A line in the sandwich

Photo/Allison Young

For more information, visit www.renosandwichfactory.com.
Bryon Ausmus prepares Reno Sandwich Factory's Max Italian sandwich, a big, delicious mess.

In a busy commercial corridor of southeast Reno, a small breakfast and lunch counter has developed a strong fanbase over the past five years. Larger competitors that sell essentially the same thing are within shouting distance, some with lower prices and faster service. What they don’t have is over a dozen varieties of fresh-baked bread, and an expansive array of deli meats, cheeses and toppings—not to mention the option to purchase a 100-ounce tankard of coffee/soda and a full tank of gas. Most gas stations have a convenience store with pre-packaged “food,” but only one is home to the Reno Sandwich Factory.

Why is it people get so worked up about sandwiches? They are, after all, a meal that just about anyone can make regardless of skill. Perhaps it’s that simple ubiquity that makes a standout sandwich so coveted. I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t have an opinion on the subject, and it seems everyone has a favorite sandwich shop they want you to try. It was just that kind of buzz that sent my wife and I into this particular gas station seeking better-than-average sustenance, but what we found was a mixed bag.

We hadn’t had breakfast, and my wife was fresh from the gym, so I over-ordered a bit and figured on leftovers (three small sandwiches, $6.99 each, two cups of soup, $3.99). First up was the sandwich everyone told me to try, the Max Italian. A fantastic basil Parmesan bread served as foundation for salami, pepperoni, ham, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, sliced black olives and peperoncinis with mustard and mayo, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. It sounds like a big mess, and it is. A big, delicious mess. The price might seem steep for a 5-inch sandwich, but the flavor combination is well worth it.

You can build your own sub for the same price, so our second selection was a simpler combination of turkey and roast beef on three cheese peperoncini bread with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, mustard and mayo, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Again, the bread was bangin’, but I discovered something odd on inspection. Cut in half, most of the sandwich had roast beef but only one half had turkey. Also a bit of a misstep, there was perhaps half as much cheese on this sandwich. Perhaps someone got a bit rushed?

Sandwich number three was perfectly fine if your idea of a Reuben is to place a slice of Swiss cheese and a little sauerkraut on thin-sliced pastrami—no corned beef available—warm it just above room temperature in a microwave and serve it on cold marble rye. Typically, a Reuben is grilled throughout, insides melted and a little crispy, nestled between slices of rye bread and grilled with butter. An acceptable no-grill option is to place hot meat, kraut and cheese between slices of toasted rye. Further, the dressing shouldn’t be candy sweet. With so many better options on the menu, why include a subpar example of an American deli classic?

I’m unsure of whether the soups are made fresh, but someone needs to rethink the clam chowder. it was very watery, with mostly a bacon and potato flavor despite plenty of visible clam bits. Wanting to thicken it up, I crushed the crackers provided and only made it worse—very stale crackers in a very watery “chowder.” Ugh. On the other hand, the beef stew was pretty tasty, with tender meat and the right viscosity. Odd that one soup could be so good when the other was such a disappointment.

Salads, wraps, breakfast items and fresh baked desserts are available, and despite a couple of errors, I’ll be back if only to try every bread on the menu.