Not entirely a coincidence that we chose this restaurant on the waterfront of Sparks Marina Park Lake, since this was located very close to our hotel. But I was all too happy to take Mrs. Mai Tais suggestion for Sparks Water Bar for dinner on Saturday.
The lake is obviously man-made, and there are some nice beach styled houses near the marina, including some with some impressive backyard tikis. The two-story restaurant was busy on Saturday, so it seems like the place to be. Food is a mix of this and that American fare, along with the extensive Gar Woods cocktail menu.
So, a “Trader Vic’s Mai Tai” (the one made with Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Concentrate) and a “1944 Old Way Mai Tai” were there for a little comparison testing. Unlike our visit to sister property America’s Bar in Truckee, the mint was in great shape for the garnish. The 1944 comes with the Menehune spear, and did taste a bit better – just a little more rich. Both were well-done and authentic.
Mrs. Mai Tai tried one of Gar Woods’ “Woody” cocktails, a blended Daiquiri style drink which she plussed with some Prickly Pear puree and a float of Myers’s and Captain Morgan rums. I thought it was pretty good for this style of drink and certainly the pear flavor did come through. She didn’t love the Pomegranate Martini though, but I thought it was a pretty good Cosmo riff.
Can’t say enough good things about the food here. My Teriyaki Salmon Salad was delightful, with the teriyaki glaze perfectly grilled to a crisp. There were lots of things in the salad besides lettuce, and I really enjoyed this. The Scallops that Mrs. Mai Tai had were pricey but she said were excellent.
The new Legends Bay Casino is right across from our hotel in Sparks, so we went over to try some cocktails. There’s a bar with food trucks and a great selection of beer, but we went into the elegant bar at Duke’s Steak House. Our service from the bartender here was outstanding.
There’s a good selection of cocktails here, and the team can make classics not on the menu (I ordered a Sidecar). Mrs. Mai Tai immediately spotted the coconut rum drink called Thatch Roof, and this was an excellent choice. The Thatch Roof cocktail has Kasama Small Batch Rum (from the Philippines), ginger, coconut cream, lime, and soda. The blend of coconut and ginger worked great, and the soda and lime gave it a lightness. It was fantastic.
Kasama is a rum brand that I wasn’t familiar with, so I got a little pour of the rum for the second round. I don’t think the “small batch rum” label is quite accurate since research indicates there are big bucks and industry vets behind this brand (see also: Tito’s “Handmade” Vodka). The column-still rum is heavily dosed with sugar and added flavors, so this isn’t really a rum to sip neat. But I can’t complain at all about the flavorful Thatch Roof cocktail.
Rum Sugar Lime was recommended and is a cocktail bar with a Rum emphasis. This bar is located in Reno’s burgeoning Midtown district, near other boutiques, bars, and restaurants. They have two tables outside but well-spaced tables inside and also offer cocktails to go. There are two spirits displays on the back bar, half of which is nothing but rum. Lots of great rum choices to be had (hello, Foursquare 2004). Though early on a Saturday evening, the clientele was fun but polite and looking for a relaxing time rather than a drunken party.
I started with the house Mai Tai, featuring Smith & Cross and Flor de Cana rums. It was a good but not excellent Mai Tai, a bit too sour for my preference. Meanwhile, Mrs. Mai Tai had the Saturn and it was divine. Service was prompt and attentive.
We didn’t stay long but did order two cocktails to go. Mrs Mai Tai had the Coco Lolota, a Batida variant with coconut milk, Chartreuse, and citrus – but didn’t really like it. Meanwhile, I went to the Ultimate Mai Tai playbook and asked for a Mai Tai made with Appleton 12 and “heavy orgeat.” This one was really excellent! The Appleton Rum shined in this version and the sweet and sour were better balanced. The RSL folks even packed up two kinds of ice for the ride back to the hotel.
This seems like a great place that we’d love to hang out at, if not for COVID concerns. While this isn’t a Tiki Bar, we think most Tiki fans would enjoy the tropical touches and organic brick and wood elements. The cocktails overall were excellent and there is a whole wall of additional rums to enjoy. We’ll be happy to return the next time we’re in town.