October 11, 2013 Updated: October 11, 2013 at 7:25 am
What makes a good diner? Delicious food, homey atmosphere, waitresses who are fast on their feet and a feeling that the business has withstood the test of time.
Sandy's is the real deal, with a solid menu of traditional, home-cooked favorites at extremely reasonable prices. Customers get the same warm and friendly service whether they're new or have been coming in years. It's surprising that they don't accept credit cards, but they do have an ATM conveniently located near the cash register.
While the service is fast, this isn't fast food. They're going to cook your food when you order it. They bake their own bread, along with humongous cinnamon rolls ($3.25) served hot with a big ball of butter on top in a puddle of melting cream cheese icing. The texture is cake-like, with a fine crumb and plenty of spicy cinnamon sugar melting between the layers.
Let's start with breakfast and a warning. The standard omelette ($7.75) contains six eggs. A lot of people don't eat that in a week, much less a single meal. Fortunately, there's a three-egg variation ($6.75) that's much more manageable. The Veggie Lovers ($6.75) was loaded with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and green peppers, and covered with melted cheddar. The omelettes all come with toast and hash browns, but for 50 cents you can substitute pancakes, French toast or biscuits and gravy.
The homemade white or wheat bread makes nice toast. The same bread goes into the French toast, which is firm and eggy rather than soft and custardy. I don't like the fake maple syrup, but I'm really not expecting anything else from a diner on the edge of the prairie. The potatoes were incredibly good: a perfect balance between soft-cooked potato and the crunchy edges created by the grill.
Another breakfast specialty is the homemade corned beef hash ($7.75), a heaping portion served with three eggs any style, hash browns and toast. Loads of lean corned beef are minced with onion and potato, then scrambled on the grill. The flavor was excellent, salty and spicy, although it was on the dry side. I prefer a higher ration of potato in my hash, but mixing in some of the hash browns was an easy fix for me.
Maybe you don't want breakfast. Maybe you want a burger. The burgers at Sandy's are one of the best kept secrets in town. They form their own burgers by hand, so the result is a thick and juicy burger that they cook the way you order it. The Bronco Burger ($7.75) is a half-pound of meat, seared on the outside and topped with American cheese and two huge slices of thick bacon. The fries on the side are pretty standard, competent but nothing special. Get the onion rings instead, because they're fat, juicy and crispy.
Another outstanding sandwich is the Hunter ($7.75). Roast beef, tomatoes, grilled onions and cheese are grilled on homemade bread. They stack a lot of delicious, thinly sliced beef onto the sandwich, and the grilling results in a slightly messy but well-worth-the-mess sandwich.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention two particular side items. The chicken noodle soup ($1.95 for a cup) is an optional side with the sandwiches and burgers. This is the soup you wish your mother had made when you were sick as a child. A thick, flavorful broth holds chunks of tender chicken and thick, soft, homemade noodles. The spicy green chili ($3.50) might not work for chili snobs, but it gets the job done. Thick as gravy, there's plenty of flavor from roasted chilies, onions and black pepper. It was acceptable on its own, but shines when smothering a burger, burrito or omelette.
Keep an eye on the specials chalkboard hanging over the pass-through to the kitchen. I didn't order the fish and chips one Friday, and regretted it as I watched platters heaped with fried fish and golden chunks of fried zucchini delivered to tables around me. One recent special was Margarita Chicken ($7.75), which wasn't quite as good as it sounded. The chicken breast was nice and moist, but the cream sauce on top didn't complement it at all. The other topping, fried straws of onion and pepper, was much better and could have stood on its own. The dish came with rice and potatoes, which was a carb overload. The mushroom rice had a nice flavor, but the portion I got was cold. The potatoes were batter dipped, along with chunks of yellow and zucchini squash, and rendered the rice unnecessary.
Sandy's isn't very large, but the tables turn over at a steady pace. Be prepared to wait if you visit on the weekends. For seating, there's a short counter in the back and booths around the exterior of the room. If you want to make new friends, there are three long, communal tables in the center of the room, seating about a dozen people each. If you don't sit at the big tables, it's always worth listening to what the regulars are talking about.
Restaurant character: A classic, comfortable diner with big portions of stick-to-your ribs comfort food at fantastic prices. Rating total: 4.5 out of 5 stars Food: 4.5 out of 5 stars Ambiance: 5 out of 5 stars Service: 4.5 out of 5 stars Address: 6940 Space Village Ave. Contact: 651-0596 Hours: 5:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 5:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays; 6 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays Entrees: $3.95-$7.95 Alcohol: No Credit cards: No Vegetarian options: Yes. Grilled cheese ($3.95), pancakes ($1.75-$5.25), French toast ($4.95), egg with hash browns and toast ($4.25) Wi-Fi: No
what's online As of Sept. 25: - 87 percent of 70 voters "liked it" on Urban Spoon - 4 out of 5 stars based on 26 reviews on Yelp - On Facebook; search "Sandy's Restaurant" - No violations were marked during a May inspection by the El Paso County Health Department.