It’s hard to believe that one of Swadlincote’s most distinctive attractions is over 15 years old. When the 1950s American Diner appeared next to a Church Gresley MoT truck park and garage, many were surprised and wondered if it would last.
Its surroundings still aren’t the nicest, but its previous owners kept the restaurant running and it has become one of South Derbyshire’s go-to places, not least because the premises were a proper Cambridge 1950s American diner , Massachusetts. It would have been flattened had it not been auctioned in the UK in the 1990s.
After his eventual appearance at Church Gresley, diners flocked to peek inside and gorge on the typical American-style cuisine down the road. The menu has rarely changed since – and yes, the amazing milkshakes made with real ice cream and every flavor you can think of are still there.
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New owners took over at the end of 2019 and, of course, the restaurant closed for most of 2020 due to the pandemic. While much of the hospitality industry has struggled, resulting in permanent closures, the American Diner is still in business.
Booking for a 7pm meal on a Saturday night, I thought it would be difficult to get a table based on past experience of the restaurant’s popularity and small size. However, when I arrived there was only one other table in use.
Walking up the metal stairs to the entrance, it had rained a bit during the day and there was still a large puddle outside that was hard to avoid. Since the start of the pandemic, the restaurant has refreshed a bit, but the layout remains the same, with bright colors and staff dressed in all their 1950s glory.
The famous jukebox played softly in the background. However, when we reached our table at the far end of the restaurant, we could barely hear it. We were told we could play whatever we wanted, though.
Our group was promptly greeted by a polite waitress and shown to our table. The drink menus were already on the table and the food menus were closely monitored. The table was clean, as were the menus.
I immediately opted for a milkshake, of course. I chose the caramel, but there were also the usual strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla favorites, as well as the more unusual Nutella, Oreo, peanut butter, pina colada, and Reeces.
There are also a variety of other drinks, non-alcoholic as well as teas and coffees. I also chose a tango to quench my thirst.
The milkshakes arrived within 10 minutes, as well as the other drinks. They are just as I remember them – in a tall, deep glass, swimming with cream (if you choose) endearingly dripping down the side of the glass and a promising sweet ice cream. It’s messy, but just as tasty as it’s always been.
I decided to plug directly into the mains. On the restaurant’s website, it offers a variety of different dishes, from steaks to shish kebabs, your classic burgers and hot dogs and the ultimate nachos, but what it doesn’t list are your Marilyn Monroes, Elvis Presleys, James Deans and more.
In case you’ve never been to the American Diner, I’ll explain that it also has a long list of quirky burgers named after 50s stars. I opted for an Elvis Presley.
I admit that I compare this experience with that of previous visits, but I must say that I was slightly disappointed with this burger. Before, I always remember the burgers that really stood out for their amazing taste.
Unfortunately, while it was quite tasty, it didn’t quite make my tasetbuds sing like I remember. That said, he gave me what he promised – a burger, cheese and a slice of pineapple in a seeded bun.
Like all meals, it came with a very generous portion of fries and a side salad. Don’t get me wrong – the burger was delicious, but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. I can’t forget to add that you can opt for a double burger if you wish.
On the desserts – and I have to say I have yet to dine at a restaurant that has a wider variety of desserts than the American Diner. You can feast on New York cheesecake, American pancakes, chocolate fudge brownies, knickerbocker glories and more; as well as choosing from its ice cream menu and all the flavors you can mix and match.
I opted for the American waffle. The service at this point was a shame as my three friends were served their desserts within 10 minutes of ordering. I was told mine was on the way, but 15 minutes later (and when my friends had finished theirs) my waffle arrived.
I was let eat my lonely waffle while my friends politely waited. It was quite simple, with a dollop of ice cream on top and chocolate sauce drizzled.
It was sufficient, but seemed a bit harsh. I would have liked to choose something else.
Although Saturday night is usually a busy occasion, only one more table was filled while we ate, which seemed a shame for what has always seemed to be a popular restaurant.
I hope it was unique and can improve their food and service. You can’t scoff at the price – under £20 for two drinks, a main meal and dessert is something you don’t find very often these days.
The law project
Tango Glass – £2.25
Caramel milkshake – £4.75. Extra cream filling £1
Elvis Presley – €11.75
American Waffle – £4.95
Total – £19.75
* The tour was on a Saturday, arrived around 7pm.
*Staffordshire Live make secret visits to restaurants, takeaways and cafes with a view to providing a fair, balanced and accurate report on customer service and the food on offer. Our hope is that, for the good of the business owner and the customer, we can report positively on the places we visit. However, if our experience is not 100% positive, we are required to report exactly what we find.
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