You're broke. Eat here.

You're broke. Eat here.

Andy Nelson's Barbecue

April 19, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

Andy Nelson's Barbecue

Far from the city, in an affluent suburb of Baltimore County, legend has it that former Baltimore Colt Andy Nelson yearned to make something of his post-sport life. He wanted to make something big, something memorable. He wanted to make something to keep his name trumpeting across the land.

Attman's Deli

February 1, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

Attman's Deli

If you visit Attman's Deli on a Saturday afternoon, as I did, you'll likely encounter a line of customers snaking out the door, sometimes growing to lengths that make fire marshals bite their nails. I was all set to assume that this many people couldn't be wrong, but then I remembered waiting in line for a water ride back in 1993, only to find that it was disappointingly subpar. I didn't want to leave Attman's as I had left that amusement park -- cold, angry and reeking of chlorine.

Bartenders

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Bartenders

We cruised up Boston Street, a battalion of blinking Boh heads in the rearview, and turned into an alley a block before Bartenders hoping to avoid metered parking spaces. Neither of us was quite positive how much we had in change, and, since a 25 cent miscalculation can lead to a $26 ticket, we figured better safe than sorry. Approaching Bartenders on foot, though, we noticed a wide open spot and realized that this block didn't actually have meters on it after all. Damn.

Brick Oven Pizza

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Brick Oven Pizza

Exactly one day after I committed to the South Beach Diet's grueling, 14-day regimen of consuming only protein and greenery (for the fourth time this year), my editor assigned me this carb-filled critique of Fells Point's Brick Oven Pizza (aka, BOP).

Burger Bistro

January 17, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

Burger Bistro

I was really excited to try out Burger Bistro. I like the idea of a new culinary take on an old favorite. When I think bistro, I think hip, French and savory. When I think burgers, I think yum. So why shouldn't this be an awesome experience in culinary creativity? Two words: food court.

Burritos en Fuego

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Burritos en Fuego

"I asked for medium-hot, not hot-hot." This pre-teen girl was talking to a friend outside Burritos en Fuego. Apparently her Spanish wasn't el mejor, because she didn't seem to realize that en Fuego means on fire.

Café Hon

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Café Hon

When I told the hostess at Café Hon I would be dining alone, she looked genuinely concerned, as though she wished she could come over and keep me company. Her sympathetic expression, however, was offset by the face of a life-sized Elvis statue perched only inches behind her. The King, leaning back and holding his guitar in that way that suggests "this is just a metaphor for my penis," looked overjoyed, as usual. From my angle, it appeared that he was staring down the woman's shirt, but she didn't seem to mind. The Café Hon is, you see, a preponderantly friendly place, and first-timers are made aware of this instantly.

Café Spice

March 28, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

Café Spice

There's an unwritten code that nearly every great Indian restaurant follows -- sort of like Biggie's "Ten Crack Commandments," except, well, these aren't about dealing drugs, and there are fewer than 10 of them. In fact, they're not unwritten, either, because I'm about to tell you what they are.

Café Zen

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Café Zen

I swore off Chinese food many years ago. Sure, it's cheap, but after a bad chow mein experience, my stomach quivers at the sight of corn starch sauces and rubbery pork cubes in fried rice. Despite this, I gave Café Zen a fair shake, and was surprised by what I found.

California Tortilla

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California Tortilla

It was hot downtown, somewhere in the high 80s with that classic Baltimore humidity that makes you feel like you're wearing everyone else's sweat. Perfect for a colon-clearing dose of spicy Mexican grub.

Carlos O'Charlie's

February 23, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

Carlos O'Charlie's

With its brick façade and ornate wood-grained doors, Carlos O'Charlie's is not the sort of place you'd expect to find near the Value Village and unnamed medical stores of Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown.

Chicken Rico

December 28, 2006

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Chicken Rico

The sign for Highlandtown's Chicken Rico features three cooked chickens lovingly impaled on an iron rod. To a customer as well-seasoned as the birds themselves, the mere sight of said signage prepares one's mouth for a journey into Flavor Country.

Chipotle

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Chipotle

"You've heard about this place, right?" the kid behind me in line says to his friend. His friend must have suffered a miserable existence to this point, because he hadn't. I was shocked. Poor bastard, I thought.

