Tasty Western kitsch 

Under new owners, Manitou's Stagecoach Inn pleases tourists' eyes, locals' palates

click to enlarge Dont be fooled: The Stagecoach Inn does not offer home - delivery. - JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley
  • Dont be fooled: The Stagecoach Inn does not offer home delivery.

During my growing-up years, the historic Stagecoach Inn was more of a landmark than a destination.

It always symbolized a welcome to historic Manitou Springs. But the thought of stopping in never occurred to me. So when I was tasked to check it out, I was genuinely curious.

The Stagecoach was sold last summer to Dave and Kathy Symonds, who also had purchased the Craftwood Inn from Rob and Gail Stephens in 2003. The Symondses have kept the Colorado-style eateries linked.

The log house, with trademark stagecoach parked out front, hits you over the head with an Old West theme. The rustic, wagon-wheel interior is a bit dark and could use a facelift. But with two outdoor seating areas, an intimate covered back porch overlooking a babbling brook and sunny front patio, options are available.

Theme aside, entering the Stagecoach we were struck by a warm greeting, which carried on through service.

Lunch offers hefty apps and hearty burgers and sandwiches. We started with the Hot Damn Crab and Artichoke Dip ($9.49), with veggies and tortilla chips, a nice match with my ice-cold beer. For mains, my friend went for the Fungus Amungus Buffalo Burger ($9.99), a thick, perfectly seasoned patty covered in Portabello mushrooms and Swiss. As buffalo is lean and dries easily, they recommend it not be cooked past medium, a delicious choice.

I tackled the Californey Salad ($9.49), described as marinated and grilled vegetables on a bed of herb-vinaigrette-tossed field greens with cotija cheese (a Mexican cow's milk cheese with the taste of Parmesan and the consistency of feta). My grilled veggies arrived on a dry salad; once I requested dressing, the cheese stood out.

Mentioning my return trip for dinner, a friend challenged me to try the Rocky Mountain Oysters ($6.99). For those who don't know, this delicacy sometimes referred to as "calf fries," "tendergroins" or "cowboy caviar" is the manly end of a bull. (Men may want to skip the next sentence.) These bites are skinned, pounded flat, then breaded and fried crisp. I took the challenge; they tasted similar to chicken gizzards, though I knew they weren't.

I turned my attention to a cup of chili ($2.99), easy on the beans, rich in beef and heavy with tomatoes my idea of the perfect chili. While dinner offers a wide variety of steaks, I chose their signature chicken fried steak ($12.49). Crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, it and the gravy were a hit. My dinner companion chose the traditional roast turkey and stuffing dinner ($13.49), but wasn't wowed.

Her excitement came with dessert, in the form of a cherry cobbler la mode ($6). The large, golden-toasted oat crumble with jumbo cherry center and cool ice cream melted our hearts.

If you can get over the "rubber tomahawk Western Colorado style," as my friend puts it, and don't mind a few tourists, you'll find the Stagecoach Inn is doing exactly what it aims to: serving good country food at family-friendly prices, and with affection.


Stagecoach Inn

702 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9400, stagecoachinn.com

Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner, 4:30-9:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.


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