During my five years in Reno, I’ve eaten four Awful Awful burgers. The first three are memories tucked away in the “Whoops, I drank too much” part of my brain. The one I had last Saturday I remember very clearly. I know I ate those other Awful Awfuls because the crumpled receipt I pulled from the crumpled pants on my floor told me so. If you’re any fun at all this has probably happened to you, too. That burger is legendary because it’s awfully good. Now, the spawn of the Little Nugget, the Wolf Den on North Virginia Street, is slinging the same meat, but aside from the burger, the rest of the experience was awfully bad.
I visited the Wolf Den with a gaggle of folks after watching my friend, Matt, participate in a local homebrew contest. One step into the place, and I realized it’s possible to take University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Pack pride to a nauseating level. I bet the decorating committee’s final planning meeting ended like this: “We’re going to cover every square inch of wall space with jerseys, posters and other sports knick knacks, but everything will be in frames to give it a classy touch.”
With the blue mood lighting from behind the bar flooding everything, this may be the world’s bluest restaurant. Fortunately, the air conditioning was cranked so high the ladies in our group demanded we eat on the sunny upstairs deck.
There really isn’t much of a service component at the Wolf Den. You order at a counter, pour your own water and get your own drinks from the bar. The food is brought to you, but don’t expect napkins or ketchup, that’s all set out on a separate counter for you to grab.
Let’s look past all this because at a measly $6.50 the Awful Awful is everything great about a cheeseburger. It’s a half pound juicy patty covered with a slab of melted cheddar, lettuce, tomato, thick slices of crunchy red onion and slathered with some brilliant mayonnaise sauce. This all gets tucked into an onion roll that’s really working overtime to hold it all in. The burger then teeters atop a pound of French fries. I swear it’s like they stole the French fry recipe from McDonalds; the resemblance is uncanny. The only difference is the Wolf Den’s spuds are covered with a tasty seasoning concoction. Nobody should eat all those fries, but they’re so damned addictive I quickly found myself approaching the bottom of the tray.
The rest of the food you’d probably have to be really drunk to enjoy. I wasn’t drunk. My brother ordered the nachos ($9.75), a heaping pile of tortilla chips, chili, guacamole, cheese, jalapeños and sour cream. For portion size, this plate is champion. They did not skimp on a single ingredient. The problem was the chili was bland and just kind of dried my mouth out. The best part was the fresh slices of jalapeño, which really freshened everything up. I also ordered a basket of onion rings ($8.25). Once again, the portion was not lacking, but I took one bite and oil and water started dripping from the onion ring. Combine those soggy onions with a watery blue cheese dip, and you’ve got an inedible appetizer.
The only thing I’ll ever eat from the Wolf Den is the Awful Awful. There are a lot of burger choices near the university, but this one utterly destroys the rest.