If you remember Shrimpkin, Famous Jumbo Prawns and cackleberries, you’ll be happy to know they’re back. Thanks to co-owners Wanda Martinat, a former Stagecoach employee from 1989 to 2003, and Friday night regulars Fred and Francie Oliver, you can revisit old memories and make new ones. The iconic Garden City restaurant has reopened with the specialties of the house that made it famous — yes, including Oyster Shooters, Prime Rib and Shrimp Cocktail (and cackleberries, of course, which are also known as eggs).
Melanie Wardle, one of the wait staff who has returned to the restaurant, worked there for 25 years. “My daughter was 1; now she’s almost 26,” she said.
The Stagecoach had been a much-loved fixture on the Boise dining circuit for as long as most of us could remember when it closed in 2013. News this year that it would reopen was greeted with much joy.
While its faithful customers will recognize that the restaurant has retained the look and feel of its classic appeal — dark leather booths, old western photos on the walls, customer favorites on the menu — they might notice that a few things are different. The wait staff are dressed in all black — gone are the custom western-fringed skirts, although Wardle says “I still have about six of them in my closet — maybe we’ll wear them on Halloween.” Other differences: lighting is a tad bit brighter, although you may still emerge squinting to daylight, and “we’ve got new silverware,” Wardle said.
The restaurant opened to little fanfare Thursday May 28. The only advertisement for its open doors was on the Stagecoach sign: Hours: 4-11:30. Apparently, that’s all that was needed. “We’ve been busy every night since then,” Wardle said. The restaurant will be closed Sunday th
en re-open with different hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Friday; 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Martinet, who also co-owns the two popular Goldy’s breakfast restaurants in Boise with her husband, Randy Martinet, said the owners are still working the kinks out at Stagecoach. She has enlisted the help of Rod Kautz, who was the Stagecoach kitchen manager for 30 years, to help with getting the dishes to taste the same as customers remember.
Kautz, who now works at Micron by day, is consulting with Martinet on such things as getting the breading (for the prawns, halibut and chicken) right, she said. “We’ve really worked hard to keep things the same.”
Wardle said she helps with quality control, too. “I’ll tell the cooks if (the dishes) are not right,” she said. “I know what they’re supposed to be like.”
We (me, my husband, Bob Neal, and my visiting nephew, Ken Huff) went there the evening of June 2 for dinner after driving by and noting the posted hours on the sign and excitedly calling to a) see if it was true, and b) ask if we needed a reservation. “Nope,” announced the voice on the other end of the line,”just come on by.”
The packed parking lot was the first thing to make me smile and by the time I pulled o
pen the doors and went inside to the familiar Stagecoach decor, I was grinning ear to ear. It was crowded and stayed that way until we left. Martinat said the crowds had been a little unexpected and she is trying to work out the kinks before opening for lunch next week. But with every step — waiting in the bar area until our table was ready, looking over the cowboy-style menu, tasting that first bite of crunchy sweet jumbo prawn — it felt like coming home.
And, when I interviewed Martinat on the phone the next day for this story, I ended our conversation with a heartfelt “thank-you.” To Boise long-timers, life just wasn’t the same without the Stagecoach. We’re glad it’s back.