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Ah, the All-American diner. Where nostalgia is annexed for corporate gains, where milkshakes never taste as good as they look. But still, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t secretly rather like this kind of place; and Billy Bombers’ 17 years in the business (they have anniversary specials on right now) is proof that they’re doing something right. The location certainly works for them—where better to invoke memories of E.T. and Star Wars (the posters are all over the walls) than downstairs from a big cinema? Squint and you could almost be in Anywhere, USA; meeting your dream gal over a root beer before cozying up on the back row. So what else do they have going for them? A nice and simple grilled burger, The Naked Gun ($11.90), for one; even if the server forgot to remove the lettuce liked we’d asked. And the vanilla shake ($6.90) wasn’t half bad, assuming you like drinking sweet, sweet ice cream through a straw. Less impressive was the bowl of chilli ($6.90), which was small enough, even before we discovered that the bottom half of the bowl was filled with lettuce, not beans. (Evidently they had a job lot of the green stuff and were going to shift it or be damned.) We’d give the buffalo wings ($12.90/five pieces) a miss, too. They had the texture of chicken, but not a scrap of the taste; and even the suicide version barely made us blink. The trouble with anywhere that tries to invoke collective memories of a time you didn’t actually experience yourself, is that your reference point becomes not what a real diner might have been like, but what other diners are like today. In this case, you measure everything against T.G.I. Friday’s. It’s quieter for sure; and given how often we’ve had our dinners spoilt by screaming birthday kids at T.G.I.’s, that’s no bad thing. But the food just can’t compete. That said, if you want to get in the mood before the movies, it’s a fun place to do so. A word of advice though: Grab a seat by the front window. The back section, down some stairs, looks directly into that other All-American institution, 7-11.
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