There are a lot of places to eat in old Truckee and when a friend suggested I try this place because it was an “original,” I grabbed a buddy and made the trek on a beautiful fall Saturday. Sitting next to the train station, at the end of a long, green building, is this little 28-seat, plank-floored, funky, hodge-podge of tables eatery. People were waiting for a table since it’s first-come, first-served. In all my years of tucking a napkin in to chow down, people waiting has always been a good indicator of the food to come, especially since there are so many restaurants within a stone’s throw—why wait?
Marty Carlton opened this place about two years ago. He has a pretty impressive background as a chef. He started cooking at the age of 15 at a restaurant in Los Angeles, and after graduating from a Los Angeles culinary school, he worked in several restaurants including Peninsula Hotel of Beverley Hills, L’Orangerie, Ma Maison Hotel of Beverley Hills, and Brentwood Bar and Grill.
After a decade in Southern California, Chef Carlton picked up his bags and moved to the East Coast where he became the executive chef for a renowned restaurant, Seascapes in Kennebunkport, Maine. And he just happened to be the preferred chef of President and Mrs. Bush 41.
Marty's Cafe is a breakfast-lunch joint, and the menu for breakfast ($3-$14) has some standards, some classics and some originals. Lunch ($9-$16) has a sandwich theme—hoagies, sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs—covering the gambit of classics, up-scale, themed and originals. All items are served all day, and the sandwiches have a choice of sides of potato salad, Italian macaroni salad, mixed green salad or kettle chips.
If you’re looking for stick-to-your-ribs, plentiful food, this is the place. I studied the hoagies ($12 half, $16 whole). The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin reported in 1953 that Italians working at the World War I–era shipyard in Philadelphia, known as Hog Island where emergency shipping was produced for the war effort, introduced the sandwich, by putting various meats, cheeses and lettuce between two slices of bread. This became known as the “Hog Island” sandwich; shortened to “Hoggies,” then the “hoagie.”
Katie’s was a leading contender. It was built with mortadella, Genoa salami, pepperoni, fresh mozzarella, and house-made sun-dried tomato spread on a Truckee sourdough roll, but then my eye wondered and beheld a house-made meatloaf sandwich ($14), which got the call. It was loaded with caramelized onions, chipotle ketchup, topped with cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato on a nice, long house roll.
It was my grandmother’s meatloaf all over again, with the added touch of the caramelized onions that gave it a nice touch of sweet with the southwest flair of the chipotle pulled together by the cheese.
My buddy went for the green chili and chorizo breakfast burrito ($14), a Mt. Rose of a meal. Two eggs, Spanish rice, tomatillo salsa, guacamole, sour cream and green chilies rolled into a 12-inch flour tortilla. Everything was very fresh, and the flavors were tart with the savory acidity of the tomatoes smooth out by the avocado and sour cream. The green chilies definitely tantalized the taste buds.
The ladies of the wait staff are super nice and very accommodating. The drink list is simple and all breakfast/lunch quaffs, OJ, coffee, tea, lemonade, and Pelligrino. Things like brie are used in omelets, there’s a house-made Granola ($9), Israeli couscous ($9), and Chicago-style hot dogs ($12).
Carlton reveals that the secret of cooking at Marty’s Cafe is about “simplicity at its finest—using common ingredients that the everyday customer can recognize, while still trying to be innovative.”