Tag Archives: Roadside

Review: Starvin’ Marvins

27 Nov

What'll ya have?

Starvin’ Marvins

Central Parade,

Western Avenue,

London,

UB6 8TF

0208 998 5132

http://www.starvinmarvins.co.uk/

(Website doesn’t seem to work).

Starvin’ Marvin’s menu declares that they are “Not just a diner, but a way of life” and, you know, I totally understand that.  Americana diners are one of my all-time favourite things.   Whatever it is the formica tables, the rock n roll on the radio, the tiled floors, red leatherette bar stools, thick malt shakes, the juicy cheesey burgers or the sassy waitresses, they make me giddy.  Don’t understand what all of the fuss is about?  Have a look at Retro Roadmap to see  drool-worthy diners and roadside cafes in America  that will make you dream of hiring a Cadillac and hitting the open road.

And that’s why it is so very incongruous to see a sleek, aluminium 50s style diner, just past the Hoover building off the A40.  But there it is – decked out in neon, with a jukebox pumping out Johnny Cash and  burgers, dogs, shakes and baked cheesecakes being whipped up in the kitchen.  Roadside eating in the UK is pretty woeful, I think we can all agree.  Whether it’s the ‘Olympic‘ breakfasts at Little Chef or crazily expensive Ginsters at dreary ‘Welcome Break’ service-stations, I don’t envy truckers their lunch options.

Cheese Dawg and Fries

Starvin’ Marvins has so much of what makes travelling to the States and eating three square (read: huge) meals a day on the road fun.  The walls are decked out in Americana tat, the styling of the Diner is pretty perfect.  The food options are fun – chicken goujons, chilli cheese dogs, hot dogs with that squeezy cheese which I know I shouldn’t love (but do, I do, I do!), there are sloppy cheese burgers and more fries than you can shake a stick at.  The milkshakes were thick, malty and drizzled with syrup and scrummy.  The prices are reasonable,  but with Burger Kings and KFCs able to fill your belly for less, not as competitive as they should be.  However everything we ate was good.  Hot dogs are on the small side but tasty – in a guilty pleasure kind of way – and the fries are horribly addictive.

Where Starvin’ Marvins really lets itself down though, is the service.  Anyone who’s been to a real American Diner knows that the service is whip-smart.  Coffees are re-filled whilst you blink, the kitchen hums and the waitresses smile and call you “baby” as they serve you, fast.

Choc 'n' Malt Shake

At Starvin’ Marvins, service is slow. Glacially slow.  The Waitress didn’t acknowledge us when we arrived and took an aeon to serve us.  Unsmiling, she jotted down our order and then made it near-impossible to catch her eye.  The diner was – at most – a fifth full at any time and yet we, and other diners, found it crazy-hard to get some service.  This is no way good enough.  The waitresses were mardy and didn’t bothered about making any tips. It’s a shame that they didn’t import any American hospitality as I am sure they are losing return business.

Starvin’ Marvins was, without question, a really fun dinner.  The Ritz it aint, but unpretentious, terribly unhealthy, and lots and lots of fun.

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American Roadtrip Part 1 – Roadside Eats

26 Oct

Pumpkin Patch

Hello!  I am back.  Back from a long and amazing time in America.  Back in beautiful Battersea, now filthily addicted to Dairy Queen ice-cream, about a stone heavier (coincidence?) and freshly engaged to my long-suffering boyfriend! Eeek.
Together, we just motored around Atlantic City, bopped in Baltimore, walked all over Washington, were pampered in Pennsylvania, chilled out in Woodstock, felt sunshiny in Shelburne Falls, were windswept in Cape Cod, fell in love with baseball in Connecticut and were overwhelmed by, well, everything, in New York City. Phew. In just under two and a half-weeks we zoomed around 1550 miles, taking in giant free-ways, tiny country lanes, glittering lakesides and splendid fall forests. We saw Amish and Manhattenites, drove by smart-cars and monster trucks, past mansions and the projects – and saw a diverse and compelling country getting along together, against the odds. It was absolutely incredible, as indeed America is.
In New England villages and towns we drove past huge fields of grazing cows and goats, saw endless roadside stores selling squash and pumpkins, apples and maple syrup. We slurped on diner shakes, gorged on American candy and greedily ate sloppy burgers in our car. There were roadside highs and dead-end lows.

