There's little doubt the Awful Awful was Reno's most iconic food item. The Little Nugget's burger dates to the 1960s and was a half-pound of late-night greesy goodness served in a diner-like (and often drunken) atmosphere. The burger, served on a fresh-baked onion bun, came with a secret sauce and all the trimmings with a basket of fries that'd make an Idaho potato farmer jealous. But the Awful Awful will be no more at the end of July, which opens the coveted slot of "Reno's most iconic meal." Here are 21 nominees to fill that role. Why 21? It's my favorite number.
Peg’s Glorified Ham n Eggs' huevos rancheros: There's no better breakfast place in Reno than Peg’s Glorified Ham n Eggs. I once took ESPN writer Wright Thompson there for a meal, and even he approved. I don't remember what he got, but I got my usual, the huevos rancheros, which is on the Mt. Rushmore of Reno breakfast meals.
Stone House Cafe's eggs benedict: Let's stay in the breakfast lane and offer Stone House's eggs benedict. The restaurant offers five kinds of eggs benedict, including lobster, crab, salmon and vegetarian, but I'll stick with the pork benedict that's highlighted by a cilantro jalapeño hollandaise sauce. Toss in one of their peach cobbler smoothies and you've reached paradise.
Squeeze In's The Spanish Flay: The Squeeze In started in historic downtown Truckee in 1974 before opening restaurants in Reno and Sparks and then expanding to Las Vegas, California, Texas and Idaho. In 2010, the Squeeze In was featured on “Throwdown with Bobby Flay." Bobby won and was honored with his own omelet on Squeeze In's gigantic menu.
DoughBoys' Wolf Pack paw: Could a donut be Reno's most iconic food item? It's been trademarked, after all. DoughBoys started in Southern California in the 1980s before moving to Reno, where the Wolf Pack paw was created as a tie-in with the university's mascot. It has blue vanilla icing and sprinkles and is shaped like -- you guessed it -- a wolf's paw.
Great Full Garden's Liège waffles: To have Reno's most iconic food item, you have to be around for a couple decades. That's the only knock on Great Full Garden's Liège waffles since the restaurant, known for its healthy options, opened in Midtown in 2013 and now has four locations. There's plenty of good stuff on the menu, but nothing tops these waffles
Little Waldorf Saloon's World Famous Jiffy: Let's venture away from breakfast items to lunch/dinner items. If you're going to replace one well-known burger (the Awful Awful) for another, you could do worse than the Wal's World Famous Jiffy, a burger with bacon and peanut butter. After opening in the 1920s, the Lil Wal is one of the state's oldest restaurants.
Eldorado's mushroom raviolis: The porcini mushroom ravioli has long been Eldorado's signature dish, but could it also be Reno's signature dish? More than any food item on this list, Eldorado's mushroom raviolis are likely the thing the largest percentage of Renoites have eaten, whether it's at the Italian festival, at La Strada or an event inside the Silver Legacy.
Deli Towne USA's Tampa-style Cuban sandwich: You know what they say: If you want a great sandwich, head to the gas station? Well, they don't say that in most places, but in Reno they do thanks to Deli Towne, which is attached to a gas station. Opened in 1993, Deli Towne had thirteen breads, nine meats and nine cheeses, but it's top item is the Tampa-style Cuban.
Louis Basque Corner's chorizo sandwich: Opened on fourth street in 1967 by Louis Erreguible and wife Lorraine, this is the best Basque food in town. Louis, who was born in France, ran the place for 43 years and always offered authentic Basque meals. You can't go wrong with the chorizo sandwich, and you might as well add a Picon Punch while you're at it.
Coney Island Bar's all-beef hot dog: One of Reno's iconic restaurants serves a simple hot dog. Coney Island opened in 1945 and is a favorite spot for some of the city's biggest movers and shakers. There's plenty on the menu, but the place is known for its all-beef hot dogs. Add some chili, cheese and onion and it comes in at a hefty (but well worth it) $8.
