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May 21, 2010 06:22 PM

The Wolf Den in Reno scores with the Awful Awful

The Wolf Den jumps into the fray as a contender for the best burger in Reno.
Also, for $6 you buy a Blue Thunder margarita. It comes in a 32-ounce sports bottle (which I guess now replaces the bota bag popular at UNR when I went there) and margarita refills are $5.
This opened across North Virginia Street from the University of Nevada, Reno, across from the Old Gym and north of the Nye Hall parking lot.
For those who don't know in the 1950s a guy named Dick Graves opened a string of casinos called The Nugget and served a huge hamburger called The Awful Awful. it stands for awful big and awful good. The Nuggets fell to different owners and a guy who bought what's called the Little Nugget under the Reno Arch changed the formula slightly, making it from one big patty instead of two small patties. He served it in the diner in the back of the casino as a loss leader to draw in gambling customers. It was big, good and cheap. When the musician Paul Revere opened a restaurant in the Reno Bowling Stadium he described it as having the second-best burger in Reno, a nod to the Awful Awful at the Little Nugget. The attitude of the diner at the Little Nugget was expressed by the sign over the door way that said: Nine out of 10 vegetarians don't eat here.
That Nugget has passed on to a different owner. The last time I ate there it had reverted back to the two-patty formula. The quality dropped and the price increased.
The owner of The Wolf Den aims to replicate the pinnacle of the Awful Awful at the Little Nugget and does a good job doing it, even using the wicker basket to serve the burger and fries. I guess he even got a license to make it. The patty seems maybe a little bit smaller, but I'm not griping. It's excellent. It starts with a fresh, tasty onion bun. No ordinary dry bread here. And the patty is excellent. The fries are cooked in vegetable oil. I believe the fries at the Little Nugget in the 1990s were lard cooked. Or maybe the fryer was just so old and dirty it gave that impression. The potatoes at the Wolf Den seem fresh and they're sliced to the right width and cooked perfectly. And they add the paprika for a nice spicy bite.
The Wolf Den also has this sports bottle margarita. That seems pretty over the top, but I had to do it. It was good. The first few swigs through the new plastic are bad, of course, but my sports bottle was broken in before I was a quarter of the way through.
If the rest of the food is as good as the Awful Awful The Wolf Den will have a license to print money.
The Wolf Den
1305 N. Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89512
(775) 324-9653
The photos are the Awful Awful, the Awful Awful with fries and the Blue Thunder margarita.
The UNR Wolf Pack colors are blue and white, by the way.

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  1. Steve, do you know if they get their beef from UNR? I know they sell it and I've considered buying some. And I know there's a billboard EB on 80 for a burger place that serves it. Can't remember its name; maybe Wolf Den?

    2 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      Tahoe Burger on Robb Drive gets their beef from UNR. I don't know where the Wolf Den gets their meat. But ti's good.

      1. re: SteveTimko

        Ah, thanks for helping my senior moment.

    2. I wanted to add a photo of the chicken fried steak and eggs. They serve breakfast all day.
      Turns out I'm dating myself. I mention it's north of the Nye Hall parking lot. When I went back I noticed they've built a whole new dorm there. So make that north of Canada Hall.

      1 Reply
      1. re: SteveTimko

        That looks great. We just had CFS at Brickies Tavern recently. We'll have to compare. My husband finished undergrad at UNR in '67.

        Brickies Tavern
        706 W 2nd St, Reno, NV 89503

      2. We finally had lunch here today and loved it. We split an Awful Awful burger with ONE POUND of fries ($7). I agree with everything Steve said. Since we started grinding our own meat a couple of years ago we never eat burgers out except drive-thru fast food when we're in a rush. This was a terrific burger. Very moist. And loved the fries. Nice and thin. Obviously it's a VERY young crowd (and many of the 'children' seemed quite hungover at noon on Sunday) but everyone was very friendly. Lots of UNR memorabilia on the wall, a bright clean place and parking wasn't a problem. They recently started opening at 8AM for breakfast (before it was 10). We've gotta try that CFS. Good spot, Steve. Thanks as always for the rec.

        1. Went for breakfast this morning and it was terrific. We had the steak and eggs with hashbrowns and toast ($10.95). It was quite a big piece of steak and they cooked it rare which always wins us over. Crispy hashbrowns and, as requested, well done sourdough. Unlike when we were there recently for an early Sunday lunch, we had the place to ourselves. Last day of spring break. We didn't feel as old :) Gotta get the CFS next time. Brickies Tavern disappointed us with that recently so we'll give WD a try.

          1 Reply
          1. re: c oliver

            They seemed to have changed sources for chicken friend steak at the Wolf Den and it's not as good now. I wouldn't recommend it.