Landrum’s on the Comstock
Renoites visiting Virginia City these days would find a that a one-time landmark of their own hometown has materialized on the Comstock—the Landrum’s Diner.
Named for Lowell Landrum, a Reno, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas restaurateur and casino investor of the 1940s and early ’50s, the first Landrum’s diner was at 1300 S. Virginia St. in Reno and thrived there for decades. After Landrum’s death on Sept. 21, 1953, his widow, Eunice, sold the tiny seven-seat café to Olive Calvert, who ran it for 30 years during which it became beloved of college students pulling all-nighters. The diner claimed to have originated the chili-cheese omelet.
In the 1980s, the diner unfortunately was “discovered” by folklorists, and it began going in for heavy self-promotion. The facility was declared a historic place, and artists like Roy Powers started doing paintings of it. It began selling Landrum’s T-shirts and publicizing the gruffness of its employees (which increased with the publicity), and it expanded to two new sites. Soon all three locations were troubled. Old No. 1 is now a title company and a second Reno location closed. The Sparks site, now owned by Dave Barker, is still open. The rights to the name are owned by Nick Pereo, according to Barker.
The new Landrum’s in Virginia City is inside the Mark Twain Casino and is scarcely larger than the original. Marge Moore, who says she worked at No. 1, is the majordomo, but the diner is owned by John Schafer. The Nataqua News quotes Schafer saying he discovered Landrum’s at 2 a.m. one night as a college student and wanted to recreate the cafe’s “sense of cameraderie.”