I have had Wyandottes (Gold and Silver Laced) and loved them. Gorgeous birds, even tempered, cold hardy, decent layers, and the odd mean one (often named "Sunday Dinner" around here) is big enough to make several good meals and soup.
The old type or "heritage" breeds will work best for most of us--these are birds that are often listed as "dual purpose" (meaning meat and eggs) and usually combine cold hardiness, decent temper, and ability to cope with less than ideal conditions. In general Wyandottes, Barred Rocks (although the roosters can be mean IME), Orpingtons, Faverolles (lovely sweet birds with feathered feet), Cochins (feathered puffballs), Brahmas, and Langshans are good to work with. Oh, and many of these types come in bantams as well (eggs are just a bit smaller, and the roosters' crows are squeakier, but they take up a lot less space).
Looking for a lighter breed that lays green (yes, really!) eggs? Go with the Ameraucana--again, decent tempered, hardy, pretty birds, and still big enough to have one for Sunday dinner....
The Faverolles, Brahmas, Wyandottes, and Langshans are by far my favorites for personality, and the Ameraucana is my choice for egg production....There is a book out from Storey colled the Illustrated Guide to Poultry (Chickens?) which has a good picture of each breed and a short summary about it.
BTW, there are also breeds of ducks that lay very well, and are more cold hardy and even tempered than chickens. Check out Runner ducks ("like wine bottles with beaks"), Campbells (Khaki, Dark, and White), Welsh Harlequins (both the silver and gold forms are beautiful), and Bali/Crested. All are big enough to provide a duck dinner, although our ducks are so personable it's really tough to do one in. No, they don't need a pond, but they will splash the water out of any bucket or bowl you give them, so be prepared to give them lots of bedding.
Hope this helps and gives you some places to get started!