#gastrognome: whiners and diners

our trusty foodie friend has been partying his little hat off for the last few days, in capital London of all places. here is a rant he came back with about American Diners and also a list of things he had that he liked.

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the American Diner is a well established format for an eatery outside of America (there they’re know as just ‘Diners’), yet almost every time i eat in one i am left wondering whether the people who run them, have ever been to America, or whether they’ve just been to other American Diners in not-America. my latest American Diner experience took place at The Diner an American Diner in Camden, London, England.

i am not an especially seasoned American traveller, but i have invested quite a large percentage of the time i have spent travelling stateside, in diners. here are my ten dos and dont’s of running a American Diner in not-America.

1. Do: provide free iced water for all customers shortly after arrival.

2. Don’t: go overboard on the US-ness. make use only the most stylish and classic aspects of the experience (a framed photo of the cast of Dallas, for example, has no place on the wall)

3. Do: learn a good recipe for pancakes – it’s going to be a staple of your menu, so get it right. also, if they’re part of a Short Stack with Bacon or a Lumberjack Breakfast, don’t serve them with snow drifts of icing sugar)

4. Don’t: try to offer too many options – concentrate the experience by sticking to the classics. Stack/Short Stack (with bacon, blueberries or just syrup), Lumberjack (short stack, bacon, syrup and two eggs), Waffles, Ranch Eggs, Home Fries, Steaks (and Philly Cheese Steaks), Burgers, Mac and Cheese, Milkshakes, Ice-cream Floats, Knickerbockers, Sundaes. focus on these and get them right.

5: Do: serve the food hot

6: Don’t: serve the food less than hot

7: Do: offer free re-fills of filter coffee

8: Don’t: make people have to ask for their free re-fills – have someone on coffee pot duty.

9: Do: know the proper lingo. you don’t have to go mad, but having a menu that fails to make use of at least some of the wealth of American ‘diner speak‘ is stupid. be familiar with sunnyside up, over easy, over medium, over hard, deadeye and ‘wrecked’ eggs, perhaps even offer your steaks ‘bloody as hell’ or ‘burnt to a crisp’ like in Pulp Fiction. even if you don’t want to put this stuff on the menu (which you should) then at the very least know them and don’t make people feel stupid for using them while ordering.

10. Don’t: have your flies undone whilst serving the food.

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here are some more general likes from the latest London jaunt:

0 Lemon, green tea and mint frappuccino (new in Starbucks)

0 Snog: a chain of 5 frozen yoghurt shops across the capital that serve icy treats.

0 The Leather Exchange: a really nice pub on Leathermarket Street, SE1 which serves truly delicious food.

0 A shot served by a friendly barman at The Blues Kitchen in Camden made from Apricot pulp and Sambuca – yum.

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