Don’t you sometimes wish that you could sink your teeth into the meatiest, cheesiest cheeseburger while a Broadway hopeful belted out the soundtrack to Chicago, all before refilling your fries?
Welcome to Ellen’s Stardust Diner, a tourist dream, shamelessly blending every single hyper-perpetuated, overly hyped American cliché to a T. And I f***ing loved it! This is like the diner Monica briefly works at in Friends (minus the inflatable boobs and rollerblades). Imagine that same diner on a grander, ultraviolet stage.
After taking in the gorgeous retro exterior (reminiscent of A Disneyland theme restaurant) you’re welcomed directly into the heart of the Time Square experience. The busy restaurant appeals to the insatiable NYC appetite of dazzling lights, vivid colours and controlled chaos. As my first dining experience in the city, it was the perfect amalgam of the nostalgic image we Brits have of the states, accented with the bustle of the streets outside.
I felt like I had inadvertently walked in on Grease, just before Frenchie gazes at the ‘beauty school dropout’ number, with of course food, glorious food! The 1950’s style diner is designed with both authenticity and theatre set standards. Tables and padded seating are crammed inside the building with an upstairs boasting a balcony view.
Thus diners throughout the restaurant can gaze at their waitresses/ performers. Here lies the unique selling point to slay them all. Every member of staff is a trained aspiring singer, dancer or actor. With their sights set on the stages just inches from their door, the waitresses’ hunger and passion is almost tangible.
Some of the singers (male and female) were truly breath taking with one lady, named Nikki leaving a lasting impression on us all. She glided onto a nearby table and belted out a Broadway number with the ease and skill of someone twice her age. Her performance, among others, was spellbinding. Check out her video below to see her in action.
What makes the experience even better is the chance to contribute to their budding careers. The tip jar is utilised to propel the waiters forward, as all those dollars go directly towards singing, dancing or acting classes. This was a huge incentive to cough up the cash and made the eye watering prices more bearable. The restaurant is notoriously loud, so don’t expect to hear anything your friends say. Considering dinner is usually reserved for Instagramming incessantly this won’t be too much bother.
Having visited the restaurant early during the day, we had more staff then customers (yes!). Service was speedy with the kind of cheerfulness that makes most Brits uncomfortable (be honest we’re quite a grumpy bunch in comparison). Whilst we waited for our orders, we could watch the television screens that played endless performances of classic theatre productions. Anyone with the tiniest musical theatre bone in their body will find Stardust hard to resist.
Now onto to the real reason you’re here; the grub. I had to go for a classic cheeseburger on arrival. The beauty of a burger was served with sweet sautéed onions, fried mushrooms and that gloriously florescent processed cheese. The sweet glazed bun gave the thick juicy meat the softest of beds to lie in. As you can tell, it was a love story on a Sandy and Danny scale. I left the gherkin and lettuce alone, as I hadn’t travelled to America to eat vegetables, although I gave the tomato a peak out of courtesy.
The criss-cross fries were ridiculously moreish, salty jewels. I could feel my belt begging for mercy but was powerless to stop. I could finally understand why Elvis had met such an unhealthy end; the food had a demonic force over my self-restraint. The laid back atmosphere meant everyone was encouraged to get stuck in, make a mess and revel in the bubble of musical theatre. I felt like Elphaba on her broom, Nahla in the wild I felt it all. Even the bathroom was a delectable adventure. Ok, perhaps I should calm down, but the theme was expressed absolutely everywhere, including the inside of the cubicle doors.
My NY lunch came to a fitting end when Jackson Rathbone and his stunning family made an appearance. Best known for his performance as Jasper in the Twilight saga, the actor and his wife played with their beautiful baby during the songs on their table nearby. There we have it, if it’s good enough for a vampire, its good enough for me.
The diner is a joyous place of hope and happiness. For the love of God, do not come here if you’re in the least annoyed, as you will die a musical induced death. Otherwise it really should be on your list of places to visit in the big apple. Delicious!!
Make your reservations here: Ellen’s Stardust Diner