The Awful Awful: A Tale of Two Burgers

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Time was the Reno Sparks area could claim a number of signature late night comfort foods.

The chili and hot apple pie of Les Lerude's Wigwam at Second and Sierra was a local favorite. The chili cheese omelet at Landrum's on South Virginia provided a pit stop for generations of locals after a night of partying.

They are gone now and much lamented by those who can remember then. The Awful Awful sizzles on. In not one, but two locations.

There's a common ancestry that can be traced back to Nugget founder Dick Graves who moved his operation from Idaho to Reno in 1954 bringing with him the Awful Awful and a young food manager John Ascuaga.

The Nuggets have gone their separate ways in the half century since each taking with them the Awful Awful.

They've followed different paths

Ascuaga's Nugget has grown from a small coffee shop on B street in Sparks to a major resort.

The Little Nugget occupies the same space in downtown Reno, sitting elbow to elbow between a pawn shop and a bakery outlet.

Awful Awfuls emerge from both kitchens, but as siblings will often do, they too have followed different paths.

Except for the fact that it no longer arrives at the counter or table in a basket, the Sparks Nugget version sticks close to the original recipe, said to be the first double patty burger around. Still a double cheese burger, fresh tomato, lettuce, a handful of fries.

It's Reno sibling has changed. "I changed it to a half pound ground chuck patty that we season and hand form," says Litte Nugget owner Rick Heaney.

"Then we put on a special sauce on it which has a base of Ru8ssian dressing, various spices and every thing from buttermilk to Tabasco."

"We have our own special sauce," says Sparks Nugget Assistant Executive CheI Alan Cook. "t's a mixture of relish and mayonnaise."

So this showdown could be cast as not only a David and Goliath story, but tradtion vs. change. Does Heaney regret fooling with the original."

"Not really. It's a sandwich I like and I think people like it as well."

"Hamburgers keep changing," says Cook. "They have all sorts of gourmet burgers now. Only this burger remains the same. When you have something this good that people come specifically to order, you stay with it."

"Who makes the best Awful Awful? The Travel Channel brought its "Food Wars" crew to the Truckee Meadows this week to try to find out. The results will be announced Friday night and will air sometime later, but it's unlikely to settle the matter.

"It's like asking me which of my kids I like best," says Cook.