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Coal Mine Dragon, Josh & John's, Sheldon's Luncheonette 

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click to enlarge Coal Mine Dragon

Coal Mine Dragon

1779 S. Eighth St., 471-7007, coalminedragon.net

While it's damn confusing that there are two separate restaurants with the exact same name, here's one way to remember this location, as opposed to the one by the King Soopers on Uintah Street: a damn good, damn cheap Chinese lunch buffet.

While not boasting the breadth or depth of some of the other spots in town, the buffet ($6.95) at Coal Mine is full of clean flavors that actually offer something besides the thrill of as-much-as-you-can-consume. Mounds of plates and bowls sit under a heater next to a small, unlabeled stretch of foods like tender sesame chicken with an orange zing; crunchy egg foo young patties; dense lo mein; soft, but savory, beef and peppers; and egg rolls packed to the gills with pork and cabbage, which are especially delicious in a sweet-and-sour sauce seemingly laced with cinnamon. — Bryce Crawford

click to enlarge Josh & John's

Josh & John's

111 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 632-0299, joshandjohns.com

Nobody needs to tell you who Josh & John's is (local ice cream favorite since '94, yadda yadda ...) or that ice cream generally tastes good. But perhaps it's useful to be reminded that even during ice cream's off-season, Josh & John's adds new features and gathers guest votes on which flavors to serve, including winter favorites like candy cane, eggnog and pumpkin pie.

One newbie: flavored house hot fudges, such as a peanut butter fudge, that you can add to any order for 90 cents. I try it over the Mocha Java Jolt (cups and cones from $3.95 to $5.05), composed of the regular coffee flavor (made with Folgers), plus added chocolate-covered coffee beans, coffee-flavored chocolate chips and regular fudge. With a topper of fluffy, homemade whipped cream, it's surprisingly not that coffee-dominant, while the peanut butter's tackiness thickens the frozen fudge into a real cud-chewing experience. — Matthew Schniper

click to enlarge Sheldon's Luncheonette

Sheldon's Luncheonette

204 Mount View Lane, 599-0887, sheldonslunch.com

The plain, industrial dining room at Sheldon's was buzzing when we stopped by, mostly full of blue-collar types seeking to add some diner to their day. Great vibe, too: More often than not, our server called out customers by their first names, liberally sprinkling her greetings with "Hon" and "Sunshine."

But when it came time to nosh on all that nostalgia, well, let's just say I'd rather listen to the restaurant than eat what we ate: There was just so much white. Watery, white gravy all over the bland chicken-fried steak ($8.95) and its white heap of gluey mashed potatoes. Decent white chunks of potato (as well as shadows of carrots) with white chunks of chicken in the see-through, gelatinous glop of the chicken pot pie ($7.95). White-bread toast on white bowls next to white napkins. And yet: "Only the best," says the logo on the white back wall. — Bryce Crawford

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