Dining out: Coachman's Dinner & Pancake House

Published: Friday, Dec. 25 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

One of these days I'll get back to reviewing the newest, cutting-edge restaurants.

I'll hit sushi bars and try noveau cuisine and maybe even one of those places celebrating the raw foods movement.

But, frankly, on a cold and snowy winter's day, when big puffy flakes are floating down and I'm wading in slush every time I step outside and I've already shoveled the driveway twice, I need comfort and stick-to-my-ribs sustenance and something to give me the fortitude to go back out for a third round of shoveling.

I need Coachman's.

Coachman's is delightful in every way, from the so-outdated-it's-charming decor (think red-lensed coachman's lanterns, elaborately etched glass, cove ceilings accented with a strip of red carpet) to the briskly excellent service to the super-delicious food.

In fact, anyone my age and older will experience an agreeable sensation of stepping back in time upon walking into Coachman's. The almost uniformly blond waitresses are clad in simple black and white.

The menu features everything from "oriental" lemon chicken and burritos to steak, seafood and big, fabulous breakfasts. You can get a peach half with cottage cheese as a side dish.

Walking out, you can avail yourself of the old-fashioned, pull-lever candy vending machines that used to send me and my sisters into a frenzy of begging (begging, by the way, to which my dad was impervious, so we'd pull every knob anyway in an always-vain attempt to score a free treat).

Though I stuck to breakfast food on the day my husband, son and I had lunch at Coachman's, I did make an extensive tour of the breakfast offerings.

I had skipped actual breakfast and, in the wake of all that shoveling, I was famished.

So, while my husband got the big and always good eggs and bacon breakfast, I had not only the also-big and also-good Denver omelet with country potatoes and regular pancakes, but also the Swedish pancakes. And also four strips of bacon. I know what you're thinking: that stuff'll kill me. But it's not like I eat this way all the time, and anyway, what a way to go!

My husband's eggs and bacon were just what they should be: eggs cooked just to doneness, creamy yellow and tender; plus practically perfect bacon: thick-cut, sweet and salty, and perfectly balanced between crisp and chewy.

My husband visits Coachman's fairly often with his crew of lunch mates from work, and he swears he's never had badly cooked bacon there.

Based on my own order, I believe him, though I only got two of my strips thanks to the covetous eye of my little boy.

And I haven't even gotten to the country potatoes.

I am often disappointed with hash browns at restaurants, but the potatoes at Coachman's are excellent: sliced thin and grilled with onions to a crackling golden-brown that retains a moist, tender interior. All they need is a bit of salt and pepper and, presto: potato perfection.

I had potatoes, myself, plus pancakes so deliciously fluffy I don't know how they do it.

I've tried quite a variety of pancake mixes and recipes at home, and I've never gotten them as high and tender as the ones at Coachman's.

We had three syrups with them, which my husband called, "the maple, the red kind and the orange kind" but which were really maple (of course), boysenberry and apricot.

My Denver omelet was also an achievement in fluffiness, nice and light though it seemed made with about a dozen eggs, plus big chunks of ham and thick slices of green pepper and onion.