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Rico's Diner

Few would accuse the Bay Area of not being sufficiently hip from a culinary standpoint, but sometimes you're not in the mood for raw food or molecular gastronomy or obscure ethnic cuisines. Sometimes all you want is food that's warm and familiar: a taste of your childhood, a taste of home. Of course every culture has its own definition of "comfort food," but Rico's Diner should please everyone from displaced Texans to visiting New Englanders with its menu, which covers the whole gamut of American classics: burgers, country-fried steak, pot roast, and meatloaf that's even called Mom's Meatloaf. The Downtown Oakland spot takes familiar diner fare and ups the ante by using high-quality ingredients (e.g., Acme buns) and executing everything on the menu with uncommon skill. The Rico's Burger ($6.75) is a hefty, perfectly balanced thing with a bit of heat from jalapenos and fried onions for texture. The French fries are miraculously crisp and greaseless. And the chocolate banana milkshake ($3.75), with satisfying chunks of fresh banana, is one of the best milkshakes in town.

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