff notes the governor sent him a certificate of recognition for the anniversary. Another fan, Senator Dean Heller, did the same.

Through good times and bad, with followers young and old, the Gold ‘N Silver Inn keeps doing what it does best: serving food you might find at home, only better.

“We are still here because we are not Denny’s,” Jeff says when asked again about the secret of his restaurant’s longevity. “We actually cook here.”

And like home, they never close.

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