We’ve got the idea that at some point, way back, we actually met the original Original Phil. Or maybe we dreamt it. Anyway, he’s long gone, but the diner that bears his name has been doing the Island’s best impression of an actual American diner for some years. It’s bright, cheerful, and often patronised by real live teenagers, to give you an idea of how authentic it is. And of course, being a diner, it sells burgers and… lets just get this out there: fries. Not chips, but actual fries. And for once, we’ll use that word without wincing because perhaps the only place where it’s not anathema is when you’re actually pretending to be an American offering a short-order eating experience.
One wet lunchtime we were at the top of town looking for lunch, and Matt had in his mind a hearty meal. Cat was a bit less driven, feeling the need for something small and expensive. Ah, the eternal dichotomy – big and greasy; or dainty and smelling faintly of parma violets? Well, Matt’s bigger so he usually wins, and today was no exception. Into Original Phil’s we went, and were soon sat at a shiny window seat, right by the jukebox. At the back, an open kitchen with busy chefs was on display – as it was here, years before it was a trendy thing. The strictly on-theme decor was neon pink, red and white, and the place was heaving with customers. To our delight, as we were getting ready to go to the counter and order, a cheerful lady bustled up and offered us table service.
The menu featured a load of stereotypical trans-Atlantic favourites. Pancakes, waffles, milkshakes, hot dogs, and burgers, burgers, burgers. Of course, for the more cautious customer – perhaps those who feel uncomfortable with all this foreign stuff – there is a range of more British cafe fare – the all-day breakfast, egg on toast and even beans on toast. Cat was taken by the latter, wanting something modest in scale but reasonably healthy, she recalled the old rhyme about how beans are good for your heart, and ordered herself a plateful, which she ate with pleasure – it would be hard to get beans on toast wrong, and original Phil’s didn’t.
Matt was there with meat on his mind, and his All-American burger certainly provided that. He was delighted to see that Phil’s had reverted to making their own burgers in-house, and this was reflected in the taste and texture of a real beef patty, which crumbled slightly when bitten, and had the faintest pink blush to it. With bacon and Jack cheese on top, the whole thing was a satisfying entry in the pantheon of burgers. Alongside came a big pile of those fries, and some undistinguished salad enlivened by what seemed to be real home-made coleslaw. This was the lunch that Matt had been hoping for.
Washed down with a cup of tea (not a pot alas, that would be just too… English) we thought the Original Phil’s lunch experience was an enjoyable one. The good service, and reasonable quality food combined with sensible prices to make a very decent High Street offering.