Homey diner's soul and spice 

Like anything that's truly magic, true home cooking is mysterious, random and inexplicable. The chef doesn't measure; she creates her own pathway with a pinch of this, a dash of that. It takes persistence, vision and faith that everything will come out all right. And it does indeed come out just right at Marjorie's Diner, an eatery that serves soul food with a Caribbean spin.

Owner Elaine Poole draws heavily on generations of family recipes, branching out beyond ribs and fried chicken for lunchtime delicacies. Daily specials include Jamaican stewed oxtails (think beefy, but a little more spicy), served with a choice of two side items (try the collard greens and mac-and-cheese), plus cornbread, for $7. Another hot item: Sweet-potato pie ($1.10 a slice) or the triple-layer coconut-pineapple cake, topped with fresh fruit ($1.25).

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