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  • Restaurants: Right Place - Right Time
Thriving for several decades in a former IHOP A-frame, "The Don," as regulars affectionately refer to it, can never be accused of lacking atmosphere. Go in -- hungry, of course -- and munch thin, hot chips and admire the year-round, Mylar Christmas decorations that spin and twinkle lazily in the manufactured breeze. Vintage bullfighter portraits compete with velvet paintings and more contemporary (but equally bizarre) prints, while oldies ooze out of a radio whose dial hasn't budged in years. Check out your dining companions: lone curmudgeons, young moderns, and big families with the occasional screaming child. Order the heavenly cheese crisp, heaped with guacamole; chat with chipper waitress Tami; and ask for the green ketchup for a real visual treat. More good news: All this atmosphere comes cheap at the only sit-down restaurant where two can enjoy dinner for under $10 -- and where it's always Christmas, to boot.

Divorce? Death in the family? Nothing that a little meat loaf and mashed potatoes can't fix. Because we turn to comfort food during difficult times, it had better be nice food. No hard edges, nothing challenging, no effort involved. Nonni's Sunday Chicken, which is always on the menu at Rancho Pinot Grill, is a hearty, soul-satisfying bowl of love. To describe it as wine-braised chicken and vegetables served over crunchy polenta cakes doesn't capture the most comforting aspect of this dish: its texture. This chicken asks nothing of you -- it just helpfully falls off the bone, as though it knows you've had a hard day. Or perhaps it senses that you shouldn't be trusted with a knife.

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