BIG BANGER THEORY

The same delicate touch that distinguishes English entrees also marks dessert. It's hard to believe the human body is capable of withstanding the homemade, mortarlike bread pudding, drenched with thick, warm custard. Sherry trifle is only a trifle less demanding. It's a liquor-soaked sponge cake layered with canned fruit cocktail, topped with pudding and whipped cream. Subtle, they ain't.

As the Irish lad who served us surveyed the remains of our dinner, he was suddenly struck by an idea. "I'm going to open up a restaurant and call it the 'Heart Attack,'" he told us. "Nothing green, nothing at all healthy. Just meat, fried stuff and butter."

Gee, I wonder how working here inspired that entrepreneurial thought to pop into his head. But if he can draw a decent pint and serve up a hearty dinner in friendly surroundings, like his current employer, even a place named the Heart Attack won't scare me off.

Coast Pub and Cafe, 7443 East Sixth Avenue, Scottsdale, 994-9183. Lunch and Dinner, 10:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week.

If there's one thing that would scare me off from the Coast, it would be the ear-pounding racket. There's no separate eating area, so diners share their space with lots of high-decibel televised sports, pulsating thumpa-thumpa music and the usual high spirits of a tavern crowd. Come here on a weekend evening, and you may want to bring an ear trumpet to catch your group's conversation.

The food, though, just about makes up for the noise. Someone in this kitchen is obviously trying, especially when it comes to starters.

Check out the appetizer list--you won't find mozzarella sticks or fried zucchini strips anywhere on it. You will find enormously pleasant chicken-chile egg rolls, two big critters crammed full of white-meat chicken, jack cheese and green chiles. Dip them in the red chile sauce, then wash them down with a Harp, Watney's or one of ten other beers on tap.

Even better are the exceptional Southwestern crab cakes, which are tasty enough to grace a linen-covered table. You get two flat, crisply grilled disks, flavored with crab and spiced up with jalape¤o. The menu says that all items are prepared fresh, and these crab cakes are convincing evidence.

Why is it that so few Valley restaurants offer posole, an incredibly fragrant regional dish? Certainly, a pub like the Coast is one of the last places in town you'd expect to find it. But the version here is outstanding--a rich stew of chicken, red chile and hominy combined in a spicy seasoned broth. You can do a lot worse than order a bowl and make a meal of it. Not so with the other daily soup. On my visit, it was a lackluster broccoli cheese that comes up short on taste.

For some reason, the main dishes don't carry on with the same sort of flair that distinguishes the appetizers and posole. The fish and chips, for instance, is completely unremarkable, especially once you've sampled the George and Dragon model. And despite the menu claim, I didn't get the impression that either the fish or chips had just leaped directly from the fryer to my plate.

A New York steak sandwich, the most expensive menu item at $8.95, is also less than riveting. The problem? Some less-than-prime-quality beef.

The menu boasts that the meat loaf is made from scratch. I don't doubt it, but I wish the chef could have jacked up the flavor level. Despite the presence of some mild green chile, the three thin slices, perched on a mushy slice of bread, didn't leave much of an impression at all. Lumpy gravy, routine mashed potatoes and institutional mixed vegetables don't create any memories, either.

A simple barbecue pork sandwich turned out to be much more enjoyable. Credit lots of thinly sliced, gristle-free pork, moistened with a low-key barbecue sauce. And a tip of the hat to the cold marinated vegetables--potato, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot--that you can choose as a side dish.

The Coast doesn't have its heart in desserts, which are shipped in by a supplier. The Kamikazi, a creamy lime pie, is aptly named--this one-dimensional sweet goes down in flames.

Checking out the Coast this summer? Follow this three-step program: Turn down your hearing aid, order up appetizers and a sandwich and cool off with a cold one.

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