Trains, burgers, shops, grand mansions, and Southwestern cuisine in Virginia City, Nevada

As day broke, a lazy Sunday morning started with snacks of granola for breakfast and a text with photo to my dad for Father’s Day. We check out of Silverland Inn and headed to the Virginia & Truckee Railroad to purchase tickets for the first ride of the day.

The F Street 1870 V&T Depot looks much like a train station would have looked like in the old west with benches on the outside and interior waiting room for winter days and museum with historical finds like stock certificates and antique wood burning stove. You can also purchase souvenirs in the shop as well. As 10:30am approached, the sound of a steam whistle sounded off in the distance. Just around the bend a steam trail plumed into the sky as the train came into view. There is nothing like watching Train #29 pull into the station, chugging and puffing, as it slowed to a halt. I felt like I was in an old west movie. The engineers and conductor were dressed in period costumes to make it more realistic.

As the conductor yelled, “All aboard!” everyone started to line up to get a seat in either the covered car or open top car that looked like it was once used for storing wood or coal for the engine. The 35-minute round trip tour includes narration from the conductor and these sights:

  • Tunnel No. 4 is the last tunnel before Virginia City, one of seven built for the 1600-ft. descent to the valley floor
  • Comstock mines including the Gould & Curry, Savage, Hale & Norcross, Potosi, Chollar, Julia, Ward Bullion, East Yellow Jacket, Crown Point, Kentuck, Yellow Jacket, Combination, and the Foreman.
  • Gold Hill is where the Comstock Era gold and silver strikes began in 1859. You can see the Liberty Engine fire company monument, dine at the 1859 Gold Hill Hotel, see the early Bank of California building and the Maynard Block.

Once the train is back in Virginia City, it’s time for lunch. The Palace Restaurant and Saloon has been in Virginia City since 1875. If you are feeling really hungry, The Garbage Truck Burger is sure to feed the hunger beast. It is two beef patties topped with bacon, pastrami, provolone cheese, onion ring, lettuce, tomato, pickle and Thousand Island dressing. This behemoth packs a flavor punch worthy for any opponent. It’s got a good balance of savory, sweet, and sour. It is served with French fries. Rating: 5/5

Bison Burger was a daily special and was pretty good. The patty was a good size. It was juicy and meaty. I chose to top it will cheddar cheese. The fries were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Rating: 4.5/5

We had a lot of time to kill until checking into our next lodging so we decided to window shop. Nothing But Skulls is a new comer to Virginia City and opened on June 5, 2015. If you like skulls or are a fan of hard rock, this is a must stop. Along with all things skull, they also have a large assortment of hard rock t-shirts and skull-inspired designs.

Virginia City Mercantile is a must stop for cold drinks, collectables, nostalgic gifts, old time candy, and more. If you have a hankering for a Sarsaparilla, they have it. If you’re looking for a one-of-kind hot sauce, they have it. They also have the largest selection of metal signs I have ever seen from old time Coca Cola to classic cars. Barrels and barrels of taffy of imaginable flavor also line the sides of the store. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, just stop in to look at everything!

On the weekends, locals will dress up in period attire and roam the streets. A man dressed up as a miner with his donkey, we nicknamed “Stinkin’ Pete” could be seen up and down the street, posing for photos or just shootin’ the breeze with locals and visitors.

The Delta Saloon has a tractor tour of the city. It’s about 30 minutes and it’s only $5 per person! Taking you along C Street and down to D Street with views of the Virginia City Cemetery, Chollar Mine, and historical facts about the town. Plus, it will give you a chance to rest your feet while touring the town.

After the tour, it was time to head over to Grandma’s Fudge Factory to pick up our favorite fudge flavors to take home with us and grab some ice cream. It was a hot and sunny Father’s Day in Virginia City and an ice cold, creamy ice cream treat really hit the spot. Grandma’s Fudge Factory stocks Cascade Glacier Ice Cream from Oregon. They are one of the oldest ice cream makers in the Western United States and have been churning out quality products since 1938. I love unique flavors and immediately chose the Huckleberry ice cream. It was creamy and tastes like the artisan ice creams that are taking the stage in SoCal. The huckleberry flavor is sweet and a little tart. It is amazing! The Maui Sherbet is all of the tropical fun flavor of Hawaii, sort of like a creamy version of shaved ice.

Silver Queen Hotel & Saloon is known an important lady. Inside, there is a Silver Queen mural on the wall. Her dress and the border of the mural are inlaid with 3,261 silver dollars. This hotel also has permanent residents who the Ghost Adventures crew has met with three times. There are 28 hotel rooms available for your ghostly encounter.

Time to check into our next lodging, the Cobb Mansion. Herman J. Harris bought the empty lots, on which the Cobb Mansion currently sits, after the Great Fire of 1875. It burned most of Virginia City. Mr. Harris owned a cigar shop on C Street and built and lived in it with his wife, Billie, two sons and a daughter, his brother Samuel, and an Irish servant. The Harris family owned the home until 1933, when William Cobb and his wife (whose maiden name was Harris), bought the house in the middle of the Great Depression for $300. The Cobb family owned the home until 1975. Donald and Debbie Ford owned the home for a few years. Connie Carlson, daughter of “Tiny” Carlson and owner of Silver Queen Saloon, bought the house in 1979 and raised her four children here. In 2004, current owners, Paul Yandre and Jeff Teague, purchased the home and began major restorations. The restorations they have done are absolutely fabulous with a foyer, formal parlor, family parlor, formal dining room, kitchen, butler’s pantry, six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and an office.

