Food & Drink » Food Review

Stagecoach Inn

3132 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-342-4161; Open Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-midnight

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During its 49 years in business, the Stagecoach Inn has built a solid reputation on generously cut steaks and old-fashioned service. When Willie Schrier opened the restaurant and lounge in 1959, his daytime menu boasted a "lunch buffet fit for a king, priced for a pauper." The protein-heavy dinner menu featured oversized steaks, "cackleberry" combinations, such as ham or steak and eggs, and sandwiches.

Back then, a filet mignon dinner cost $4.25. Today, that menu item costs $28.95, but much of the original menu and attitude live on.

New owners Rick and Jennifer Fraser, who bought the restaurant in August 2007, plan to keep things just the way they are. "It was a seamless transition until the photos came down," says Jennifer, referring to the collection of Schrier family photographs and vintage menus long displayed in the waiting area. The Frasers removed them briefly to create framed photocopies, then turned the originals over to Willie's twin daughters, Mary and Marian. Boy, did the regulars notice. So particular are the loyal customers that when a supplier snafu caused a change in the crackers placed at the tables, they noticed that, too.

"We gave them a more expensive cracker," says Jennifer. But devoted diners wouldn't tolerate the switch. The Frasers have managed to wiggle a few new wines and a 20-ounce rib-eye special onto the menu without drawing fire. "We feel like we are coming into their space," says Jennifer, respectfully, of the generations of regulars who feel the institution is like a second home.

The restaurant's dark-paneled interior bears a Western theme. A wagon wheel-topped divider, banquettes lined in diamond-tuck Corinthian leather, and the lingering aroma of freshly cooked beef evoke images of John Wayne coming in for a hearty dinner after spending time on the open range. If it's meat and potatoes you're looking for, pardner, you've come to the right place.

Although you can order a top sirloin steak ($10.95) from the lunch menu, most of the daytime offerings are salads ($8.50-$9.50), sandwiches ($6.95-$8.95) and one-third-pound burgers ($6.95-$8.95). The shrimp Louie salad ($9.50)—bay shrimp, hardboiled egg, tomato, pickles and homemade thousand island dressing—hearkens to a simpler culinary era. The best-known menu item, the bar prawn, ($3.75 each), is hand-peeled, breaded and deep fried to a golden brown. Served with a lemon wedge and house-made tartar and cocktail sauces, you can believe the menu when it says "Our prawns are no shrimps!"

My husband and I visited for dinner on a Friday night. The beef portions are so large that we routinely order one entree and split it. On this visit, we asked for the porterhouse steak ($25.95), cooked medium. Lickety-split, a pair of simple iceberg dinner salads appeared, both of them doused in homemade Roquefort dressing. We didn't wait long before the thick porterhouse was set before us. I cut the portions off either side of the bone, halved them, and dug in. Having taken the wider, more medium-rare pieces, I was in beef heaven. A sprinkle of Lawry's seasoning salt and a dash of three-pepper blend from the table enhanced the juicy meat. The classic accompanying baked potato rounded out the meal. A restaurant must be consistently good in order to remain open for nearly five decades and draw a loyal crowd. Let's hope Stagecoach Inn's recipe for success stays the same for another half century.

—Jennifer Hernandez ran lickety-split in the Famous Potato half-marathon.