A good diner has the ability to tingle more senses than just those housed on your tongue.
Like a living, breathing relic carted across the Atlantic from '50s America, stepping into one can make you feel as if you’ve stumbled onto the set of some Hollywood film, only with the added bonus of still making it home in time for Match of the Day.
But then it is hard not to admire - no, worship the food. Malt shakes, hot dogs, ribs, wings and pecan pie among other pupil-dilating delights, all benefited by some proper US style portions. And while we can't claim anything over here beats those across the pond, we've picked out the hottest diner spots on these shores which you can check out today...
25 Catherine St, WC2B 5JS
We just can’t get enough of Mishkin’s at the moment. This could have something to do with the fact it’s an Olympian’s hop, skip and a jump from ShortList HQ, but that's beside the point. Neatly slotted on a side street just away from the hubbub of Covent Garden, the Jewish deli and cocktail bar (and there are some impeccably made potions) is a haven for anyone hankering for a smart, independent eatery without the trailing queues or having to pay through the nose for it. All the staple diner foods are here, too: pork & beef Chicago style hot dogs, Rueben on rye sandwiches, although the real surprise is how many classics have been injected with daring local influence. Try the Colman’s Mustard Mac & cheese for proof of that.
Red’s BBQ, Leeds
1 Cloth Hall St, LS1 2HD
Ask ShortList for our 10 Commandments and you can bet that carved in stone right next to ‘Thou shall not watch Adam Sandler films’ would read ‘Thou shall not pass Red’s BBQ without going in and gorging on some meat’. Having wafting its way into the collective nose of Leeds-based foodies for some time now, the reason is the way it’s cooked: slowly, in true redneck style to release flavours of hickory and fruit wood. So on the off chance we aren’t preaching to the converted, make the pilgrimage and discover the joy of dousing rubbed meats in a host of regional US sauces including South Carolina Mustard Sauce, North Carolina Vinegar Sauce and the fiery Triple 6 hot sauce. Just ensure you order the donut burger too – if you’ve room.
Dirty Bones, London
20 Kensington Church St, Kensington, W8 4EP
A Kensington postcode and head chef who used to work for Heston Blumenthal? Stop ironing your dinner jacket - Dirty Bones isn’t that sort of establishment. It's a much more informal affair, giving off more an Aspen ski lodge meets rowdy Nineties Californian teen’s bedroom sort of vibe. The upscale venue even boasts enough leftfield food options to rival the most inventive pop up US street food you've already seen Instagrammed to within an inch of its life. Ever experienced hot dogs in brioche buns topped with treacle bacon, beer cheddar kimchi relish or wasabi mayo? We rest our case.
Rosie’s Diner, Leeds
Cardigan Fields, Kirkstall, LS4 2DG
Save for having Chuck Norris deliver a swift roundhouse kick into a giant hamburger, the visual assault you'll experience at Rosie's couldn't be more American if it tried. Take our word for it – such is the array of authentic objects you won’t blink twice at the sight of a life-size US school bus (handily used as a booth for private parties of up to 14 guests) wedged behind the bar. After all, you’ve just waltzed past a giant monster truck outside. Thankfully, the Maryland-style crab cakes, honey-glazed ribs and wings more than matches the interior for US authenticity. Take a risk and opt for the streaky bacon & maple syrup waffles. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, it doesn’t matter, they're good any time, hence the bacon.
All Star Lanes, Manchester
The Great Northern Tower, 235 Deansgate, M3 4EN
UK bowling alleys are about as known for their high scoring as they are their fashionable footwear. Short of advising you put the bumpers up, we can’t help you there. Not that it matters at the first northern branch of London’s successful All Star Lanes, located just off Manchester’s swish Deansgate, where you’ll find the sort of US diner food and glitzy atmosphere to make up for any wayward gutter balls. The maple bacon King Pin cheeseburger would even have Big Ernie McCracken coming back for seconds.
Smoke Haus, Cardiff
Mary Ann St, Cardiff CF10 2EN
The waiting list grows ever larger at Cardiff’s recently opened Smoke Haus, building on the titanic success of Mark Power’s first branch in Swansea. Then again, with a thoroughly excellent name like that, the man was destined for success. Laying claim to ‘the hottest chilli sauce in Wales’, used for the ‘666’ Man Vs Food-esque challenge - 6 Spicy chicken wings to be eaten in 6 minutes with a 6 minute afterburn – Smoke Haus is also garnering a reputation as a place where grown men cry. Because here, food always wins.
Electric Diner, London
91 Portobello Road, W11 2ED
There won’t be any scoffing at the use of the words ‘French fries’ in this sleekly seated establishment, adjacent to Portobello’s Electric Cinema and serving up a French-American menu. Shrewdly, the Electric Diner has gone for 'frites' as it serves a lip-smacking gastro take on both US and French cuisine inside a picturesque setting which is lined with enough dark wood and classical charm to remind you as much of Paris as Pittsburgh. Be sure to ignore any Gallic tendencies when it comes to your choice of beverages, mind. A 20-strong craft beer selection should sway you from any bottle of plonk.
Katie’s Diner, Edinburgh
2 Barclay Terrace, EH10 4HP
Don’t be fooled by the Mrs Beeton-looking interior, this intimate and homely Edinburgh eatery is as much a diner as anywhere. If the flashing neon sign hanging above the door doesn’t persuade you, then tuck into a rib-eye steak, reportedly one of the juiciest in the city, and finish like a pro with a generous helping of Pecan Pie, maple syrup and ice cream. It gets busy on weekends, so ensure you book ahead for any Saturday or Sunday action.
Warsaw Diner, Nottingham
93-95 Derby Rd, NG1 5BB
What with the waffles on the hot plate and stars ‘n’ stripes on the wall, you might be confused as to why Nottingham’s foremost diner proclaims a Warsaw connection. The collection of Polish vodkas behind the counter is the main giveaway – a godsend for any patrons needing some hair of the dog. In addition to the US-styled pancakes stacks of the Empire State and Bad Ass breakfasts, the lengthy list of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly offers some English sensibilities with its English muffin, ham and Hollandaise sauce. Bottomless coffee and vast fry-ups for under £10 make this the ideal hangover destination.
The Tube Diner, Bristol
Paintworks Quarter, Bath Rd, BS4 3EH
Call us shallow if you like, but we’re including this one for looks alone. Now, there is a perfectly good menu - offering pancakes by the ton and chilli dogs straight off the grill - but don’t for one second pretend you’re not tempted by the sleek shine of that Airstream trailer, one of two (one kitchen, one diner car) formally of Puddin’ Swamp Road, South Carolina and now based in Bristol's creative quarter. Ludicrous.
JB’s Diner, Brighton
31 King’s Rd, East Sussex, BN1 1NR
Let’s put our cards on the table. Yes, right next to that tasty Coke float; JB’s could just channel 1950s coolness from its envious views of Brighton pier, long a stomping ground for biker gangs and other menacingly cool subcultures, alone. And yet it goes the extra mile in its pursuit of giving you licence to think you're James Dean, sat inside a vintage, mid-west looking diner. Steaks are matured for 28 days, marinated in garlic and herbs and sizzled to perfection before landing on your plate. And we weren't kidding, the Coke floats are great.
[Images: Flickr Commons, Yonksnews]