We stayed in the Harris Suite. Upon entry, a Turkish sitting room opens up the bedroom with easterly views of the valley and C Street. The Turkish room boasts souvenirs that Paul and Jeff have collected over the years while living in the Middle East. Modern amenities are carefully hidden like a high speed router for fast internet connections if you have to work or research places in town, a flat screen TV hidden behind stained glass windows above the fireplace. Temperature thermostat behind the headboard for cool AC for the summer and heat for the winter. The bathroom is cute and just the right size for the room. The king bed is so comfortable that I decided to take a short nap before we needed to head out for dinner.

After a nice nap, we head down the hill to Café del Rio. The building itself is historical. In 1873, it was a grocery convenience store. In the 1960s, it was a car garage. You can still see the where the double-garage doors would have been if you look front at it from the front of the building or looking out from the dining room. Chef Brian and Ardi Shaw have owned and operated Café del Rio in Virginia City since 2005. Their first location started in 1996 in Carson City, NV. Their fans have followed them to this new location and it has been the “hot spot” in town ever since. I always ask locals where they like to eat when I’m in a new town. Café del Rio always came up in the conversation often with an added “make sure you make a reservation!” It was Father’s Day so we definitely needed it. Even at 5pm, the dining room was packed.

Del Rita is made with Sauza Gold, fresh lime juice, agave syrup, and served on the rocks. It is a little on the sour side. It’s strong enough to get you relax without being overbearing on the tequila flavor. It could be a little sweeter. Rating: 4/5

Baby Kale Salad is topped with dried cranberries, fresh pear, toasted almonds, and manchego cheese with lemon vinaigrette. It is a refreshing salad with sweetness from the cranberries, rich nutty flavor from the almonds, and salty creamy notes from the cheese. Rating: 4/5

Del Rio House Salad is mixed greens topped with spiced pecans, Cojita cheese, and cumin-lime vinaigrette. This salad has a good mix of flavors and love the spicy kick of the pecans!  Rating: 4.3/5

Crab Cakes are made with Canadian snow crab and served with tamarind tartar sauce. They have a great texture with rich crab flavor. The crab cakes are delicate on their own. The tamarind tartar sauce was a tad sour and salty for the crab, but kudos on this creative twist instead of typical tartar sauce.  Rating: 4.3/5

Taquitos are seasoned chicken, potatoes, and jack cheese rolled in crisp corn tortillas and served with avocado salsa. The outside is golden brown and crispy. The chicken inside is tender. The flavor overall could be ramped up a tad, maybe with a spicy kick of chili powder. Rating: 3.3/5

BBQ’d Chicken Quesadilla is a flour tortilla filled with strips of BBQ chicken breast, jack cheese, fresh corn-off-the-cob, poblano pesto, and chipotle sour cream on the side. The BBQ chicken is tender. The poblano pesto is awesome! It would be great on a sandwich or tossed in pasta. The cheese is creamy. The corn is sweet and juicy. The kernels just pop in your mouth. Rating: 4.8/5

West Texas Steak Tacos are flour tortillas filled with grilled skirt steak, house smoked cheddar, pico de gallo, lettuce, and chipotle sour cream. The tender, juicy skirt steak matches perfectly with the cheese, pico de gallo, and crisp, fresh lettuce. This is our favorite menu item! Rating: 5/5

Gospel Fried Chicken was on the table of most of the patrons so I needed to try it. Plus, I just love fried chicken! It was crispy and perfectly blistered on the outside. The flavor and texture was similar to chicken fried steak. The chicken was tender and moist inside. The mashed potatoes were creamy and the chicken gravy was smooth like velvet. Rating: 4.8/5

Cinnamon Ice Cream with Caramel Sauce was the sweet ending to our dining experience. It tasted like a churro or horchata in ice cream form. The caramel lends a buttery sweet flavor. Rating: 4/5

Since we needed to walk uphill back to the Cobb Mansion, we took a very, slow leisurely walk back. We passed by the Mackay Mansion, which we had seen from the train. Since we missed the tour of the Cobb Mansion grounds during dinner, we took a peek at the outdoor patio and the rest of the downstairs. It was such a nice day of adventure and learned a lot about this historic mining town. Time to relax and get some sleep before the big push back to SoCal.

To view additional photos, please visit OC Food Diva’s Facebook page.

For more information:
100 North E Street
Virginia City, NV 89440, United States

20 C Street
Virginia City, Nevada, 89440, United States

18 South A Street
Virginia City, Nevada, 89440, United States

394 South C Street
Virginia City, Nevada, 89440, United States
Summer hours: Wednesday and Thursday from 4:30pm to 8pm, Friday and Saturday from 11:30am to 8pm, and Sunday from 10am to 7pm.

Trip was sponsored in part by Virginia City Tourism Commission

Click to add a blog post for Cafe Del Rio on Zomato