The Steak House at Western Village Inn and Casino's prime rib: There are a lot of great steakhouses in Reno, but the best kept secret is The Steak House at Western Village, which has a modest appearance from the outside but is great inside. The Western Village's specialty is the prime rib, which gets rave reviews from locals and tourists.
Harrah's Steakhouse's Caesar salad: Like the Awful Awful, Harrah's Steakhouse could be sun-setting, too, since the building was sold, but I'd be remiss not to mention the place the Rat Pack used to frequent. There are lots of options to pick off this menu as Reno's most iconic food item, but I'll take the Caesar salad, made tableside with real anchovies.
Hash House A Go Go's meatloaf: Hash House A Go Go is in the same boat as Harrah's Steakhouse since it's also in what will now be called Reno City Center and could also be closed. Hash House is known for its brunch menu, but don't forget the meatloaf, which includes bacon, Parmesan cheese and chili sauce. Biggest issue here is this is a chain restaurant, so it's disqualified.
Casale’s Halfway Club's lasagna: Opened by Italian-born immigrants in 1937, Halfway Club has a sign that reads “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy." But you'll be happy if you step in here for a meal. It's a cash-only joint that used to mark the halfway point between Reno and Sparks. Some might nominate the ravioli here, but I'm offering the lasagna.
Bertha Miranda's La Obra Maestra: I'll be honest and admit I'd take Carlillos Cocina's Tom and Jerry as my No. 1 local Mexican dish, but I'm probably the minority and will instead nominate Bertha Miranda's La Obra Maestra (a chile relleno cooked with almonds; an enchilada; a taco). The restaurant opened in 1984 and is Reno's most famous local Mexican place.
J.J. Pie Co's The Valdez: We must have a pizza nominee on our list of most iconic Reno dishes, and there are plenty of great places to choose from, including Noble Pie Parlor, whose wings could make this list (in fact, sub that in for Hash House A Go Go's meatloaf). For pizza, I'm going with J.J. Pie Co., who has been serving since 1983. The Valdez is a spicy mix of chorizo, jalapeños, tomatoes, sausage, bell peppers and cumin spice.
Zozo’s Ristorante's pre-dinner bread: I will put Zozo’s Cajun pasta up against any created, but that's not my nomination for the most iconic item on the menu. I'm going with the pre-dinner bread. "I'd give my first born for some more of their garlic bread," one Yelp reviewer wrote. I wouldn't go that far because I like my kids, but it's pretty dang legit!
Rapscallion's Wharf-style cioppino: There are plenty of great seafood places in Reno, but nothing tops Rapscallion, the Wells Avenue mainstay that opened in 1977. While seafood is not high on my list of preferred food genres, I'm told the Wharf-style cioppino can't be beaten, and who am I to argue (the pictures look great, anyway).
Hiroba Sushi's black tiger roll: One other food genre I largely avoid is sushi, but Reno is famous for its all you can eat sushi, which is a rarity in other cities. Given that reputation, I must submit at least one iconic roll. After some crowd-sourcing, we're going with Hiroba Sushi's black tiger roll, which is tempura shrimp, seared tuna, unagi and avocado. Chopsticks up!
Bangkok Cuisine's duck red curry: Bangkok dubs itself "Nevada's Finest Authentic Thai Restaurant," and I'm not going to disagree. The restaurant opened in 1998 and does a lot of things well, including its pad thai and jumbo coconut shrimp, but the entry here is Bangkok's curry (it has nine varieties). I'll take the duck red curry with eggplant and pineapple please.
Icecycle Creamery's Homes Means Nevada ice cream: We will finish our list with dessert and stop at Icecycle Creamery and its handmade Homes Means Nevada ice cream, which is inspired by the state's native sage and pine nuts. Not many ice cream places use sage as an ingredient, but this is Nevada, and that's what we do here.
Ultimately, we have 21 iconic food items to pick from, and while it will be hard to replace the popularity of the Awful Awful, this is a tasty list. You can't go wrong with any of them.