Smart’s Wagon Train Coffee Shop

By Melissa Wynn

After a peaceful nights rest atThe Truckee Hotel, General Manager Tim Tonachella suggested we try breakfast at Smart’s Coffee Shop, 10080 Donner Pass Road. He said it was his personal favorite and I soon discovered why.

Dining at this unusual establishment is part extraordinary down home cookin’, part comedy sideshow and part mountain history museum visit. Entering the building we were enveloped in the aromas of frying bacon and creamy gravy. Antique lanterns and cast iron skillets hang from the ceiling.

Simple wooden tables are set with the basics. Traditional red and white checkered linen napkins are rolled and stuffed in a coffee mug. Several taxidermied head mounts decorate the walls along with antique license plates and old ad posters. One reminds us that Smart’s Wagon Train Coffee Shop always offers free beer tomorrow. Too bad our visit was on a “Today”. The old fashioned ice cream case and soda fountain at the entrance reminded me of the Mayberry Soda Shoppe on Andy Griffith. Mounted on the ceiling and running most of time, a model train chugs and whistles its way around the rustic and charming dining room.

The Smarts have owned and operated this family business since 1947 and the menu has remained virtually unchanged since opening day. Good old country food is all you will find , no soy, wheat germ or granola here. We were good and hungry after a long night out at Moody’s Bistro & Lounge enjoying some great jazz music. Some good old meat and potatoes was just what the doctor ordered. I started with a cup of hot coffee and a large orange juice as did the other 3 members of my party. I ordered a 1/2 portion of biscuits and thick sausage country gravy ($5.25) with a side of golden crispy hashbrowns ($6). That will cure what ails you. My brother-in-law chose an item on the menu called the Pig Pile ($11.25) that is a ‘bit of everything breakfast’ smothered in gravy. The Pig Pile has been on the menu for many years but has recently undergone a name change.The comical managing owner Siobahn Smart tells a very funny story of how the name change came about. You’ll have to ask to hear it.

Our final breakfast selection was the Western Omelet ($13.25) and a side order of 2 slices of thick fluffy French Toast ($5). The omelet came with country fried potatoes and toast so there was no way it would all get eaten. We ended up taking half of our order home in a little styrofoam box. My little sister isn’t big on breakfast out so she had the delicious Corned Beef Melt Sandwich ($11.25), from the lunch menu. All sandwiches at The Wagon Train come with fries and a trip through the soup and salad bar. Burgers, hot dogs and 2 tacos with the soup and salad bar are also on the lunch menu along with the trusty stand-bys like Tuna Salad and the open faced hot Roast Beef and Turkey sandwiches served with mashed potatoes and gravy. Most lunch items cost $11.25 and the quantity of food and quality of atmosphere at Smart’s Wagon Train Coffee Shop make it well worth it. The dinner menu is also brimming with American favorites. Deep Fried Chicken, Liver and Onions, Roast Beef and Young Tom Turkey, each for $15.00. Deep Fried Fish, Boneless Grilled Mountain Trout and the Grilled Fillet of Sole are also just $15.00. Of course you can still get a fresh, choice New York Steak for $21.00 and that is most expensive item on the Smart’s Wagon Train Coffee Shop menu.

We spent half our visit laughing and visiting with the staff. Grandpa Smart, who started the business in 1947, is now retired but he happened to be in for breakfast that day. He had us in stitches and is quite a character, a real people person. It’s easy to see why his business has survived for so many years. Several of the Wagon

Train patrons stopped to hug him and share a tall tale. They will never out do the old man’s stories but many keep trying.

By far, the best and funniest part of our Wagon Train adventure was the story of Siobahn’s visit to a political event last year in Lake Tahoe. She looks just like Sarah Palin, I’m not kidding.

They could be twins. That in itself was funny but we laughed until our eyes watered to hear of a case of mistaken identity at the Tahoe event. Someone in the crowd noticed Siobhan and thought she was Sarah Palin. This audience member raised a fuss and Siobhan soon found herself surround by the Secret Service.

They helped her make a quick getaway because as she said ” I refuse to have a you-tube moment.” She didn’t get to see Mrs. Palin and is definitely not interested in an impersonation career, although she’s dead ringer and could easily pull it off . Hilarious! I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in years. The staff is a group of wide open people all helping to ensure your meal is hot, your cup if full and your lips are smiling. You would be hard pressed to find a gloomy face here. It’s like an Old West Wagon Train ho down all day, every day. Don’t miss a chance to meet this great group of people and sample their tasty fare. Drop in Smart’s Wagon Train Coffee Shop in Truckee. Tell them Mountain Valley Living sent you; maybe we will see you there.