Chubby's Grill

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Chubby's Grill

Walk into Chubby's -- hell, just consider the name, really -- and you'll wonder if the restaurant's owners believe all the hype about America's burgeoning obesity rate. The insignia features an adorably corpulent chef -- think Santa Claus with a rolling pin -- and many of the prototypical burger joint elements are firmly in place. There's a Wall of Fame, for instance, featuring pictures and letters by those who have managed to devour Chubby's largest burger (that's two whole pounds for you gluttons), and kids are given crayons to color the weight-challenged chef on their menus, which are then hung neatly near the entrance.

Crazy John's Pizza

February 5, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

Crazy John's Pizza

It began as I first stepped onto The Block. I was overwhelmed by the sudden urge to slake a certain desire. For a time, my head was in constant motion, oscillating from left to right in search of the thing that would fulfill my needs. I noticed others on the street. The motley collection of strangers appeared to hurl themselves in all directions. Driven and wild-eyed, they moved ambitiously before disappearing into their destinations. I have never felt such hunger, such emptiness. Despite invitations from several smiling doormen, I moved passed the adult bookstores, toy shops and clubs and scurried down the street, following the promising hum of glowing neon lights. Intent on reaching my goal, I ignored the photographs of tawdry women. Then, it suddenly appeared. Pushing the door open I thought to myself, "A good cheesesteak is hard to find."

David's Restaurant & Deli

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David's Restaurant & Deli

Most of us, thankfully, are much too young to recall the department-store lunch counters popular circa 1956 -- the focus of so much controversy during the Civil Rights Movement. The owners of David's Restaurant & Deli in Hampden seem to remember these grilled cheese palaces fondly and have mimicked the décor impeccably -- sans racial tension. To describe the ambiance of David's as "no-frills" would be the understatement of the century. If there is anything on the walls that surround the wooden tabletops, it's not memorable. Although, David's does have its perks.

Dizzy Issie's

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Dizzy Issie's

My roommate had his back to the door at Dizzy Issie's. One of the people he couldn't see coming through the front door is this little redheaded girl all in black with three of her friends. I knew he'd fall for her before he even saw her. This is good. He needs to get laid. Just last week he came after me with a machete. Seriously.

Dogwood Deli

You're broke. Eat here.

Dogwood Deli

If you didn't know it was there, chances are you'd walk right on by the Dogwood Deli, located among Hampden's funky shops, and even funkier people. With only the tiniest of signs fluttering high above the door, the outside of the building is rather nondescript. But once you walk inside, you're enveloped by fresh aromas, your mouth waters and, for all you really care, you could be on Venus.

Dougherty's Irish Pub

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Dougherty's Irish Pub

Always elated to find free parking (without having to park in the Rite Aid lot), I wandered into Dougherty's Irish Pub to a similar fortune. Not a single table occupied, two older gentlemen sat at the bar, both in somewhat dated blazers, enjoying some time they had probably stolen away from work for a lunchtime pint or two or three.

Eclectic Café and Creperie

March 8, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

Eclectic Café and Creperie

Don't cry for me, Denny's. The truth is I never left you, I just needed to see if life exists beyond Moons Over My Hammy. That's why I strolled into 723 -- or what will always be 723 to me -- Eclectic Café and Creperie.

First Watch

January 22, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

First Watch

OK, it's a little sketch when the first thing you see while being seated at a new restaurant is three people with their eyes glazed over, wearing flannel jackets over Hawaiian shirts and staring at a 13-inch TV perched on a table and plugged into the wall.

Five Guys

March 19, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

Five Guys

Size matters. That's why Five Guys' behemoth burgers crush competitors' pitiful cow patties.

Frisco Burritos

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Frisco Burritos

Like so many humble Mexican eateries, Frisco Burritos has its share of fanatic devotees. ("I need Frisco Burrito/with lots of extra hot sauce," raps B'more's Cex on his CD Tall, Dark and Handcuffed.) It was thus on the recommendations of many friends, loved ones and complete strangers that I entered Towson's favored local burrito dispensary -- only to find it displeasingly devoid of customers.

Golden West

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Golden West

My friend and I made our way down 36th Street, past the typical smattering of sketchy Hampden locals and specialty shops filled with hon merchandise. Once inside Golden West Café, we were seated at a booth and given menus, which I had previously viewed online. One totally awesome distinction with the menu in person: it was nestled between the covers of a Jane Fonda workout album, complete with exercise demonstrations. Sweatbands haven't looked this good since the '80s.

