- Griffin Swartzell
- The cod was crispy, but don’t expect any frills.
For nearly half a century, Big Train Family Restaurant stood just north of the Fillmore Steet/North Nevada Avenue intersection. But all things must end, and Big Train left the station in late February. The spot reopened in March at the Garden of the Gods Road location that previously hosted JP Fizzy’s and, before that, Souper Salad. The clean, mostly white space hasn’t changed much from the ’50s soda jerk look that the last owners set up, which fits with the diner menu. Its iconic vibe is interrupted only by the convenience of servers with handheld credit card readers, an upgrade from the previous location.
Big Train serves its full menu all day long, so customers can waddle out with bellies full of generous portions of whatever they prefer. Alternatively, make better dietary choices than we did and try the “light rail” menu, which features items like roasted turkey or grilled salmon.
Our three-egg Denver omelette comes with a side and carb, so we pick grits and a country gravy-smothered biscuit. The omelette itself rates respectable, egg cooked sturdy but not overdone, wrapped around a mix of ham, onion and green peppers that spent at least a little time together in a pan. Grits come smooth and creamy with a side of whipped butter. The biscuit’s heavy and a little dense, more New England than Southern and faintly sweet. It’s smothered with a country gravy that bears way more salt than it needs; we only taste the sausage-crumble-gifted sage and faint red pepper notes on the finish.
The Train Wreck is a breakfast version of a slopper: a burger patty atop home fries, smothered with chile and topped with two eggs. We go over-easy with pork green chile for a nice union of yolky richness and spice. But the cubes of pork land grayish and bland, and the amount of tomato in the chile runs roughshod over the peppers’ flavor. Still, we’re happy with the amount of onion. And the potatoes delight, maintaining a crisp exterior and perfect tender interior.
Big Train has a liquor license now, and we cave for a Bloody Mary — only $4 on Sundays — but question our choices. The mix is made in-house, we’re told, so it varies from batch to batch, and our batch kicks like an angry mule thanks to a generous amount of horseradish. No seasoned salt rim or lime wedge-pimento olive-pepperoncini garnish can help us finish this between two people, though roast beef might pair nicely. Stick to coffee made from Java-brand beans, better than most diner offerings and neither too bitter nor too intense.
It goes just fine with either of our lunch options, too. The open-faced meatloaf sandwich arrives smothered in brown gravy on two pieces of Texas toast. Seasoning-wise, the meatloaf reminds us of a respectable meatball, with herbs serving a subtle supporting role rather than popping out. That brown gravy avoids the country gravy’s oversaltedness, a bonus. Dinners come with two sides, so we get house-made mashed potatoes under the same brown gravy and green beans cooked with bacon and onions. Both rate fine.
We can say the same about the fried fish dinner, three cod fillets battered and fried into sturdy planks. We’d like a little more seasoning, but the crisp exterior and buttery white flesh warrant no complaints. Side mac and cheese bears a creamy but nondescript sauce, and side beer-battered fries sop ketchup and tartar sauce just fine. All in all, it’s a picturesque mid-century diner meal, no frills added.