Wheelies packs flavour punch

Monday Magazine’s restaurant reviewer Allan Reid visits Wheelies Motorcycles Cafe

By Allan Reid

Perhaps you’ve wondered what it would be like to have lunch in a motorcycle shop carved into some turn-of-the-last-century wooden shack in a forgotten corner of some industrial park on the edge of some forgotten American hick town. Or perhaps you haven’t. Either way, at Wheelies, you can undergo that experience.

Even the most altruistic motorcycle club revels in a bad boy/girl image, with all its oily blackness and skull-themed iconography. It’s easy to understand the allure of motorbikes.

Their thrumming engines resonate in the heart and produce a raw excitement. There is the feel of soft rubber rolling across hard pavement. One feels the road in a way that no other driver can experience. There is the freedom of escaping from the sound and shock insulated cages that jam up city roadways twice each day. Can there be music more spine tingling than the rumble of a pack of bikes parading through a narrow mountain pass?

And there is the camaraderie. Motorcycle culture is intense. It is about pushing the limits. Perhaps you don’t wear your beard long or walk about in leather chaps and jackets sporting colours that are anything but colourful. Perhaps there is something just a little too raw about bikes, a little too much testosterone involved, but be honest: Somewhere, deep in our souls, we are a little bit Marlon Brando.

Wheelies is an actual operating motorcycle shop that will repair and customize your ride, so motorcycles are in the blood of the owners and staff.

But all the noise, fumes, oil and grease are confined to the workshop, which is separated from the café half of the business.

The café is a dining room and covered patio dominated by wooden walls booths, tables and chairs that look like they’ve spent years being banged about over years of motorbike maintenance. We might imagine that not all the grease has been scrubbed out. It is not too far fetched to imagine that bikes have actually been serviced on those tables. An abused wooden bar lines the back wall, from which the small, utilitarian kitchen is but an extension. Here are the menu boards before which you place your order.

The menu is not extensive. Wheelies sells sandwiches—five sandwiches and a daily sandwich special—to which you may add soup, salad, mac & cheese or (and?) an ice-cream sandwich. Maybe it’s a secret. Maybe we shouldn’t undermine bikers’ rugged image, but apparently they like good food, albeit biker style.

These sandwiches are intense. Not in a big way, but in a flavourful way. I’ve been told that the Root Beer Braised Pork Shoulder is what Wheelies is famous for, but I was drawn to the Chorizo with thinly sliced Spanish sausage, wasabi cilantro lime slaw, and spinach on an artisanal ciabatta bun and served on a plank of wood. Talk about an explosion in the mouth. I paired my sandwich with the salad: cucumber, mint, pear, and quinoa over spinach and dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. This salad is the epitome of refreshment and it perfectly balances the intensity of the sandwich. Of course, bikers famously love their beer, and Wheelies offers six local brews on tap, pulling two each from Phillips, Hoyne and Driftwood.

But if your riding, perhaps you’d better stick to the espresso, or the (gasp!) Silk Road tea.

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