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The nightly special is called "TV dinner" and is actually served in a disposable, divided foil tray. Our waiter raved about that night's rendition (remember, "Bad Advice" is listed on the menu, free), which featured a pulled-pork sandwich with coleslaw on top of the meat, with house-made potato chips and a soi-disant brownie.

Well. Yes, I'm a food snob at the low end as well as the high end. I've eaten pulled pork in Memphis and at Big Nate's Memphis BBQ and Memphis Minnie's BBQ in San Francisco and at the late, great Big Jim's BBQ in Encinitas. What all these places have in common is that the pork butt is smoked low 'n' slow for about eight hours, so it comes out tasting really smoky, and it's served with a tangy, interesting sauce. At Maryjane's the pork isn't smoked, and the sauce is sweet and rather simple. The coleslaw is okay, crisp and sweetened with carrots rather than excess sugar. Luckily, there's a trayful of condiments on the table. I added a tiny squeeze of yellow mustard and a good shot of Frank's Red Hot Sauce (which is not so hot). This brought the sauce closer to Memphis. The "bun" was a long, thick buttermilk roll that pretty much swamped the meat and coleslaw; I flipped off the top and ate with fork and knife. The chips were okay. The brownie, we all concurred, tasted like Duncan Hines devil's food chocolate-cake mix topped with a glutinous pistachio-caramel glaze. It was horrible.

This is not the same "pot brownie" offered on Maryjane's dessert list. But don't even begin to imagine that the brownie is made from the Alice B. Toklas recipe or that it includes a shred or seed or stem of Mary Jane. We didn't try it. Instead, we ventured on the New York–style cheesecake. The filling texture was rich, weighty, and custardy, hinting of egg yolks. The graham crust was thick and leaden. Michelle's coffee and my espresso were both so overstrong and bitter that we dumped tons of half-and-half into them.

The wine list isn't long, but it's well chosen, with below-average markups. I found a Ferrari-Carano chardonnay at a bargain price. Alas, I discovered that I actually prefer this vineyard's more common, less costly sauvignon blanc (not offered here). Milk shakes or soft drinks (or '50s cocktails) might be more amusing and appropriate choices for this cuisine, to camp it up all the way. We'd gotten our waiter to recork the leftover half bottle, but the security guards at the door wouldn't let us leave with it. After discussion, turned out it needed to be wrapped. Michelle dashed back inside, re-emerged with plastic-bagged wine in hand, and we were out of there forevermore. As they say, you can't go home again.

Maryjane's Coffee Shop

  • two stars
  • (Satisfactory)

Hard Rock Hotel, 207 Fifth Avenue (L Street), Gaslamp Quarter, 619-764-6950, hardrock hotelsd.com.

  • HOURS: Sunday–Thursday 6:30 a.m.–10:00 p.m.; weekends until 3:00 a.m.
  • PRICES: Starters and sides, $3–$10; sandwiches, burgers, tacos, entrée chopped salads, entrées, $8–$28 (most about $15); breakfast dishes (all day), $9–$12; desserts, $6.
  • CUISINE AND BEVERAGES: Baby Boomer/Gen X comfort food just like Mom's (including frozen peas). Short but smart wine list, beer, cocktails, milk shakes, and soft drinks.
  • PICK HITS: Meat loaf (entrée or sandwich); chicken pot pie. Other good bets: Cobb salad, Buffalo chicken salad.
  • NEED TO KNOW: Valet parking (necessary on game nights at Petco); four vegetarian/vegan medium-to-main choices plus sides. Family-friendly. (Kiddie menu? It's all a kiddie menu!) No reservations needed.

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Sheryl Oct. 1, 2008 @ 3:29 p.m.

I'm glad you reviewed Maryjane's. I've been thinking about giving it a try -- but maybe now I won't. My favorite diner is the Studio Diner -- which is attached to Stu Segall Productions in Kearny Mesa. Everything I have tried there has been good -- with my favorites being the Samson Steak Sandwhich, Mommy's Meatloaf and the Haddock. It's a fun place with lots of movie/TV memorabilia -- and the best part is that it's open 24 hrs a day.


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