A new yankee-doodle-dandy American-style diner has opened its doors on Castle Road and we have not one, but two reviews for you to feast your eyes on!
The All Stars American Diner is on the site of the former organic veg shop (something of an irony it would appear), right at the heart of the Castle Road area and two vintage-mad Clanger fans have already made the pilgrimage and sent us their thoughts. Pia-Maria Meyer is a 50s fanatic with a young son who lives off Castle Road while Sarah Dunn is a vintage hair-stylist and something of a Clanger foodie veteran who lives in Black Tom.
First up, here’s what Sarah thought:
Diners are one of my favourite things, as a lover of all things 1950s who spends a lot of time dashing from one place to another and often at all hours of the day and night, they are often a port in a storm! So I was excited to see one was opening just walking distance away on Castle Road in Bedford making it the perfect place for grabbing a quick lunch with friends, so that’s exactly what I did.
We started with a traditional milkshake, of which there is a big list. I went with my favourite banana flavour, however if they aren’t for you, you can always opt for the smoothie option as one of my friends did. We all went for the hotdog option with my partner going for his favourite ‘Chilli Dog’ and the rest of us choosing the ‘Smokey Joe’ which was a cheese & bacon topped dog which I have to say was pretty yummy. We ordered a few sides of thin fries to share too and dug in.
The place looks AMAZING! It’s beautifully done and they have clearly spent a lot of time getting the decor just right, I particularly liked the separate colour schemes with the front part in the traditional diner red with black and white flooring and the back area done in a kitsch turquoise with a big Las Vegas signage. It all certainly makes an impact!
The food is the usual diner menu of burgers, hotdogs and fries so although not gourmet fair it is filling, reasonably priced and a lot of fun. We certainly enjoyed our visit as I think you can tell from the pictures!
Thank you Sarah!
Now, over to Pia-Maria who, I think it is safe to say, really, really, really loves the bar stools!
Obsessed with the 50s and Americana themed objects I am a (self-proclaimed) Diner expert. A Diner connoisseur so to say. Wherever I go I check out the local American Diners so naturally I was giddy with excitement when word on the street hit me that the former Health Shop on Castle Road was going to be an American Diner. I only live a few footsteps away so passing it daily filled me with anticipation as I could watch it taking shape.
The day the All-Stars American Diner opened I was there. 40 minutes after they opened their door to the public I walked in with my little boy and we were instantly smitten with the stunning furniture. All imported from the US it is truly amazing 50s kitsch style, all retro themed red and turquoise furniture. It’s so beautiful and shiny! I felt like a kitten wanting to purr sitting on these bar stools. The ambience does, however, lack a little in personality, the décor on the walls could be more creative. Don’t get me wrong I love Elvis, Marilyn and Audrey as much as any other vintage enthusiast but there’s so much more to the 50s than the usual stereotypical images you can buy at Ikea. I do love the playful metal plaques and wall murals in the Diner but Bedford has a thriving vintage community; it’s full of talented people who know their stuff. Some retro themed art work or photos from local artists and photographers or some (more) unique treasures from the era would give the Diner it’s very own stamp. The walls are still quite bare – so there is definitely room for improvement and yes I appreciate that it has just opened so who knows what they still plan to do!
During our very first visit the staff seemed a little like headless chicken, friendly but surprised by the customers. They could have been expected, just saying. But do bear in mind we were there less than an hour after the grand opening and to cut them some slack – it takes a little while longer to run like a well-oiled machine. Within a few days we had returned a couple of times and service had picked up. We were remembered, we were welcomed warmly and we were served much quicker. The waitress made sure that there is no dairy in the smoothies, as we are what you might call difficult customers (one vegan, one slightly intolerant). That way, however, we saw first-hand that nothing out of their kitchen is fresh. Even the smoothies are pre-packaged bags of frozen fruit. They were yummy nevertheless and my son could not get over the deliciousness of his Marshmallow milkshake. He is an expert when it comes to sugary milkyness so you can take his word – it was apparently delectable and he exclaimed his delight very loudly – a lot of 6-year old OMGs were muttered, no actually they were squealed. Repeatedly.
The prices are ok. It’s not pricey, but then it’s not homemade so it better not. It’s not cheap either though. The menu is very basic; it’s essentially kid’s party food with the odd avocado thrown in to provide a little variety of the guacamole kind. The food is what you expect of a diner – burgers, hot dogs, ribs, waffles and sundaes. It’s not imaginative but quite possibly they plan to expand their menu at one point if they are successful. That is just my guess though. Or my hope. It would be great to have more veggie options, and one can only fantasize about having those pesky vegans and gluten free people catered for.
So ready-made burgers, processed hot dogs and frozen food aside – what does make it special are the imported American sodas and the variety of milkshakes. Let’s face it, children love this stuff and the All-Stars American Diner is placed in the heart of Bedford’s kid central. I expect lots of Castle Lower kiddos enjoying their milkshakes and sundaes as after school treats. And the furniture makes it very special. Did I mention how red and shiny it is?
