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Ellen’s Stardust Diner, New York

On the recommendation of a couple of friends, while in New York we went to dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner which is on Broadway and close to all the venues where music theatre is performed.

Ellen's Stardust Diner is currently covered in scaffolding

Ellen’s Stardust Diner is currently covered in scaffolding

We arrived at around 6.30pm and the first thing I noticed is that the building is covered in scaffolding.  New York and scaffolding is the subject of an upcoming post so I’ll move on to the second thing I noticed and that is the long and winding queue that wrapped around the building.

The 50mtr queue

The 50mtr queue

Arabella said, ‘Mum, do we have to do this?’ because she’s no fan of standing in line.  But I had no back-up plan for the evening and so we joined the queue.  There was a couple in front of us with their two teenage daughters and the woman encouraged us by saying that the queue moves quickly and that they had dined there the night before and loved it so much they were back again for their last night in New York before heading home to Amsterdam.


It was only moments later when a man from the diner was yelling out, ‘Two, we have seating for two’, and as Arabella and I were the only party of two, we jumped 50mtrs to the front of the the line-up and were shown into the diner.

The restaurant is two-tiered

The restaurant is two-tiered

The diner is on two levels and isn’t a huge space yet they manage to squeeze just under 300 into the venue.  The tables are tiny as is the space you’re given and you sit cheek-by-jowl with the people on either side of you, but there’s a happy and exuberant vibe in the diner and people seem keen to be social and not have an exclusive experience.

The bar

The bar

With so many squeezed into such a tight space, the diner is noisy but not so loud Arabella and I had to scream at each other.

Having a great time

Having a great time

The menu was brought to us by a high-on-life waiter wearing a name badge, ‘Short-Cake’.  He was all smiles and keenly welcoming.  He took our drink orders and left us to peruse the menu.  The menu is covered in plastic and so large it was almost the size of the table.  It has all the predictable diner options including burgers, nachos, fish and chips, steak, lasagne and pasta.

The large menu

The large menu

Arabella ordered the Crispy Wings from the appetiser menu.  They are deep fried, wings tossed in a selection of sauces and Arabella chose buffalo.  The generous serving of wings arrived within seconds of being ordered and while coated in a robust sauce, we thought the wings were a tad dry.

Wings

Crispy Wings:  $14.95

I ordered the Mighty Mo Burger that was a double cheese burger with lettuce, tomato, American cheese and special 1953 secret recipe sauce.  It seemed the burger instantly appeared and I was totally underwhelmed by the presentation.  It didn’t look at all appetising and was what I would call a ‘deconstructed burger’ however burgers presented where you have to construct it yourself seemed to be fairly common throughout New York.  I wasn’t able to eat the burger.  The bun was soft like a McDonalds bun with no texture and seemed rather highly-processed.  The cheese had a shine to it giving it a plastic appearance and even though it was placed on top of a heated meat pattie, it didn’t seem to have the capacity to melt.  I don’t know what happened to the ‘special 1953 secret recipe sauce’ as my burger contained no sauce.  The token vegetables served on the side were bland and tasteless.  There were some potato-type things also on the plate that didn’t resemble any type of food in its natural state and they were flavourless and mushy.  As I didn’t eat anything on the plate, the waiter asked if I would like to take it home!

Burger

Mighty Mo Burger:  $18.95

I thought I’d try again and ordered the Empanada Sampler from the Appetiser menu which was the house-made classic Peruvian style beef empanadas and chicken empanadas, served with mild and spicy dipping sauces.  While these were marginally better in taste than the burger, they were filled with two different varieties of indescribable mush.  I couldn’t eat these either.

Empanadas

EmpanadaSampler $12.95

We bravely ventured on to the dessert menu and ordered The 50’s Remembrance Banana Split which was three scoops of ice cream with three sauces, bananas, wet walnuts, whipped cream, strawberries and sprinkles.  It definitely had a 1950’s appearance to it but the whipped cream looked like it had been sprayed from a can and with all the sauces, it was definitely a sweet dessert.  We thought it was a complete over-indulgence but a well-executed banana split would definitely be a diner-appropriate item to order.

Banana Split

The 50’s Remembrance Banana Split:  $9.95

But it’s not the quality of the food that draws the lengthy queues outside the restaurant.  What causes the diner to be packed to the rafters night after night is the wait-staff.  All have had (or are having) careers on Broadway and while you dine, these incredibly talented individuals go from waitering to entertaining and seeing and hearing them perform after they have shown you to your seat and brought you the menu and your drinks seems surreal.

