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Mary J's Café
1930 Cleveland Avenue, National City

This is real National City, with mile-long freight trains passing right behind the place, and Mary J. serving up biscuits and gravy as she did when she opened here 40 years ago. The prices have changed, but not much else. One of her most popular items is the "Trucker's" breakfast (three eggs, ham, bacon or sausage, home fries, and toast), or steak and eggs with hash browns and toast. Come around 5 a.m., when the regulars start piling in. Mornings are good, too, because Vic (the morning cook and Mary's son) always gives way-generous servings. Good lunch standby: meat loaf with mixed veggies, boiled potatoes covered with gravy, toast, and soup or salad. Or that old American '50s favorite -- the fried egg sandwich with chips.

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