Jun Japanese Restaurant
3276 Centennial Blvd., 227-8690, jun-japanese.com
If you haven't figured it out by now, going for sushi is like going to the movies: The same product costs less during the day. Example: Jun's nigiri happy hour menu, where most items cost only $1.75 a piece. I get seaweed-wrapped diced scallops in smelt-egg-flecked Japanese mayo for superlative deliciousness; salmon backed by avocado and a paper-thin lemon wedge for citrus burst; a special Spanish mackerel with biting ginger and scallion garnish; and both fresh- and seawater eels, each sweet from a sugary soy soak, but the latter (my favorite) a little scalier.
For creamy, warm heaven, the MCI Roll ($9.95) arrives in a tinfoil boat to capture sweet eel sauce and American mayo runoff, the latter of which bakes onto exposed bits of salmon, shrimp, crab and avocado, creating crunchy char that contrasts the soft mounds. It all falls apart between chopsticks, playing a little hard to get and heightening the appeal. — Matthew Schniper
640-B S. Academy Blvd., 380-0535, thai-eats.com
Thai Eats switched from buffet-style to sit-down service a couple of years ago, and also added dinner hours for a stint. But owner Meaw Merrell says she was so busy teaching her Thai cooking classes on site and performing solo prep work in the kitchen that she opted to dial back to just weekday lunch hours.
In for a long-overdue visit, considering how much I enjoyed previous meals, I get the new-to-me and I believe exclusive-to-town Hung Le Curry ($13.99). It's a northern-style dish that she says is influenced by Indian spices (though online recipes say Burmese), and served during Thai festivals. The sauce is soupy, not coconut-milk based, and spiked with faint cumin, ginger and cinnamon notes amid the Thai chili's heat, with tamarind's tang as the cornerstone. Marinated, pulled pork rib meat joins onions with ample cilantro garnish; order it over her potent garlic rice for a complete treat. — Matthew Schniper
The Corner Cafe
7 E. Vermijo Ave., 520-1843, cornercafecs.com
The Corner Cafe, that 10-year-old mismatched spot across from the county courthouse, probably doesn't need your business. The line is regularly out the door, and on the day we visited, the kitchen had run out of burgers and grilled chicken. We were just lucky a table opened up by the window, so we could people-watch among the hungry county employees. But there are still folks who tell me they have never eaten there, so fix yourself and grab a bite of something.
Something like the Hot Corned Beef Hoagie ($9.95). Swiss is melted over a thick layer of grilled corned beef, which is generously smeared with mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, a punch of mustard, and wax peppers on a soft, rounded hoagie. The peppers offer just a bite, while the rest comes off as classic café. Seek thee out the habanero ketchup, for it is angry and wishes to avenge itself upon your french fries. — Bryce Crawford