So that’s my verdict. It won’t win a gourmet prize; I do hope they’ll rethink the menu again or rather where they source their food from and how they prepare it. I also hope that they spruce up the wall décor, can’t stare at the shiny new chairs every time I go there, even I’ll have enough of this one day. And it’s a shame the All-Stars Diner doesn’t open for breakfast because they could make a killing with families at the weekend and let’s not forget the ladies who brunch in the Castle Village. But no matter what it’s a winner for me, we are already regulars after all – and there was also mention of a few planned Elvis theme nights by one of the waitresses. I can’t wait!
My final suggestion will stay just a suggestion, I know it. I have not yet found my dream diner where Marilyn takes up my order, Lucille brings over my drinks and Elvis serves me – singing – my burger. Maybe I’ve watched Pulp Fiction too often, I definitely watched Monica Geller working at the Moondance Diner too often but to this day I’ve been obsessed with finding a diner bustling with dressed up staff. It will stay a dream, my very own weird little dream. But they could at least wear diner wear. Sans wigs. Not too much to ask for, is it?
All-Stars American Diner is open daily from 12pm till 10pm, you’ll find it on Castle Road opposite the Gordon’s Arms. There’s no telephone number or internet presence as of yet but watch this space!
The Clanger recently got to talk to with Graham Lambert – guitarist & founding member of indie legends Insprial Carpets. Part of the Madchester scene in the early 90’s along with The Stone Roses & Happy Mondays, they confused dads with their Top of the Pops appearances (to the delight of the kids). They’re back with original singer Stephen Holt, doing some gigs prior to their T in the Park appearance, including Bedford Town.
C: Have you been to Bedford before?
G: Yes, bizarrely saw Bloc Party at Esquires about 10 years ago.
Are we playing Corn Exchange?
C: Anyone else you’re up for seeing at T in the park?
G: Yes, We’re quite into Arctic Monkeys, plus London Grammar. We’re still into other bands and music generally, so good to check some out…
C: you’re recording new material, any clues of the sound?
G: The same Inpsirals sound – organs, lots of guitars & shouty choruses…
C: Who came up with the ‘cool as…’ tee?
G: Martin Price (of 808 State) back when he was working in Eastern Bloc Records in Manchester, describe us as ‘cool as…’ it was a bit of a catchphrase,
C: Favourite country you’ve played?
G: Well, Japan was a bit of a mind opener… I liked Austrailia, that was laid back, with people playing cricket by the road…we drove through the Cheq Republic recently… This is the beauty of touring, seeing different places. South America was good too, seeing the Oldham (our humble background) equivalent of Chilli, going through the backstreets – was an eye opener!
C: recommend a book?
G: Good question. Erm, I quite like sports autobiographies, football, cricket. I’ve just read about the history of London underground (chuckles) and one I got from the library about Railways round Rochester. Plus A Pubs in Oldham book.
(went off on a tangent then about British islands; Kilda & Lundy island, which I’d read about)
C: Was Noel (Gallagher) any good at humping gear about? (he was a roadie for the Inspirals pre Oasis)
G: He worked with us from ’88 – 92’
C: That long?
G: Yeah, good to work with, typical Mancunian wit, bit of a low work ethic though. He loved guitar tech-ing and playing the other instruments. He also loved cooking too, he was actually a great chef!
C: Best pub in Oldham?
G: Ah, The Grey Horse on Union Street, great for gigs back in the day, bands like Kasabian, Bluetones & Mani’s old band Atholl K (heavy psychedelic punk) played there. It was about 100 years old and has sadly been bulldozed now. It had the old Robinsons brewery logo on it…
C: Is it easier being in a band now than it was in the 90’s?
G: Well, it’s different! There’s been so many changes in the music/arts industry since we began – you have to adapt. An example: we’re working with producer Jim Spencer (The Charlatans, amongst others) and he’s sent mixes of the recordings by e-mail. Our first time round we’d be listening to them for hours in a sweaty little studio in London, bickering about what’s right and what’s wrong with it…
Ispiral Carpets play Bedford Corn Exchange on Friday 11th July. Their new album is out September 2014.
If you were in any doubt about the future of the creative arts in Bedford, then look no further than the BedPopShop this week (23 – 28 June). Bedford College’s HE students have taken over the former empty shop to exhibit their end of year show and the quality is exceptional.
Entitled ‘Blood Sweat & Tears’ the exhibition reflects the outstanding skills the students have developed through their courses at Bedford College.
The white walls, large windows and spaciousness of the BedPopShop make it the ideal gallery space and the students have made the most of the opportunity. Every piece of wall space has been utilised and the previously unused first floor makes a stunning backdrop for the students’s work.
Many Bedford College students will go on to work in the creative industries, so this is your chance to see some future stars in the making. You saw it here first!
Blood Sweat & Tears runs from 21 – 28 June at the BedPopShop (68 High Street) and is open from 9.30am – 6pm.
It all kicked off in Bedford on Saturday night/Sunday morning. I know this because I saw it on two national news websites: the Mail online and the Telegraph.
