London’s Best American Food
Just Opened London’s ‘Best of’ series covers a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
Words: Joanne Gould
There’s far more to Uncle Sam’s cuisine than gourmet styled junk food, and in London, we’re seeing the light with a renewed focus on the food of the Deep South, New York style delis and – of course – barbecue. Whether you’re an ex-pat after a taste of home, an American steakhouse obsessive or just fancy some Fourth of July festivities, we’ve put the legwork into the list below to ensure you can get your fix of US eats without a disappointing corn dog crossing your lips.
12. Big Easy
We’ll caveat this entry by saying that there are far, far better barbecue joints in town than this one. However, for many people, Big Easy does have a certain charm in its cheesy Americana, and their skills go beyond some oft-disappointing smoking. We’re here for the fun element of the plastic crab shack bibs, the gigantic lobsters sold by weight and the unashamedly kitsch cocktail list all with a loud, brash in-your-face atmosphere. Food wise, you can score some serious seafood: deep fried voodoo shrimp with blue cheese sauce, New England clam chowder and a colossal ‘Mumbo Jumbo Combo’ of half a lobster, giant shrimp and crab claws.
US favourites like wedge salad, cornbread muffins and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese are all in the lineup too. It’s fantastic value, which just about makes up for the sometimes hit and miss service – particularly when it comes to the express lunch or the overwhelmingly huge Sunday brunch session.
Big Easy, Covent Garden, Chelsea and Canary Wharf, see website for locations
11. Lucky 7
Their claim to be the most authentic diner this side of the Brooklyn Bridge may be rather bold, but then again so are their sandwiches. Settle into the authentically designed booth seating and take a look at the prime Aberdeen Angus chuck burgers; they come with a choice of Jack, ‘bleu’, Swiss, Kraft or mozzarella cheese and variants include green chilli, bacon and onion. There’s also a great classic hot dog and a foot long NY strip steak sub for the hungry among us. Chilli ‘chz’ fries are a must – you can cool down with a root beer float – but leave room for the homemade apple pie a la mode for the full diner experience.
Lucky 7, 127 Westbourne Park Road, W2 5QL
10. Liberty Cheesesteak
Philly cheesesteak lovers should head to Spitalfields Market for the Liberty Cheesesteak mobile truck where the famous US sandwiches are served up in either their full or half hoagie glory – a hoagie is a kind of soft, Italian sub roll, by the way – and aside from a few permutations of fries, that’s all they do. The cheesesteaks are true to the Philadelphia originals whereby juicy rib-eye steak is mixed with onions and melted cheese and stuffed into the aforementioned hoagie. If you know your Philly cheese steaks, you’ll know that the best option here is Cheese WIZ and don’t worry, they make their own version of the American canned stuff, using real cheese.
Sit and enjoy your hefty, beefy prize at one of the outdoor tables with some WIZ fries and your soda of choice.
Liberty Cheesesteak, 6 Lamb Street, E1 6EA
9. Plaquemine Lock
Islington newbie Plaquemine Lock should be high up on your list of American eats, particularly if you enjoy your grub Southern style. It’s essentially a lovely old North London pub that has been given a Southern Belle makeover with murals of sunbaked Louisiana scenes and a menu full of Creole and Cajun delights.
Come for the inimitable broiled crawfish (we know them as crayfish) sold by the pound and served with corn and potatoes; stay for the po’boys, the Mix Six of cooked oysters with sausage, Rockefeller (grilled) and brochette (with bacon), and the outstanding special of blackened sweetbreads with shrimp, grits and browned butter. Harking back to its pub history, beers are British but the cocktails are true Deep South: Creole Bloody Mary with Crystal hot sauce is garnished with pickled okra. The critics love it and so do we.
Plaquemine Lock, 139 Graham Street, N1 8LB
8. Electric Diner
Ok, so this Notting Hill regular isn’t straight American diner – it’s got some strong French brasserie vibes too – but head here post-cinema trip and you’ll still find all your Stateside faves. Bare brick, shiny red banquettes and a sweeping bar make this place a winner for anytime dining and drinks. Choose from a Philly chilli cheese dog, mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce, the usual hamburger or cheeseburger (and any from the Soho House group are more than decent) or try the crunchy wedge salad adorned with blue cheese, tomato and bacon. We like breakfast here too, with bottomless coffee for £3, all the eggs and some French toast with raspberry sauce.
We like breakfast here too, with bottomless coffee for £3, all of the eggs and some French toast with raspberry sauce. Their freshly squeezed orange juice is also a fantastic hangover healer.
Electric Diner, 191 Portobello Road, W11 2ED
If you’re looking to pull out all the stops for your Fourth of July celebrations then the ever-glamorous Christopher’s in Covent Garden has your back. Their menu always has a transatlantic twang with the likes of Kansas imported USDA steaks and Southern seafood, but they step it up a bit for Independence Day. You can bag two courses for a bargainous price, comprising things like BBQ pulled pork tortilla or a scallop ceviche with Key Lime sorbet before embarking on a BBQ beef tasting plate and a riff on surf ‘n’ turf featuring grilled lobster and Iberico pork chop.
Pudding looks like cookie and honeycomb ice cream sandwich with dark chocolate sauce. The lauded martini bar (American in itself) is also getting in on the festivities with a hot dog menu to thrill.
