Squid—it’s what’s for dinner
My boyfriend Brian grew up in Garden City, Kan., which revolves yearly around a festival called “Beef Empire Days,” and right outside the city limits sprawls the largest beef-packing plant in our country. Therefore, since he relocates to the Biggest Little City next month, he had to do what we all have done here in Reno: have an Awful-Awful.
We entered the Little Nugget Diner through the alley—charming, stinky, crowded and hot. Stools were empty only in front of the grill, and I felt like I was sitting in a cross between a barbecue and a sauna. On this August afternoon, the joint was packed, as it often is. Brian waited patiently for his famous hamburger, and I reread the hand-painted descriptions of some notable menu items. The signage is excellent whether you eat here or not.
I chose the chicken strips dinner basket ($6.95). Four large home-style strips lay tantalizingly across The Best Skinny Fries in Town: hot, salty, crispy in the right spots, and sprinkled with parsley flakes. My dinner came with homemade cream-of-mushroom soup in which many large, thick mushrooms floated in a silky, rich base, making for a truly delicious soup, despite the stifling high-desert summer. My portion of watery, ranch-like dip was forgotten as I instead dunked my strips and fries into the soup. I washed my greasy, delectable meal down with vanilla milkshake ($3.25), which did not come with the extra-dribble-of-milkshake glass I’ve come to expect.
The Awful-Awful gets many thumbs-up for its gargantuan-yet-consumable size—a thick beef patty (singed like a dream) and crisp lettuce, tomato and onion toppings— and of course for its overall value, arriving atop a huge basket of seasoned french fries for only $3.50. An informal poll of hopeful eaters in line indicated they would soon be digesting Awful-Awfuls of their own.
“You get a shit-ton of fries. It definitely feels like Reno to eat in here … the grease in the air matches the grease in the hair!” my country bumpkin announced triumphantly, motioning to an oily looking couple behind us. We agreed that the grease is not unwelcome. In fact, it’s almost poetic: The predecessor patties to Brian’s Awful-Awful infused his burger with their greases, as his burger gave added flavor to the meat of those who came after.
That was the end of one dinner at Little Nugget Diner.
In order to do this review right, however, I knew I had to return to the diner after my and Brian’s initial venture. I went with my brave and hungry friend Evan (SWM, 25), who I knew would be willing to eat the majority of an Italian Submarine, so that I might sample it. The Italian Submarine is calamari steak, pounded flat, then breaded and fried and served as a sandwich ($5.95).
The sandwich came looking and smelling great, tartar sauce peeking out from beneath the toasted roll. Evan ate nonchalantly. As I took a bite, I realized I’m not the calamari type; even if I were, rubbery sea creatures have no business appearing in sandwich form in Downtown Reno in August. Pretending it was just chicken, I was able to swallow. Evan relished every bite while classically licking his fingers, the sandwich securing its right to be served alongside the Awful-Awful.
Anyone who puts one away knows the Awful-Awful is king, but strangely, one doesn’t hear so much about the Italian Submarine. Squid will never eclipse beef in popularity.