Holy Frijoles

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Holy Frijoles

No surprises at this Hampden hang. The Bachelor of Arts crowd was out en masse. The hostess' rumpled Waldo tank top and disheveled hair was proof enough for me that she had just stumbled bleary eyed out of bed and directly into work. The bus boys spent a lot more time getting ready for work, sporting well-preened ducktail hair-dos and squeezing in far too tight jeans. The bartenders, unshaven and in T-shirts, seemed to say I'm cool and you're not, but in a really friendly way. There were so many thick-framed hipster glasses that I thought I might have walked into a poetry reading by mistake. And don't get me wrong; these are the things I love about the place. I'm tired of pretentious dinner venues and dressing up to grab a beer. What is great about Holy Frijoles is that you really can come as you are. (Don't hold me to this, but I don't recall seeing a sign that read no shirts, no shoes, no service. So have at it ...)

Iggies

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Iggies

As stiflingly redundant as eating out on a budget can be, the unique qualities of places like Iggies elevate the dining experience far beyond the Styrofoam box expectations of greasy counter take-outs.

Jad's Caddy Shack

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Jad's Caddy Shack

It's hard to miss Jad's Caddy Shack -- the entranceway is illuminated by a neon green light. I found myself squinting as my boyfriend and I made our way into the restaurant.

JD's Smokehouse Bar & Grill

YOU'RE BROKE. EAT HERE.

JD's Smokehouse Bar & Grill

There are the age-old questions of El Dorado's existence. Where is it? What riches lie within its city walls? Well, pardner, recently I stumbled upon El Dorado, and I reckon I'll share with you just what it is I seen there.

Jimmy's Restaurant

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Jimmy's Restaurant

I am not a gourmand. I am not a connoisseur. My palate is not refined. But I know good scrapple when I taste good scrapple, and Jimmy's Restaurant of Fells Point serves damn fine scrapple. I know what you're thinking. What self-proclaimed food critic would lower himself to eating all the parts of a pig that normal people consider trash? Against my better judgment, and to the disdain of my editor, I'm going to use a cliché. One man's trash is another man's gold. That's right. I said scrapple is gold.

Joe Squared

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Joe Squared

You won't need to strain your higher faculties to add up the intentions of Joe Squared, the inconspicuous North Avenue pizza joint located between Howard Street and Maryland Avenue. Right now, though, the mirror-lined walls, the dangling plastic plants and the faux wood grain tile dance floor create an ambiance more suggestive of a mom and pop greasy spoon than the cool college hang it hopes to be.

Kasbah Café

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Kasbah Café

Before my excursion to Kasbah Café, I did what any computer-dependent American would do: I Googled it. What better way to get the skinny on hours and such? Everyone has a Web site, right?

Liquid Earth

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Liquid Earth

I drove past it last week. I know it exists. Now where the hell ...

Looney's Pub

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Looney's Pub

Statistics say that you sleep for a little less than half your life. That's nearly 4,000 hours per year spent burrito-wrapped in blankets, dreaming of cheeseburgers and steamy affairs.

Maria D's

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Maria D's

Through the noise and delightfully drunken chaos of the crowded room, I notice a swaying, stumbling man stand from his seat, and sprint sideways toward the front. Spitting enthusiastically and tripping over his ankles, he casts his spaghetti arms into the air, shakes them loosely, and shrieks out an emphatic, "WOOOOO!"

Matthew's Pizza

YOU'RE BROKE. EAT HERE.

Matthew's Pizza

From the Patterson Park pagoda, our group approached Eastern Avenue to eat pizza and talk politics. Matthew's has been a part of Highlandtown since anyone can remember. Across from the flashing neon of the Creative Alliance is a tiny, unassuming storefront with its own pie-shaped neon glowing in the front window. Inside, casual employees chatted near a counter opposite the entrance. A family with small children and a few couples occupied the tables. As we sat, the waitress hollered hello from across the restaurant.

McCormick & Schmick's Happy Hour

February 14, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

McCormick & Schmick's Happy Hour

Most city-dwellers avoid the Inner Harbor the same way they would avoid a quarantine camp spilling over with avian flu victims. It's a toss-up as to what's more offensive: the throngs of tourists or the overpriced and often lackluster food.

Mike's Place

YOU'RE BROKE. EAT HERE.

Mike's Place

"Hey Hon. Sit anywhere."