Christopher’s, 18 Wellington Street, WC2E 7DD
6. Sticky Wings
Buffalo wings are a uniquely US proposition; originating from Buffalo, NYC, they’re a specific cut of chicken wings that should be separated into drumettes and flats, deep fried, then drenched in a blend of hot sauce and butter. They’re sticky, they’re sweet and they’re not just for game night. We rate the ones at Sticky Wings on Brick Lane which are big enough to maintain a certain juiciness to the chicken and yet still manage to get a crispy, bubbly outer shell. Also, they use Frank’s hot sauce which in our book is the only sauce that should go anywhere near a proper Buffalo wing. Take wet wipes.
We rate the ones at Sticky Wings on Brick Lane which are big enough to maintain a certain juiciness to the chicken and yet still manage to get a crispy, bubbly outer shell. Also, they use Frank’s hot sauce which in our book is the only sauce that should go anywhere near a proper Buffalo wing. Take wet wipes.
Sticky Wings, 40 Brick Lane, E1 6RF
It started as a street food stall that saw wild success and now its bricks and mortar Shoreditch barbecue joint shows no sign of slowing either. People flock to Smokestak for showstopping ribs and the welcome lack of mediocre pulled pork; instead, go for a more adventurous cut like the cured pig’s jowl or the tremendous fatty pastrami.
Their brisket is generally thought to be the best in London thanks to its meltingly soft texture and divine nuggets of rendered fat. Stuffed into a little glistening bun with some just-pickled chillies to cut through the richness, you won’t find a more satisfying sandwich around. It’s not only for the carnivores either, with those serious smoke skills being put to work on some salt baked beetroot with goats cheese and hazelnuts or a coal roasted aubergine with red miso and cashews.
Smokestak, 35 Sclater Street, E1 6LB
London isn’t short of steakhouses and the quality varies terrifyingly – particularly among the US style offerings. Both Hawksmoor (obviously) and Goodman are up there for us, though the former has a distinctly British twist, so we’ll settle on the New York style of Goodman for this list. The steaks are impeccable, sourced from the UK, USA and Spain, and all beef is aged on site. Go in a group – or at least a hungry couple – so you can take advantage of their bigger cuts like the USDA 850g porterhouse or Shorthorn 650g T-bone, depending on what’s written up on the board at the time of your visit. In the American tradition of more is more, you’ll find almost every side dish imaginable on the menu.
Canary Wharf has some American inspired starters too, like lobster and corn chowder, a classic Caesar and a crayfish and lobster cocktail. Prices aren’t as silly as they could be, based on the locations, but none are cheap.
Goodman, Mayfair, City and Canary Wharf, see website for locations
3. Zoblers Delicatessen
If barbecue or diner style food are not your thing you can still get your own slice of Americana by nipping over to the City’s newest and most impressive hotel, The Ned. Occupying the (massive) old site of Midland Bank, the ground floor is open to all and home to a selection of discrete restaurants.
If you really want to, you can check out the healthy California vibes of Malibu Kitchen, but you’ll find us ensconced at the bar at Zoblers, a New York Jewish deli-style all-day eatery. It’s the closest you’ll find to Katz’s legendary sandwiches (other than at Monty’s Deli), with authentic New York recipes which had The Guardian’s Jay Rayner salivating. We loved their Lower East Side bagel (sourced from one of the best bakeries in Golders Green) with beautiful Forman’s salmon (the best) and triumphant latkes.
Zoblers, 27 Poultry EC2R 8AJ
2. The Diner
The Diner has a running countdown to Independence Day year-round, which should tell you all you need to know about how committed they are to American food. Expect party vibes aplenty if you’re visiting around the fourth, with each venue fully decked out and a US soundtrack on play. There are specials happening too, with a Santa Cruz chicken burger featuring fried chicken, avocado and all sorts of Californian flavours packed into a huge bun.
We like the Death Row Box of corn on the cob, baby back ribs, fried chicken, pulled pork, fries, mac ‘n’ cheese and coleslaw and will definitely be following up that meat feast with a BBQ choc chip banana with banoffee ice cream and maple syrup. We’ll be staying for breakfast too thanks to the red velvet pancakes with cream cheese frosting and berries, though it’s a tough call between the lumberjack breakfast of eggs, buttermilk pancakes, bacon, maple syrup, tater tots and whipped honey butter. Oof.
The Diner, Nine London locations, see website for details
1. Pitt Cue Co
To describe Pitt Cue Co as simply a barbecue joint is to it a disservice, yet that is the heart and soul of its food and really the only aspect that makes it in any way American and, so, suitable to top this list. Having started out in various street food truck guises, the team moved on to the no-reservations tiny Soho shop, then to this full-on restaurant in the City – a bookable one at that. Their custom-made wood-burning grill (rumoured to have cost well over £80K) is put to use expertly smoking and grilling far sophisticated dishes than your run-of-the-mill ribs and the like.
Menus are seasonal and you’ll find things like lamb heart, smoked eel with apple and celeriac and scallops with watercress and chervil alongside heavyweights like smoked featherblade and carrot puree or cured and smoked jowl (an unctuous, gelatinous delight). Of course, they breed their own Mangalitza pigs, so expect all the porkiness you can dream of.
Pitt Cue, 1 The Avenue, Devonshire Square, EC2M 4YP