Head shots of Broadway performers who have worked at Ellen's Stardust Diner

Head shots of Broadway performers who have worked at Ellen’s Stardust Diner

Within the tight confines of the space, the wait-staff/entertainers move around the diner, ducking and weaving between the tables then climbing onto narrow beams that they walk along as they perform.

Performing on an elevated platform the width of a beam

Performing on an elevated platform the width of a beam

We heard Bohemian Rhapsody belted out as I thought only Freddie Mercury could do,  My Way where if you shut your eyes you would swear Frank himself was on the microphone, Copacabana that sounded so much like Barry Manilow that you’d think the performer was miming.

A duet from Wicked

A duet from Wicked

We also heard songs from musicals like Annie and Wicked and theme songs from movies like Frozen.  From time to time a bucket is passed around for you to donate to the waitstaff and you’re advised that this will help them to continue with their singing and dancing classes that they need to keep up for their next round of auditions.

Our waiter singing Copacabana

Our waiter singing Copacabana

This is not a restaurant where they would like you to linger so your dining experience seems rushed along.  Fair enough because as we paid the bill, I noticed the length of the queue outside the diner was no shorter than when we arrived.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner is a restaurant where right in front of you, you are privileged to experience Broadway performers showcasing their incredible talent.  I think it is a disrespectful to that talent, that the food served falls well beneath the quality of the performers.

Doing the splits in a pair of jeans - I must try this

Doing the splits in a pair of jeans – I must try this

Verdict:  Touristy

Ellen’s Stardust Diner:  1650 Broadway, New York 10019

Ph:  (212) 956-5151

Comments

  1. Oh this post is soooooo cool! 🙂 Dang, you gals are smokin, and WOW… Just Wow to the guy doing the splits in jeans. I didnt know such a thing was possible, at least not for a fella. 🙂 It really is dinner and a show. Sweeet!

  2. What a interesting restaurant, sometimes the idea is better than the food, looks like a fun place.

  3. Next time, a visit to Don’t tell Mama will have to be in order. It’s a cool bar where the waitstaff are also Broadway performers.

  4. It IS a shame that the food isn’t as good as the entertainment. I think the potato ‘things’ were supposed to be waffle fries. And charging almost $20 for a burger and fries is too much, even if they HAD been good. New York prices, I guess.

  5. Looks like you guys are having such an amazing time! What a fun place to eat!

  6. What a fun and funky place! Love it!

    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways

  7. oh goodness this sounds like an entertaining place but the food looks like your worst nightmare of American food – I was hoping you might shine some light on what American cheese is – something that is always a mystery to me but it sounds like it would be unfair to judge it on this place. Well at least you didn’t have to queue but I think I would have walked out of that place wanting to start dinner all over again and do it properly (Just thought that Cindy and Michael of Where’s the Beef blog in melb have just been in New York and written about it recently but I assume you have lots of recommendations for other places to go)

  8. It looks like you had fun and at least you admit that you weren’t there for the food. which leads me to my question. Why is American food so bad? I hope Arabella is having a ball.

  9. That’s sad because it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to lift their game just a bit and more people would be happy. Still… it sounds like you two are having the time of your lives together. Enjoy every second of mum and daughtering!

  10. Oh dear. I think the entertainment would be great, but as the food is such a let down, I will give it a miss.

  11. The food sounds absolutely awful! How you can mess up a cheeseburger is beyond me. So glad the entertainment was fabulous. 🙂

  12. Sorry you were subject to the worst of typical American tourist food. If you’re still in NYC and would like some hometown recommendations for food, shoot me an email.

    Cheers!
    Jed

    • Thanks so much for the kind offer, Jed. I’m actually back home now (arrived this morning). I did get to eat at some amazing places and there will be some reviews coming up this week that are a lot more flattering.

  13. What a shame about the food, that does seem to be very New York though. The entertainment sounds fab and you’re right, the food should match up to the entertainment. Still it all adds to the New York experience and an amazing trip. GG

  14. I don’t even quite know what to write except to say, “See why I am always impressed by the Australian eateries you review.” Your country’s food always seems so exceptional. Granted, I live in a semi-rural area where our dining options are much more limited. Thus my exposure to different foods is limited.

  15. What a shame about the food, I wouldn’t have eaten it either. I hope they didn’t charge you for it.

  16. LOL Good luck with the splits in jeans thing…I could never eat there. I have a thing about crowds. It does sound amazing though, the talent and all of the waiters and waitresses. And to get to experience it with your daughter, what fun! 🙂

  17. This sounds like a quintessential NY place – albeit not delivering on food! – and an amazing evening even if you were less well fed than one might hope for. Thank goodness you skipped the long queue at least!

