It’s Independence Day so Weekend is going Stateside with a visit to Coast2Coast. Is it a taste of Uncle Sam? Emily Bridgewater finds out.
I stopped the car, hoisted up the hand brake and exited the vehicle,
abandoning it in the middle of a wide, empty road.
“I can’t do this,” I wept, leaning defeatedly against the side of the car.
The other half jumped down from the passenger side and rushed round.
“I can’t do this,” I repeated, sobbing.
“Well, you could’ve at least pulled over,” he bellowed, “you can’t just dump the car in the middle of the road.”
This only made me cry harder.
We were meant to be sharing the 600-mile drive from Las Vegas to San Francisco but after just 10 minutes behind the wheel I’d had a meltdown and decided that driving abroad wasn’t for me. At the wheel of a huge SUV, on unfamiliar roads – not to mention driving on the opposite side – scared me stupid.
We were already late leaving Las Vegas (isn’t that the sequel to Leaving Las Vegas?) after he decided to spend the morning messing about on fairground rides 1,149ft at the top of The Stratosphere Hotel while I just tried to hold my gut. We now weren’t due to arrive in The Golden Gate City until after 9pm. I’d agreed to do the first shift so that the other half could rest before dusk fell, when he’d take over; I really didn’t relish driving in the dark.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Instead he had no choice but to take the keys from my clammy palms, climb into the driver’s seat and endure the 10 hours behind the wheel fuelled entirely on peanut butter M&Ms and Cherry Coke.
By the time we’d reached San Francisco we were pals again and both ravenous. The lights of In-N-Out Burger could not have been a more welcome sight, and sinking my teeth into their incredible cheeseburger is a moment I’ll always savour.
And it was that memory I wished to recreate when I ordered the cheeseburger at Coast2Coast, an all-American diner bang in the middle of Birmingham’s Broad Street. And it wasn’t a bad effort . . .
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
It was our first visit to the restaurant and, on a drab Sunday afternoon, it was nice to be warmly welcomed by a friendly American waitress. For a moment at least, it felt like we were back in sunny California. We were directed to a booth, given menus and our drinks orders taken.
Coast2Coast has a huge dining area and they’ve pulled off the American sports bar feel with aplomb. There’s a Cheers-style bar area, strategically placed screens showing Eurosport, and Aerosmith’s Dude (Looks Like a Lady) blaring from the speakers. It wasn’t especially busy but there were still a few groups and couples dining, creating just the right level of buzz.
After a bit of a wait our drinks arrived – Pepsi for him, sparkling water for me because we’re totally rock’n’roll – and the waitress took our order. The menu features all-American classics from burgers and ribs to milkshakes and mac’n’cheese. I fancied the calamari to start but the other half insisted we go native and order the barbecue sharing board. At £16.95 it’s not cheap so we expected a top-notch platter and what we got wasn’t half bad. The Boston prawns were enormous lobster-esque sized shellfish wrapped in a light batter. They were delish, particularly dipped in the Cajun spiced mayo, and I happily polished off the lot leaving the other half to make light work of the barbecue chicken wings.
“Plenty of meat on these,” he said, appreciatively. The blue cheese chicken tenders were also juicy and packed with flavour but the sticky ribs weren’t hot enough to be enjoyable.
Fingers were licked, empties were cleared and we waited just long enough for our main courses. My heart sank at the sight of my cheeseburger. I was expecting a meal straight out of Diners, Drive-in and Dives, or Man v Food; I wanted something epic.
Plated simply, it came with no garnish other than a silver bucket of sweet potato fries and a pot of spicy ketchup dip. Meanwhile, the burger itself looked a bit sad; the patty didn’t fill the width of the bun making it look smaller and more shrivelled than it was. However, it tasted pretty good – not £11.95 worth and certainly not in the same league as In-N-Out Burger – but juicy and flavoursome all the same. Sadly, the white-coloured cheese didn’t really add much to the party, a stronger-flavoured cheese would have been more suitable. The accompanying sweet potato fries were spot on, crisp, seasoned and just skinny enough to retain a fluffy interior.
Mister Emily fancied a couple of different burgers so opted for the trio of sliders with regular fries. He said all the burgers were ‘OK’ without going overboard with praise, also mentioning that – because of their size – the buns were a touch dry and over-toasted. At £13.95 we felt again it was a bit overpriced.
Not wanting to fall at the final hurdle we ordered a dessert to share – the chocolate brownie with Chantilly cream and honeycomb ice cream.
Unfortunately, the dish feel short of the mark. Rather than the crumbly, gooey, indulgent brownie we’d expected, it was more of a microwaved sponge drenched in artificial ‘chocolate-flavour’ sauce. The accompaniments were both fine but the over-riding flavour was of the gritty sauce which could’ve been dispensed from a squeezy bottle. It was the type of dessert you’d expect in a cheap‘n’cheerful pub costing no more than a few quid – definitely not £5.95.
We left half and settled the bill, which came to £57 including three soft drinks.
Service from our friendly American waitress could not be faulted and the our dining experience was pleasant. However, we felt let down by the food; the prices were too high for average-quality fare. With only a few all-American style restaurants in the Midlands it’d be easy to stand out as a place serving truly impressive Stateside grub.
Sadly, for me at least, when it comes to burgers, I’ve left my heart in San Francisco.
By Emily Bridgewater