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Kawa Coffee

2427 N. Union Blvd., 473-5292, kawacoffeecs.com

Hidden at the rear of a breezeway near Union Station, Kawa (Polish for "coffee") is well worth finding. Creative touches distinguish it from other mocha lounges, though by appearance it offers the same modern decor of corrugated metal, concrete flooring and exposed ceiling. The brew comes via High Rise Coffee Roasters, and the bagels for an array of sandwiches ($4 to $7, includes a side) from Olde World Bagel & Deli.

Though a wet mess, the Polish Boy is weirdly awesome with kielbasa quarters, melted Swiss, a touch of barbecue sauce and a dripping heap of smoky, crunchy bacon coleslaw on a plain bagel. The Greek Hercules, on a spinach-Parmesan bagel, delivers olives, salty feta, layered turkey slices, and some veggies under more flavorful wetness in the form of tzatziki. The Bee Sting ($2.75/8 ounces) of two espresso shots, half & half and honey is a creamy gratification, finishing with a naturally sweet, lingering honey aftertaste. — Matthew Schniper

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Vernacchio's Diner

132 W. Cimarron St. (no phone or website)

There's no phone number for the tiny diner located on the corner of Cimarron and South Sierra Madre streets because there's no usable phone. As owner Larry Vernacchio told us from behind a grill, just feet from the counter, "Nobody called." Guesses as to why abound, but the weird vibe that comes from three family employees facing off with two diners in about 10 square feet couldn't help.

The food is as straightforward as the space: burgers, sandwiches and the occasional Italian dish are served from behind a red counter with red stools. With the diner out of burgers the day we visited, we opted for a large, 12-inch Philly cheesesteak ($7.50) and a Reuben ($6). Liquid from the latter completely soaked the pieces of toasted rye, turning it into inedible mush, but the Philly was OK, with a fine array of mayonnaise-and-cheese-covered shreds of previously frozen ribeye, topped with peppers and onions. Points for its size-cost ratio. — Bryce Crawford

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El Burrito Grande

3242 Centennial Blvd., 635-6363, elburritogrande.net

In the words of a nearby business owner, El Burrito Grande is essentially a mom-and-pop Chipotle, just not as satisfying. A Peyton location will turn four in September, with this expansion having hit the scene a couple months back.

If it's size you like, the outfit doesn't disappoint: Co-owner Guadalupe Martin actually ripped my flour tortilla clear across on her first stuffing attempt. She had to re-wrap the monstrous, wet portion of rice, whole pintos, pork chile verde and fillings I'd selected (jalapeños, olives, shredded cheese, onion-cilantro relish, sour cream). The build-your-own beast, called a Dad's Big Burrito ($6.49 with a drink as a daily lunch special), easily matches the scale of a Chipotle foil brick. But a general plainness outside the hot salsa pervades. Like the virtually blank home page on the outfit's website, it's missing definable character — a study of gustatory neutrality. — Matthew Schniper

  • Kawa Coffee, Vernacchio's Diner, El Burrito Grande

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