I used to date an artist who painted on wood, and on his days off he would go down to Home Depot for inspiration. I tagged along whenever I could, not just because the intricate inexplicability of home-repair gadgets gives me a thrill, but also because we always went to Lemieux's afterward for eggs, bacon, and toast.

Lemieux's is a diner, not in the shiny retro mode, but in the cheap short-order mode. And although it's dark and has an elegance that lies somewhere in the past, it's everything you want in a diner, whether you are bohemianly dining with your artist boyfriend or not. Its menu offers you the entire day--from breakfast to sandwiches to full meaty dinners to martinis served all the time ($4.50)--every hour that it's open (until the dining room closes, unfortunately early, around 7:00 p.m.), so if you have slept late or stayed up all night, you can administer to your particular cravings.

I returned, sans artist boyfriend but with soon-to-be-husband, after the purchase of a new showerhead. It was about 4:00 p.m., and we were alone in the dining room (the rush is at breakfast), but there was lots of laughter emanating from the bar. Despite the raging summer heat, I couldn't tear myself away from the meat entrées, and ended up with such a tremendous plate of chicken-fried steak and mashed potatoes ($7.75)--all covered with lovely spicy country gravy--that I quickly ate myself into a coma. My not-quite-husband had a Club Deluxe ($6.75), which he pronounced "a well-made sandwich," and indeed, it didn't fall apart as they are prone to do when mismanaged in the kitchen. He was not so happy with his fries, searingly hot and "funny-tasting," but I could not get him to elaborate. I tried to eat one and burned my tongue.

To be fair, our waitress, Lydia, had recommended the mashed potatoes. Really, she's one of the nicest waitresses I've encountered in a long time, attentive and chatty but not stalker-like. I don't think it was just because the place was empty; I bet she'd be just as nice during the lunch rush. We lingered while she bustled between kitchen and cash register; outside, in the bright day, a man in work pants and heavy boots lectured someone from his cell phone, gesticulating emphatically and pacing like an animal.

Next time: Bookshelves and pork chops.

Lemieux's
97 S Lander St (south of Stadium Row), 624-9851. Mon-Fri 5:30 am-7 pm, Sat 6 am-4 pm, closed Sun.

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