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Just think: a hundred years ago, ladies of the night would be sitting on this balcony, calling "Woohoo!" to the cowboys sauntering by on the boardwalk.

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That's the legend, anyway. Talking about The Mission SoMa ("South of Market"), the breakfast-lunch place in the old wooden building at 13th and J (1250 J, 619-232-7662). This place has been around since -- get this -- 1870. Was Rosario Hall. Named after the niece of Pio Pico, last Mexican governor of Alta California.

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Ana, who constantly refills your $2 coffee

City fathers used to meet upstairs before they got a city hall. Then it became a, uh, rooming house for the next 100 years, with the Lemon Beer Brewery making beer right here on the first floor, back when this dusty town was still at the end of the road to nowhere.

Here at 13th and J, we're still in the middle of nowhere...

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...meaning East Village is still expanding this-away, but the "Village" thing hasn't happened yet, even though the new main library's going up at a rate of knots just fifty yards away.

And yet, it's late morning and this place is full...of middle class business people and a funky crowd of young entrepreneurial guys and gals talking about social networking and Apple's new Pages app and teachers talking about how to handle 9/11 discussions in class.

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Breakfast, or is it lunch? crowd

And they all seem to be eating luscious, lavish plates of breakfast stuff. Like, Cathy, at the next table over, is into the French Toast ($7.95, $9.95 with two scrambled eggs and bacon).

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Cathy

Luis, guy she's here with, has Mission Rosemary (basically potatoes, eggs, bread, $6.75).

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Luis

Next table, two guys from New York, Felton Dunn and Mark Gordon, are having roast beef hash and eggs ($8.95) and chicken apple sausage and eggs ($8.95).

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Felton

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Mark

Me, I order the same as Felton.

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My roast beef hash and eggs

"You get way more food here than you would back home," says Felton. "Plus, there's something spiritual about this place."

Well, if that means ghosts from the building's history, yes. Sitting on the balcony, watching the world go by...

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Rebecca and Ari eat blueberry pancakes and eggs and potatoes outside

...sipping my endless refill coffee, I swear you feel them hovering around you.

My only wish? That this could also be a rip-roaring beer hall again. Crowded Friday nights on this balcony? Could almost bring those wild cowboy days back.

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