Metro Diner
Back in the day, before we had spouses and 'sponsibility, the Metro was our home-away-from; we gave out its number as our own, the way old New York journos in the '50s passed off a bar's digits whenever they needed to be found in the wee small hours of the morning...or midafternoon. We lived beneath the dim flicker of the Metro's fluorescents; we puffed upon our coffin nails and choked down our caffeine while the jukebox murmured the bruised blues of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. We scarfed down our scrambled eggs and toast and crisp bacon and hash browns at 3 p.m., usually at 3 a.m. We watched our colleagues and friends and absolute strangers (they who live at the counter, propping up their weary frames after a likely trundle over from nearby Baylor) dine upon grilled-cheese sandwiches or pecan waffles or chicken-fried delights. We read, we wrote, mostly we all just talked till the cigarettes ran out or the coffee pot went dry. That was before the redo a few years ago, before they cleaned up the joint--which, as far as we're concerned, is like polishing the Hope diamond. We may be more settled (or maybe some of us just settled), but still the Metro beckons. We may not go as late or as often, but we go when we can--during that witching hour, usually, when the sky looks overcast even on a cloudless day. We'll be against one of the windows, smoking and drinking coffee and dipping biscuits into running eggs as we watch the world hustle to a crawl. Join us, yes, but leave us alone. We shall return the favor. It's the Metro's way.
Yeah, it's a chain, but the brothers have bagels down. Besides having a wide assortment of bagels made the way a bagel should be made (not dried out and airy, but moist and chewy), they also sell great breakfast and other bagel sandwiches. Our fave on a Sunday morning: an "everything" bagel loaded with cream cheese. Salty goodness along with strong coffee and a fat Sunday newspaper. Suh-weet.

It's hot, clean and fresh. And it doesn't taste like blowtorched linoleum. Or start with an "S."
The help may not always be the friendliest, but why should they have to be? The food is so good they don't need to be nice. It's worth a trip to Ali Baba just if it's to find out what real hummus is supposed to look and taste like. Every other dish is authentic Lebanese with plenty of distinctive Middle Eastern spices. Servings are plentiful, but what may seem like tons of leftovers (that made your car stink like garlic while you went drinking in Lower Greenville) probably will be devoured before dawn.
Lone Star Oyster Bar
With their name, you'd think the oysters had better be tasty, and they are. Oysters are shucked at the bar and served on the half-shell atop a tray of crushed ice. The oysters are fresh, which means they don't taste too fishy as they slide down your throat. The oysters come with fresh lemon, horseradish, cocktail sauce and lemon for $6.50 a dozen regularly and $3.90 a dozen all day Tuesdays. The best deal is happy hour, which is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday certain draft beers are $1 all day.
Steel Restaurant & Lounge
It's considered a delicacy in Vietnam where it is often accompanied by cognac. But at Steel, it's served on a narrow platter heaped with flesh and shreds of mint, a Vietnamese herb called rau om, slivers of lemon peel, fried onion and chopped peanuts. This mound effectively veils the ruddy meat. Only the folded edges of the thin, succulent prime rib eye sheets are visible, like loins covered in a grass skirt. It's delicate and flush with fragrance and alive with refreshing piquancy. Plus, it hits the spot.
Why get a boring old ham-on-rye when you can get a classy European-style panini sandwich? Downtown is much improved by this new lunch joint, which recently set up on the ground floor of the Magnolia Hotel. Its menu boasts great variety and affordability: Gourmet coffee is strong, the soups are flavorful, and Fresh Choice is one of the few places you can still get a good meal at $6 or less.

Located in a unyuppyfied section of East Dallas, Z Café has a funky, friendly divey feel that makes it a fine escape from the workplace grind. There's lots of Parthenon posters and white-and-blue flags to remind you it's Greek. The daily lunch specials, which run about $5.99, are taken off the café's menu of gyros, sandwiches, dolmas and such. The lamb gyro is only $6.95. Then there's the signature Z burger (feta cheese, grilled onions and jalapeos), which is a perfect start for that long afternoon nap at your desk. To sleep better, take the boss.
The thing that makes the potato salad so good at Nick's is the bacon. More specifically, little bits of real, explosively tasty bacon, er, bits. Not too creamy, not too dry, not too mustardy, this side dish should replace the usual french fry accompaniment to your burger. The key: It's always made fresh.

It goes by the name of alici con peperonata, and it hails from the Italian region of Campania. But it's really just a swell ensemble of silvery strips of fresh white marinated anchovy flesh casually draped over roasted red peppers forming a naughty mound of culinary hedonism ringed by a bead of greenish olive oil. These anchovies bristle with searing brininess, as if they were pickled (they were). The prickly dazzle of the fillets contrasts beautifully with the smooth, ghostly wisp of sweetness emanating from the peppers. Pass the marlin rig and a flute of Krug.

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