High Five for Five Guys

The biggest slump being our first – and I suspect only ever- Taco Bell. Despite mixed reviews, I had worked myself into a semi-frenzy when we parked in the lot and walked inside. I am a big Mexican-food-lover. Fajitas are my friends. Burritos are my buddies. But the Taco Bell, the Taco Bell was a Traitor.
Yes it was cheap, yes it was speedy, yes it came with about 30 ounces of re-fillable rootbeer but ewwwwww. Soggy taco shells, overstuffed with plastic cheese and skanky gristle. The fajita was as depressing as sitting through an episode of My Family. It was in short a let-down and watching tv adverts for their XXL Chalupa forced me to yelp in anguish. Taco Bell? Taco Hell.

Along the drives, I saw more types of fastfood restaurants than I could have previously imagined, sure there were the BK’s, the McD’s and the KFCs, but I can add to this galaxy of glittering stars – White Castles, Applebys, Arbys, Favourites, Denny’s – there were rib places and steak places, Chinese places and Mexican places, so much so that I had to concentrate on DJing hard and gazing at the roadmap to stop from myself from screaming “let’s pull over it’s been an hour since we ate!”
Luckily, the hotel and motel breakfasts helped. Whether it was a monster buffet at a Trump hotel, or freshly baked bread and waffles in a family-run guesthouse, we did not want for breakfast.  During our stay in Washington DC – in a grotty but super-retro motel – we survived the sleepless night (our neighbour snored and watched Forensic Files at 5.30am and the walls were evidently constructed from tissue paper) by guzzling Styrofoam cups of sugary coffee and hoovering up triple glazed donuts that made me feel like I was in training to be a cop on stake-out.

My coffee and donut addiction grew exponentially whereby I managed to achieve a Pavlovian dog-like response at the sight of a Dunkin donughts. Boy were they yummy. And they weren’t the only things making me swoon. I ate alot of burgers. I mean, a.l.o.t. There were fast-food whoppers and cheeseburgers that just did the job, all fine fine, and then there were two that stood out. Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington – the place where Barack Obama and Joe Biden apparently went to toast their historic victory – produced a burger very nearly as big as my face, so juicy it nearly melted the bun.  Fiery jalapenos, sweet sweet onions and Monterey Jack cheese draped sluttishly over my hunk of meat. We had sweet potato fries – drowning in mayo and black pepper – on the side. It was good. Damn, it was indecent.  And then there was a Five Guys, we visited one of these places in Connecticut, though they’re dotted all over, and I had a simple cheese burger. Nothing on top but a splodge of ketchup. Nothing on the side but a handful of free roasted peanuts. Free refills of cherry coke and a burger that was it. So simple but so juicy and tender that I had to have a bit of quiet time to get over it.
Luckily, we went to Cape Cod for a weekend of super seafood which gave my arteries a moment of peace after all of that burger-abuse and here we ate creamy bowls of clam chowder, hunks of seaside fudge and our first ever lobsters. First things first, I loved wearing a bib. And I loved having special tools – the pick and the nutcracker – for mining the juicy flesh from Mister Lobster. It made me feel daft and sophisticated all at once – a heady combination. The lobster – a big boy who had been boiled – was served with corn on the cob, coleslaw and a bowl of melted butter, and was hugely tasty. His claws held tender, sweet and juicy meat. His tail was an absolute treasure trove too, although the green and red ‘gunk’ (the liver -called the tomalley- and rosy coloured roe) inside his body made me feel a bit squeamish. It was great fun cracking open legs and claws and exploring and one of the few times when Josh and I ate in total silence! Although having the lobster “looking” at me proved a little disconcerting, it was an absolute treat and classic seaside experience.
So are you feeling full already? That was just the appetiser! I still have to tell you about all of the big city dinners I scoffed. Soon. Wear loose-fitting pants…  Hannah x

Lobster - it could catch on.