After hours: American fare and feel at CJ's American Diner
Stars and Stripes March 26, 2008
BRACKLEY — Bangers and mash, shmangers and mash.
It can sometimes seem like the restaurant options in many areas of England are confined to the same tired pub grub, the same burgers with the same fries and the same small lettuce garnish that couldn’t pass for “salad” on its best day.
But to fill up on a taste of Americana, its massive portions and the full-of-flair look of a chain restaurant back home, check out CJ’s American Diner in Brackley, a 10-minute drive from the never- ending fun factory that is RAF Croughton.
The diner’s owners have a great location in downtown Brackley and the look of an American chain restaurant down pat. You’ll find no shortage of vintage-ish memorabilia, license plates and photos of yesteryear’s starlets on the wall.
But CJ’s diverts from the chain thought process in a few ways that make it a nice option for lunch and dinner. Primarily, the space is typical England-cozy. It’s a narrow layout suggestive of the modest space used by family-run eateries throughout the country.
What’s more, no board of directors-approved muzak from the highest levels of the Chili’s corporate citadel consisting of ’50s golden oldies back to back with Aerosmith and Run DMC’s “Walk this Way.”
The food isn’t bad either. Owner Karen Jones prides herself on the ribs, and a steak sandwich was full of tender meat, crisp onions and peppers, all served with a side of tasty coleslaw. Nothing that will make you fall out of your seat, but an alternative to pub food at about the same price. They’ve also got Budweiser on tap.
Jones said she characterizes the restaurant as “big portions, slightly different,” and seems at a loss to say why her family started an American- themed restaurant.
“We don’t know, to be truthful,” she said, laughing. “We sort of made it up as we went along.”
Despite this bit of faux- America, Jones said she doesn’t get a lot of customers from RAF Croughton.
Plans are also afoot to revamp the menu, with new takes on pizza, chili and other options, according to cook Byrony Marshall-Grant.
“It’s got kind of a British twist, but we are changing the menu to make it even more American,” Marshall- Grant said.
The joint also features friendly and attentive waitresses, something that can be a rarity in Europe.
“If somebody wants something not on the menu, we can make do,” Jones said.
See previous After Hours reviews here.
CJ's American Diner
Location: 24 Market Square, Brackley, a 10-minute drive from RAF Croughton.
Ambience: An American-style eatery, replete with big portions and racks of ribs. Wash it all down with Budweiser on tap. They also offer free delivery and live music.
Cost: The Big Mama burger features a pound of beef, double cheese, bacon and mushrooms and runs about 8 pounds. Other entrees range between 6 and 10 pounds.
Hours: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m Sunday.
Details:www.cjsdiner.co.uk or call 01280 702581.