Michael Deeds: Stagecoach Inn rides into final sunset

January 19, 2014 

Correction: The original version of this column stated — it turns out incorrectly — that a co-worker witnessed smoking at The Stagecoach Inn. After publication, he realized that he had been at the nearby Ranch Club, not the Stagecoach. It was an honest mistake, if also a boneheaded oversight on both our parts. We regret the error.

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The Stagecoach Inn served its final steak in Boise this weekend. Ruth’s Chris Steak House will serve its first steak in Boise on Valentine’s Day weekend.

It isn’t romantic to be a local restaurant owner nowadays. Corporate America just keeps steamrolling Mom and Pop.

“There are too many shiny new toys out there,” explained Jennifer Fraser, who bought The Stagecoach in 2007 with her husband, Rick.

Shiny, The Stagecoach was not. Boise’s oldest family-owned restaurant, as it loved being called, was not exactly inviting to anyone born after the baby boomer generation.

A fixture on Chinden Boulevard (technically in Garden City), it looked like a figment of your dad’s 1970s from the outside. Driving past, I always imagined a dark room with sweet cigar smoke mingling with the scent of thick pieces of seared meat. Where afternoon barstool stories were interrupted only by the sound of ice clinking in bourbon glasses.

Most of us — too many of us, obviously — were never tempted to venture inside. At the invitation of a friend a few years ago, I did finally make it for lunch. Once.

But plenty of Idahoans visited regularly over the years. Commenters at IdahoStatesman.com lamented The Stagecoach’s looming demise after the news was posted this week.

“Goodbye Stagecoach,” wrote one. “I prefer to remember that place in the good ol’ days — familiar friendly faces, ice-cold beer and good strong drinks, best steak and prawns in the valley, and banana cream pie for the finish.”

“Sad news for us racetrackers,” wrote another commenter. “End of an era. Tradition was, if your horse ran badly it was Pizza Hut for dinner. If you won, it was steak and prawns at The Stagecoach. Wish they would at the very least sell their prawn recipe to someone here in town.”

To the nostalgic old guard, The Stagecoach will be recalled fondly as a classic joint established by Willie Schrier. His twin daughters, Mary and Marian, began working there and went on to become “icons at this landmark restaurant,” the Statesman proclaimed in 2006. “It’s a really fun place — it’s like family here,” a server said in that article.

The Stagecoach was where you could order Shrimpkin — two big fried prawns and two pieces of fried chicken — or just sit at the bar and have a midday martini. It was a favorite spot for Idaho movers and shakers to conduct business meals.

When The Stagecoach changed ownership several years ago, many Willie-era traditions were carried on. But some customers didn’t feel like things were quite the same.

How exactly is a relic like The Stagecoach supposed to fit into a modern world where people make restaurant reservations online using smartphones?

You got the sense this day was coming. The Stagecoach filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy early last year in an effort to save its liquor license.

Garden City won’t be the same without it. But maybe that’s OK.

Times change. So do dining trends.

I can see it now: Stagecoach Brewing Co.

TONIGHT ON ‘OTHER STUDIO’: PAZZ & JOP

If you haven't taken time to check out this year’s Pazz & Jop critics poll at VillageVoice.com, carve some out. Critics worldwide vote on their favorite albums and singles each year. Unless you’re the keeper of a blog called Pitchforked by a Brooklyn Vegan, you’ll discover unfamiliar new music well worth hearing.

Tim Johnstone and I will spend most of tonight talking about the top 20 and spinning music we didn’t play on our show in 2013: Savages, Parquet Courts, Disclosure and more.

“The Other Studio” airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.

COMING IN SCENE ON JAN. 24

• Looking for restaurant eats when you hit the McCall Winter Carnival or Brundage? We review Rupert’s at Hotel McCall.

• A preview of Idaho Dance Theatre’s New Visions award piece.

Michael Deeds’ column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life.

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