According to my twitter and FB feeds – and my own actual ears and eyes – next to nothing actually did happen.
As a football follower for many years, I know you’ll always get a few idiots who spoil it for the rest of us (flag burning? Seriously??). However, the same could be said of a school disco, or a wedding reception or any sporting event where 12 hours of drinking has preceded kick off.
Unfortunately, because media attention is on Bedford at times like this, those idiots get press coverage and it tarnishes the national perception of Bedford.
According to two town-centre eyewitnesses I have spoken to, they didn’t see any aggression, violence or idiocy – or certainly no more than you would expect on any normal Saturday night. No one I’ve spoken to was woken up by marauding, victorious Italians brandishing whistles and vuvuzelas while screeching around town in their Fiats. Or disappointed England fans wanting to take out their disappointment on their rivals’ heads. In fact, it seems like most people had a bit of a post-match celebration/commiseration and then went to bed.
The Beds on Sunday website reported ‘Police keep calm in Bedford town centre’ and ‘The Embankment was almost empty bar people walking home and a small number of celebrating Italy fans’. Oooh.
And if you got beyond the Mail Online’s headline: ‘England Fans Scrap In The Street After Three Lions Defeat Against Italy In Opening Match’, or the Telegraph’s rather more incendiary ‘Angry England Fans Torch Flag In Street’ you’d read that something happened between two men in Devizes, two blokes brawled in Manchester and the alleged flag burning took place in Bedford.
This, at 1.30am on a Saturday night. Is this really national news, or isn’t it just what occasionally happens in town centres late at night when drink has been taken and national pride is at stake?
The problem as I see it is that people read the national press coverage and make a decision about how they perceive a town (in this case, Bedford) and make a decision about whether they would choose to visit our town centre. Elderly people or those that don’t visit the town frequently will begin to believe that Bedford town centre is a no-go-zone, full of football hooligans high on xenophobia and Polish lager (the irony) and choose not to come.
The Mail Online link was shared and retweeted yesterday with Bedfordians expressing their shame and disappointment that we had once again been tarnished by rival football fans’ behaviour.
But the truth is, we’ve been tarnished by a lazy national media who can’t be bothered to check and report the facts, who want to create something out of nothing and who have got entire websites to fill with content 24/7. If you want to find out about the reality of the rivalry between the English and Italians in Bedford, then read this piece in last week’s Independent. This is how the majority of people in Bedford feel, think and behave. But that’s a bit boring, isn’t it?
We are completely and utterly thrilled to announce that Clanger contributor and illustrator extraordinaire, David Litchfield has been working with Center Parcs to create his interpretation of what the Subtropical Swimming Paradise at the new village, Woburn Forest, will look like once finished. Not only will his work feature on loads of Center Parcs stuff, but receiving the commission also gave David the impetus to give up his teaching job at Bedford College and concentrate on illustration as his full-time career. We have collaborated with David for the last three years and are indebted to him for supporting The Bedford Clanger over that time. Who could forget his awesome Challenge David drawings, his Great Bedfordian illustrations, and of course, the pop up Drawing A Day exhibition with We Are Bedford. David, we salute you!
The illustration, which was created last year, will be used on gifts during the launch of Woburn Forest and on guest welcome communications during the spring. The illustration and opening of Woburn Forest will mark an important milestone in the Center Parcs’ story.
Lee Jakubik Senior Designer at Center Parcs said “We were keen to get the talent and inspiration from a local artist to help us create an image for Woburn Forest. David’s work is amazing and really fits with our brand; lively, creative, fun and family-friendly. We had considered a number of artists from across the UK but the style and quality of David’s work really stood out!”
David said, “I couldn’t believe it when Center Parcs contacted me; it was completely out of the blue! Art is my passion and when I received this commission, I took the plunge and decided to finish at my full-time job and dedicate my time to my art. This work has given me the confidence to start up my own business and do what I love every day as well as providing for my wife and son”.
David has been an artist for many years. He first began drawing when he was very young, creating ‘mash up’ comics for his older brother and sister. Since then David’s work has appeared in magazines, national newspapers, books and on T-shirts. In the last few years he has illustrated for The Beano, The Telegraph Newspaper, Anorak Magazine and Flamingo Magazine. He is also a regular contributor to Creaturemag and the Bedford Clanger newspaper and a member of the Circus of Illustration. David has recently exhibited his illustrations in both solo and group shows in the UK, Europe and America.
Center Parcs Woburn Forest is on track for opening and will be welcoming its first families for short breaks in spring 2014.
Next Thursday 22nd May at Bedford Esquires, Hertfordshire 6-piece Suburban Dirts are playing a free gig to promote their second long-player ‘A Tiny Little Island in the Big Bad Sea’.
According to the band’s Facebook page this is their first gig in Bedford since forming 3 years ago. They play alt-folk rock and reviews for the record have been good to say the least.
Sounds like a really good excuse to start the weekend early, so catch them free while you can.
All this wonderful is being brought to us by Juicebox. Support comes from The Undivided and Neil Stanton