Nacho Mama's

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Nacho Mama's

While parking at Nacho Mama's in Canton, I discovered Elvis painted into a Johnny Unitas uniform.

New No Da Ji

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New No Da Ji

There's not much "new" about New No Da Ji. A waitress informs me that "No Da Ji" means gold mine in Korean, but the Korean/Chinese/Japanese eatery has been at this location for about 15 years. The menu looks like an original -- but I pay it no mind. I'm here for the lunch buffet.

New Wyman Park Restaurant

January 2, 2007

YOU'RE BROKE. EAT HERE.

New Wyman Park Restaurant

Many of the past decades' greatest sitcoms have featured a lovable dive, an absolute dump-of-an-establishment, where the show's main characters gather for witty banter and enjoyably mediocre food. "Seinfeld" had Monk's Cafe, "Friends" had Central Perk and viewers regularly find "The Family Guy" at the Drunken Clam. The New Wyman Park Restaurant is the realization of that fantasy, and -- assuming you keep your standards low -- you, too, will come to respect its simple charms.

Nino Taco

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Nino Taco

It all started as "that hole in the wall on Liberty Road."

One World Café

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One World Café

There's something very strange about One World Café. I wouldn't call it schizophrenic, but the vibe changes abruptly from one hour to the next. Is One World a take-out coffee shop? A place to meet for lunch? A vegetarian restaurant that permits (lots of) smoking and (heavy) drinking? Yes, yes and yes.

Papermoon Diner

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Papermoon Diner

Before she passed away, my grandmother was a doll doctor. I guess you can make a career out of that. Anyway, when I was young we would visit, and there would be doll extremities all over the house. Little baby legs and arms and heads and even eyeballs would be strewn about like the Little People's Daycare just stormed Fallujah or something. That creeped me the freak out.

Pepe's

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Pepe's

The menu at Pepe's is on par with its décor. It only seems logical that a place that serves Philly cheesesteaks alongside pancakes should be decorated like an eat-in 7/11.

Pete's Grille

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Pete's Grille

Going around the block just once, I found an open meter across the street from Pete's Grille. After I dropped some books at the Book Thing of Baltimore (conveniently located a block away), I headed in, glancing at the confusing signage on the door -- the sticker said pull, but the handle said push. I pulled, getting it right on the first try. Phew.

Qdoba

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Qdoba

Ted and I have this weekly Burrito Night tradition. It started a few months ago. I fixed Ted's car -- he took me to Chipotle. During this outing, we came to the realization that having weekly burritos is a good thing. Now, we go every week and take turns paying. We've sampled most of the burritos in Maryland but had yet to go to Chipotle's franchise rival Qdoba. So, we stopped by the White Marsh location and checked it out.

Rocky Run Tap & Grill

YOU'RE BROKE. EAT HERE.

Rocky Run Tap & Grill

When my boyfriend suggested going to Rocky Run for dinner, one word came to mind: vandalism. I went to Rocky Run a couple years ago, and the only memory I had of the restaurant was that you could write on the tables.

El Salto

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El Salto

I'll admit that the idea of a "cheap eats" Mexican food joint sends electric shocks of fright as well as a foreshadowing of flatulence all through my body. Refried beans for a buck? That's almost as scary as the watermelon-sized hole in El Salto's bathroom wall stuffed with toilet paper and accompanied by a note which read, "Don't you think you should fix this?" Kudos to that previous customer with a Sharpie and a dream.

Samos Restaurant

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Samos Restaurant

One recent Saturday afternoon, I visited Samos Restaurant -- a take-out joint and sit-down eatery in Baltimore's Greektown. The first thing I noticed about Samos was that everyone eating there seemed to know one another. Not in a frat-house kegger sort of way, but more like a gossip-sharing family reunion sort of way. The waitresses knew everyone by name and, surprisingly, my waitress Joyce even knew a relative of mine who had lived in the area years ago. Freaky.

Sip & Bite

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Sip & Bite

They say the Sip & Bite is best enjoyed while intoxicated. So, after a Friday night of revelry in nearby Fells Point, I stumbled to the 24-hour eatery at the intersection of Boston and Aliceanna streets.

Sofi's Crepes

YOU'RE BROKE. EAT HERE.

Sofi's Crepes

Parlez-vous francais? Oh, you don't speak French? What, did you think it was some kind of fry or just a lousy piece of toast? Thank goodness for the culturally aware folks throughout Baltimore such as Ann Costlow. The owner of Sofi's Crepes discovered this native French cuisine while on holiday (that's European for vacation) and brought it stateside for all us foodies to enjoy.

