Say cheese

Brotherly loving: “The Works” Philly cheesesteak from Chuck Wagon.

Brotherly loving: “The Works” Philly cheesesteak from Chuck Wagon.

Photo/Allison Young

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With food truck origins, Chuck Wagon has moved from Incline Village to become one of Reno’s latest brunch bistros. The menu includes fresh baked goods, sandwiches, wraps, salads, burritos, burgers, and a broad selection of hot and cold coffee drinks, smoothies, fizzes, coolers and other beverages. Yet only one item called to me like a siren to a sailor: the Philly cheesesteak.

I love a good cheesesteak sandwich, and it’s distressingly difficult to find one ’round these parts. Chuck Wagon’s founder is a Philadelphia expat serving up a sandwich worthy of praise. “The Works” Cheesesteak ($8.95 with choice of side) showcases a well-seasoned, perfectly cooked rib eye with grilled onion, bell pepper, mushroom and pepperoncini on an honest-to-god Amoroso roll baked in the city of brotherly love.

“But what about the cheese?” you ask. Some say provolone is the thing, though more common is the yellowish-orange staple of 1950s cuisine, Cheez Whiz. Chuck Wagon’s sandwich employs a housemade seasoned cheese sauce easily served on the go, with the more important feature of being delicious. My side of chipotle macaroni salad was unfortunately a bit grainy and lacking in seasoning. Adding salt helped balance the smoky heat.

The next best thing we tasted was a jalapeño green chile burrito ($8.95) with steak, pork or chicken grilled with a hint of orange citrus (we chose steak). Filled with black beans, rice, cheddar cheese, jalapeño and roasted green chiles, avocado, sour cream, tomato and housemade salsa, this is not your average wrap. Great combination of flavors, and that citrus lends a freshness that was unexpected and appreciated.

Less successful was bacon mac and cheese ($9.95), said to be “just like Grandma made it.” A few varieties are available. In hindsight, I wish I’d had the Philly steak version. What I got was an ample serving of macaroni topped with raw shredded cheddar, the pasta and bacon glued together during baking. The result was a very dry, strangely non-cheesy dish I took home. Once melted at home, it was better, but still not great. If, after baking, they finished it with the cheesesteak sauce, it could be amazing.

The classic cheeseburger ($7.95 with choice of side) is a 1/3-pound Angus beef patty, American cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickle, red onion, mayo, mustard and secret sauce. It was cooked medium—no choice offered—and needed more seasoning. Otherwise, it was fine, if unremarkable. The side salad was a decent portion of red onion, tomato, and carrot on red leaf lettuce with a choice of dressing.

With many items baked in-house, we had to try some classics. A single order of biscuit and gravy ($4.95) was so filling, I was glad there was just one biscuit left. It was easily one of the biggest biscuits I’ve seen, covered in peppery sausage gravy. Saturday’s special, a large cinnamon roll ($4.95), also didn’t disappoint. Though not as warm as I would have liked, it was satisfying without being cloyingly sweet like the mall/airport variety. Topped with a smooth, cream-cheese frosting and filled with plenty of cinnamon, this roll was just plain yummy.

My wife’s black-and-tan latte ($3.50) involved dark chocolate, caramel and vanilla. If you like your coffee to taste like a candy bar, you’ll love this. My Gratifying Greens smoothie ($4.50), comprised of fresh spinach, pear, apple, melon, and kiwi, served my notion that when eating something high in fat and carbs, consuming something loaded with fruit and vegetables will somehow counter the “bad stuff.” It’s a flawed notion, but it makes me feel like I at least tried to do something healthy. It was certainly a tasty attempt.