I walked into the restaurant not having a clue what I was going to eat this time around when Nick stepped out of the kitchen and asked if I wanted a Chuckwagon. I stared at him half expecting a punchline but he just repeated the word Chuckwagon.
I said “What?”
He said “chuckwagon sandwich.”
I continued to stare at him blankly… and he dismissed my confusion with a casual wave of his hand and told me to take a seat. Apparently I was having Chuckwagon today. Whatever that was.
Not long after the amazing Cathy brought me my standard glass of ice tea with full back up pitcher, I was presented with what looked like a burger at first glance. However, closer inspection revealed it was definitely not a burger. It was on a bun like a burger. It had two thick slices of tomato on top and a slab of mayonnaise and bed of lettuce on the bottom like a burger. It was getting all friendly with my fries like a burger. But it was definitely not a burger. The meat object was entirely different from any burger I’d ever encountered. It looked like a country fried steak, but flecks of green and yellow mixed into the meat were like nothing I’d ever seen before. I then decided that whatever a Chuckwagon is, it’s definitely not a burger.
I have to admit, I didn’t dive in with a great deal of enthusiasm. I picked it up slowly, inspected it up close, and dipped it in trepidation before taking my first bite. What happened next was not the ZIP! BANG! POW! HOLY COW! one would expect me to write here as someone writing in exchange for food… It merely added another layer of confusion to the situation. I was initially inclined to say it tasted good, but I wasn’t sure yet. I took a second bite, chewed it slowly, and let the flavors roll around my tongue. The bun, tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise flavors all readily identified themselves. I knew them well. It was the meat I still wasn’t sure of. It wasn’t bad… but I didn’t know what it was…
Mind you, I’ve eaten such curious meats as cow stomach, unidentifiable Asian sea urchin, and sheep brain so I’m no stranger to eating strange creature creations. And let’s be honest, it’s not like Nick was going to slip anything that strange into this Chuckwagon concoction he’d sent my way. I ate in confidence that it was nothing worse than what my palette had done battle with before, but I still couldn’t quite put my tastebuds on what it was.
Thankfully, Nick came out halfway through and set the record straight. It was pretty standard cow meats – ground beef and veal mixed with garlic, salt, pepper, and some magic Como’s Pete’s #4 seasoning mix tossed in for good effect. After being hand pattied, they were covered in the same batter as onion rings then fried. I was surprised since it was much lighter and tastier than your average fried beef patty dipped in onion ring batter. I mean, I’ve never had one but if you told me that was what I was going to eat, I would have heard you say “beef patty dipped in onion ring batter and fried” while interpreting them in my head as “heart attack inducing cholesterol bomb”. I’m glad to report that would have been the wrong interpretation in this case as it was anything but that.
Before diving into the second half, I asked Nick where this had come from. He informed me it was “an old sandwich that’s not even on the menu but so many people still ask for it they make it.” He went on to explain it had some vauge connection to the old Rawhide TV show. You know… the “Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin“ song (or a more modern version if you just so happen to be a Dead Kennedys fan) which I only knew of thanks to Fievel Goes West. As this was one of my favorite childhood films, I mixed my now heightened emotional state thanks to the cultural significance I was able to attach to the Chuckwagon sandwich along with the flavorful situation the sandwich was creating in my mouth for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It now made my mouth and my mind happy and where I’m from, that’s what we call a win-win situation.
So… Chuckwagon. It’s not on the menu, but you can still order it if you ask nicely enough. It even comes with any side you’d like because it’s versatile like that. Nick told me he’s going to make sure he has enough of those deliciously confusing beef & veal patties on hand over the next few weeks in the hopes that his shoddily written piece of pseudo journalism drives in hordes of Chuckwagon-experience-less individuals with the hopes of ordering one of these delightful little numbers. So y’all know what to do…
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