Soup's On

March 12, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

Soup's On

Soup for lunch? Come on, everyone knows soup is a side item -- an appetizer at best. At least, that's how we felt one cold day walking the Avenue in Hampden. Climbing the stoop of a converted rowhouse, we approached Soup's On at Rose's Cookies to warm our bones, certainly. We were skeptical, though, whether it might fill our bellies.

The Souvlaki Place

June 19, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

The Souvlaki Place

After harboring a longtime gyro jones, I realized that not only were there Greek restaurants in Baltimore, but there's actually an entire "town" dedicated to the cuisine. I finally made my way to the eastern end of Eastern Avenue (a.k.a. Greektown), and found myself surrounded by Greek restaurants, bakeries, shops and, presumably, actual Greeks. One glance up and down the street and I knew I had a problem: In which of these monuments to Greek cuisine would I find a meal worthy of the gods?

Thairish

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Thairish

It's Cheers meets carryout restaurant with a Thai flair, I thought to myself as I entered Charles Street's cozy Thairish.

Towson Diner

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Towson Diner

Where else can you go to hear someone beat boxin' while cops idly chat with the waitstaff and your best friend sits smiling before a Mediterranean backdrop? No clue? Well, folks, you can leave your passport at home -- it's none other than Towson's 24-hour Towson Diner.

Towson Hot Bagels

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Towson Hot Bagels

Bagels. Everybody serves bagels these days; big whoop.

Tutti Gusti

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Tutti Gusti

Tired of hitting up the Citgo down the street for booze after-hours and fearing that your life will end at the grease-stained hand of a trucker named Bubba? Fear no more.

Two Sisters Bar & Grille

June 15, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

Two Sisters Bar & Grille

Two Sisters Bar & Grille, serving breakfast until well past noon, is the perfect place to have a hangover. In addition to the healing breakfasts, Two Sisters also serves delicious dinners, with dishes like corned beef and scrumptious pub grub like burgers and fries. All of the food is of the comfort variety, and it's always served hot, fast and cheap. Before you start thinking this sounds like a good place to pick up a hooker, or a girlfriend or boyfriend, remember that it's a family-run establishment.

Vaccaro's

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Vaccaro's

"Don't eat sweets, they'll spoil your dinner." Sound familiar? Well I have a question for you, Mom: what happens when sweets are my dinner? On Mondays from 6-9 p.m. I discovered that Vaccaro's in Little Italy has an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of delectable heart attacks drenched in chocolate sauce, filled with custard and topped with whipped cream.

Wegmans' Market Café

May 16, 2007

You're broke. Eat here.

Wegmans' Market Café

Walking into any grocery store on a Sunday afternoon is a dubious adventure at best, but walking into a Wegmans Food Market grocery store on a Sunday afternoon ... well, that particular task requires the fearlessness of a kamikaze pilot. People are nutty for Wegmans (come to a stop in the middle of an aisle and you severely risk being run down by a grocery cart), and with good reason. The gourmet grocery store has just about anything a shopper might need. Additionally, if you happen to be a self-proclaimed grocery store nerd who also writes for BaltimoreMetromix.com and you're looking for a cheap place to eat, there's the Market Café. The café offers up several terrific, high-quality prepared and made-while-you-wait foodstuffs, all for relatively cheap.

Xando

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Xando

With its track lighting, contemporary earth tone furnishings and art-laden walls, Xando had me scared at first. Walking in, I knew I'd never pass for a customer. Soon enough, I thought, someone would ask to see my Hipster ID, and then I'd be escorted out by two guys with tight Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! T-shirts and hair in their eyes.

Yabba Pot

YOU'RE BROKE. EAT HERE.

Yabba Pot

As a reward for finishing up a project, my boss took me to lunch at the Yabba Pot. I'd eaten here quite awhile ago, and wasn't too impressed with the grub. But I figured I owed it a fair shake. I mean, the boss may be a bit of a health-food nut, but come on, free lunch.

Zack's Hot Dogs

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Zack's Hot Dogs

An entire menu devoted to hot dogs? Unless we were talking about some ramshackle, street-side vending cart, most people would be a little doubtful.

Zodiac

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Zodiac

Beyond a rough exterior, Zodiac feels exactly as its name implies: astrological.

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