Jim's Coffee Shop 

812 W. Fort St., 208-343-0154. Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

I rolled out of bed and into Jim's Coffee Shop around noon, to discover a very full house. It was nice, like a Norman Rockwell painting. People sidled up to the counter, the sound of a bell alerting the waitstaff to an "order up," and the dull roar of multiple conversations. Seats were available at the counter, but rubbing elbows with a stranger is not really my style, so I selfishly occupied the only available booth. I ordered an orange juice because I was seriously ready for some breakfast. I was going to have the No. 3: two eggs, hash browns and toast for a mere $5.10. It would have been fabulous, but I was informed, to my severe disappointment, that breakfast at Jim's is served only until 11:30 a.m. on weekdays.

Now, I feel very strongly that everyone should serve breakfast all the time. Oh, what a wonderful world it would be. With all my hopes of a midday breakfast shattered, I perused the lunch selections. The soup and sandwich special caught my eye, but considering I've been having mishaps with soup lately, I decided to go with an old favorite, the tuna sandwich ($3.95). I can't think of too many other places where I can get a tuna sandwich—or any other kind of sandwich—for under four bucks. After the server took my order, I figured I'd take a look around. This is a familiar neighborhood. Across the parking lot stands a Boise institution, the Co-Op. Beyond that, the picturesque streets of the North End, and beyond that, the mountains. Yup, this area is home to Idaho's health culture. It's the cultural bridge that connects and likens us to our Northwest neighbors, Portland and Seattle. As if to get a jump on the health-food trend, years ago, Jim's dedicated an entire panel of their menu to a low-calorie diet. A few of the options from the low-cal menu include one bouillon cube in one-half cup diluted water, crumbs scraped from burnt toast, stains boiled out of a tablecloth, the aroma of an empty custard pie plate, to name but a few. And at the very bottom, a note reads, "A seven ounce glass of steam may be consumed on alternate days to assist in having something to blow off."

Clearly, Jim's is not only an inexpensive place to eat, but they are also conscious of their customers' health concerns. I was still chuckling when my tuna sandwich arrived. It was cut into two triangles, just like mom used to do, and it was accompanied by a handful-and-a-half of potato chips. It only took me about one minute to scarf down the sandwich. It was rather good. The only way to screw up a tuna sandwich, that I can think of, is to put too much mayonnaise in the tuna, and the capable cooks at Jim's, thankfully, did not make that mistake. Much like a tuna sandwich, most of the menu items at Jim's could probably be made at home by the average person. But people go to Jim's for other reasons: familiar food at extremely low prices and an unpretentious atmosphere. There's something classic about a diner like Jim's. Personally, I also like Jim's because it's the kind of place where you can stumble in the morning after a night of heavy drinking with a five-dollar bill in your pocket and know they'll understand and keep your water glass full. My only wish: breakfast all day.

—Tom Kershaw wishes the government would declare bacon its own food group.

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