At Mama Connie's Diner, All You Need is $5.35 and an Old Man to Light the Way

Other people eating breakfast for lunch count: 5 Level of weirdness felt when "Let's Get It Started" by the Black Eyed Peas played on the speakers in this old-school diner: 4 out of 5

I'm drawn to open restaurants with deserted parking lots like Glee is drawn to sucking. Like Guy Fieri is drawn to flame-shirts and dickery. Like a drunk's face is drawn to bathroom tile. A nearly empty restaurant parking lot guarantees that you'll get your food fast and somehow it also always means that there'll be fantastic grandpa-watching. (Turns out grandpas and I share a love for a lot of things, including but not limited to: empty parking lots, circus hooters, saying the word "bullshit" in front of toddlers and ugly, high-waisted control-top polyester sports shorts.)

So when I saw Mama Connie's Diner (1619 N. Beckley Ave.), with its loud window art screaming breakfast and lunch specials and a single car parked in its lot mid-lunch rush, I had to pull over.

Walking inside Mama Connie's is like walking onto the set of Friday Night Lights. It's the small-town Texas of TV dramas. There's nothing Uptown fusion-y or shiny, new Dallas about this place. It's not trying to market itself to you:. In fact, it's refreshingly schtick-free. If you asked Mama Connie's Diner what its mission statement is, pretty sure it would say, "I'm just a dang diner, y'all. You want eggs or not?" The culture here reminds me of what the Metro Diner near Baylor Hospital used to have (I miss you so hard, that Metro Diner), but with more pleasantries and teeth. One guy sneezed, and I swear the entire genuinely nice staff simultaneously said, "Bless you."

"Sit anywhere you like." I took a booth across from a newspaper-reading regular who was eating a breakfast combo (yes, they serve breakfast all day) and figured I'd order that too (one egg, hash browns, bacon and a biscuit for $5.35). Because when you're a stranger in a new diner land, you always order what other people aren't currently gagging on. In a cheap diner I'm not familiar with, I've learned to stay away from daily specials and stick to menu items that have obviously been on the menu for a while. Even better, if a cheap place has a food item in their name, choose that and do not stray from that territory lest ye be diarrhea-ed. If Mama Connie had been on that menu, I would've ordered her.

My breakfast combo showed up quick, hot and perfectly delicious. Thanks, Old Man Regular, for guiding me to greatness in this new diner land.

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