  18. What a fun time! OMG that banana split!

  19. As Jed stated above, I’m sorry you had to experience a bad preparation of American tourist food. I’m glad the entertainment was good at the diner, though! There are so many fantastic places to dine in this country, and certainly NYC has a lion’s share of them in a range of prices, plus every kind/type/ethnicity of food you can imagine. I haven’t been there in many years now, but had some of the best food I’ve ever tasted at Auriole and Gramercy Tavern, and also an incredible lobster cannelloni at a little mom and pop Italian joint in Soho. Jed can probably make some great current recommendations. 🙂

  20. Haha I love the verdict. How amazing to be treated to such entertainment though but so disappointing about the food. I must say, I found most of the food in NYC to be seriously underwhelming. Might have been because I was newly-pregnant and not feeling great but it was really average!

  21. Ugh that sucks the food was so gross! Shame that you experienced the worser parts of American food!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  22. There’s SO many wonderful restaurants to choose from in New York, I’m sorry this one was just gross. The entertainment hopefully made up for a bit of it though. 🙂

  23. So sorry that you had such a lousy dinner, Charlie. The entertainment may be wonderful but, after all, people go to a restaurant to eat, first and foremost. I do hope you take Jed up on his offer. If anyone can direct you to a few good places to eat, Jed can. Good luck!

  24. Oh dear. That foods looks dreadful and sad to say I really hate musicals so I don’t think I would like the entertainment aspect either!:). Mmmm probably not for me then.

  25. Love the concept of the restaurant, but shame the food was a letdown, I think I might give it a miss if I ever venture there, my voluptuous body I don’t think would fit in the tight fitting booths and tables lol. Have a fantastic weekend 🙂

  26. I bet Archie would be a smash hit here for sure! It’s a great concept and sounds like a lot of fun 🙂 I’m definitely underwhelmed by the food as well, quick shouldn’t mean tasteless or poor, and with diners setting the bar for comfort food for such a long time there really is no excuse for these offerings 🙁

  27. What an experience. I would never get my Pete there – he hates busy and squashed even though he is fanatical about music and now hearing how incredibly disappointing the food is would put it even further down the list.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  28. Well, it’s good you enjoyed the entertainment. Looks like a place that does cater to tourists, for sure. My family would never wait in a long line to go in a restaurant. Family trait I think. My father-in-law would rather drive around 20 minutes looking for another restaurant than wait in line for 20 minutes.

  29. Alfie stood up in k-6 assembly yesterday when they announced that he had run the 2, 5 & 10k in the Minimos. He received a huge round of applause. Unfortunately I didn’t have my phone with me to snap a pic for you, Charlie.

  30. This sounds like one of those things that’s fun to experience once, but not worth going back. I’ve never been a big fan of diner food, but the performances would be fun to watch for sure. It sounds like you’re definitely enjoying your time in NYC.

  31. Sounds like an interesting fun place what the performers are concerned ( the guy in Jeans doing the split, incredible)
    But the food looks less than appetizing, that’s a shame.
    “Not any type of food in it’s natural state”, LOL
    Anyhow, a fun post to read Charlie, thanks for taking us along!

  32. I think I would go for the entertainment and not stay for the food 🙂
    Thanks for sharing! Liz x

  33. Sorry the quality of the food didn’t live up to the hype, but it looks like a fun evening in spite of it all. I so hope your NYC experience is memorable in the best of ways.

  34. It’s a shame the food was disappointing but it looks like the entertainment made up for it!

  35. Oh dear , when I saw the outside I thought that wouold be exactly what the food would be like. It’s not so heard to make good food. Lets send sopme Australian cafe owners over there to teach them. the entertainment looks good though

  36. What a fun place! I know you’ve categorized it as “touristy,” but that rarely bothers me. I have several places I enjoy that I know are very much intended for tourists, and I love them all! I’m going to remember Ellen’s Stardust Diner and perhaps visit it one day and I just won’t expect anything in the food department. It’s an American diner after all…they’re rarely known for the good food. LOL!

  37. That’s so New York and looks like so much fun but definitely a shame that the food was so average because like you said it’s not fair on the performers!

  38. Once again a place I had never been to or heard of… sounds very touristy and a pity you had to see that burger with all the amazing burger places in the city… I do however like the idea of all that talent in one place… could be an idea to go there just for some dessert and good entertainment.

  39. G’day! What a shame and did you send a copy of your blog post to them?
    As all feedback helps future visits!
    Sad the food was not better to have enhanced what looked like a fun place to visit!
    Cheers! Joanne

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