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Amy's Place, 3234 Main St.,


3 pennies - "Funkytown"

Have you ever wished there were a place in town where you could get a cheap meal and a primer on what's hot?

That place is Amy's Place, a funky University Heights hangout known for its Lebanese-accented menu and tragically hip 18- to 24-year-old clientele. Walk in and you'd swear you were in an East Village diner. Or maybe just Boulder or Austin or some other college town. Listen to the booth behind you critique the dance CD blaring from behind the counter and check out fashions you won't find at the Gap.

On a recent Sunday, Amy's was packed with baseball-capped boys, sorority girls sans makeup, boys with purple hair, girls with no hair. A selection of free weeklies and alternative papers greet you at the door. "You guys just getting up?" one table asks a group arriving at 2 p.m. The place smells like garlic.

Everything on the menu is reasonable, but the best deal is the early bird breakfast, from 6 to 9 a.m. Two eggs, home fries and toast or pita for 99 cents. Sausage or bacon $1 more. But who on earth is up when Amy's opens?

More likely are the groaning Middle Eastern sandwiches; $5 for a full, $4 for a mini. Rolled flat bread overflows with hummus, labanee (homemade yogurt) or roasted eggplant and tahini with lettuce, tomatoes and olives. Plenty of food and still enough cash left for a few loads of laundry.

Or, for a little extra, the famous lentil-berry sandwich - lentils and wheatberries spread on flat bread with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and homemade dressing. Yeah it's $6.50 for a full and $5.50 for a mini, but it's so vegetarian and so healthy. Makes up for what you did to your body last night.

Don't feel like being healthy? How about the vegetarian wet shoes - a platter of fries topped with lentils, onions, peppers, tomatoes and grated cheddar cheese or sour cream for $5.25? Nonvegetarian wet shoes are smothered with chili.

You can also get your legumes in Amy's lentil soup, served every day. A porridgy stew of lentils and pasta - a carbohydrate addict's dream - at only $2 for a cup, $2.50 a bowl.

Service and cleanliness standards at Amy's Place are, well, casual. "What are you drinking?" the server wants to know as soon as you've sat down at a sticky booth. Generous pitchers of iced tea and water brought to the table more than compensate.

In fact, generous might be the motto at Amy's Place. Seasonings are applied with abandon. Marinated lamb kebobs scream of lemon and garlic, house-made pumpkin pie is loaded with cinnamon and nutmeg.

The only lull in all the loud, cheap action is when the CD in the one-disc player comes to an end.

Amy's Place is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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