With a name like ‘Death Row Dive and Diner‘ it’s easy to see how such an eatery could attract quite a backlash from the general public. Death row is certainly not a subject to be glamorised. Although this appears to be a completely different company to the pop up Death Row Dinner restaurant in London, which was forced to close due to the public’s dismay, it obviously still has the same kind of vibe – the clue is in the name.
This eerie themed 1950’s restaurant has a selection of burgers and folk cuisine on the menu from the deep South of America, inspired by the last meals of Death Row inmates apparently. (Although I very much doubt any of them had a burger with a chuppa chup lolly stuck in it, but the general vibe is there anyway). But the other way to see the tongue in cheek branding is that the meals are so good, they could be your last meal and you could die happy.
Although many people are disgusted/outraged/perplexed by the theme of the restaurant, we are in the age where everything needs to be further in to the realm of bad taste to gain attention. I mean, how many burger places can you think of in your favourite city? And when a new one pops up what makes you go there to try it? Is it the menu full of same ol’ same ol’ burgers and ribs, or is it the branding, the ethos, the hype around the place? With so many eateries now battling for your buck, they all feel that they have to do the next big thing to get you through the door. From hipster joints who are using the art of being vulgar, swearing to get attention on Twitter, to twee little vintage places; attention seeking at it’s finest, using burgers as currency.
So let’s get back to the burgers and I’ll go on about morals at the end.
As you can see, I am a human who succumb to the art of intrigue and went to eat at Death Row Dive and Diner this weekend when I was in Liverpool. We did try and get a table on the Saturday night, but it was fully booked without the slightest chance of us getting to dine there that evening, so we had to wait until Sunday. It seems we were not the only ones who were intrigued after all.
The menu was simple enough to follow without feeling intimidated with choice, as you can often be when visiting a new restaurant for the first time. With a selection of burgers, ribs and takes on comfort classics to choose from, all with the odd David Lynch (in the form of the Eraserhead burger) and other pop culture references for good measure. The burger I chose was called the ‘Huevos Rancheros Bastardos’ and no, I couldn’t say it either.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, huevos rancheros is actually a rather snazzy looking mexican breakfast dish, which explains the fact it had a deep fried egg on top of it. I think it could of done with a little less time in the fryer though, as I wanted a nice big of yolk to ooze out when I bit in to it. But it didn’t. But the lack of ooze didn’t detract from the deliciousness of the overall burger, which also contained pastrami, cheese and hot sauce.
This burger pissed all over that Five Guys crap.
It was juicy, meaty, delicious and held together by a lollipop.
Presentation wise? Well, take a look at the picture. The dishes are all served in large foil trays, which I thought would also come in handy for making some extra large cupcakes. Although it’s a bit hipster to not have your food on a plate these days, I thought the novelty of the foil tray added to the over all ‘experience’ of Death Row Diner, as it was consistent with the theme. Not to mention it saves a tonne of money on Fairy Liquid when they can throw the eating vessels away after use.
On the side I chose the Coconut Curry Fries. Which did not disappoint either. Although the portion was pretty small, it made up for it in taste. The curry itself was quite similar to traditional chip shop curry, but with a thinner consistency and a sweeter taste. I liked how the fries were seasoned to just the right level and the fries to sauce ratio was spot on. It was pretty refreshing to have something other than the usual chilli cheese fries or sweet potato fries to choose from.
For dessert I ended up having something I’ve yearned for over many years – DEEP. FRIED. OREOS.
I saw these once at Camden market and never got the chance to try them, but the wait is over and I have now experienced a deep fried biscuit.
Was it as good as I hoped?
It was better.
Served with cream, ice cream and a few strawberries for health, the deep fried oreos were sweet, chewy, delicious, and guhhhh. I could eat these every day. If only it was still the 90’s where it was acceptable to have a chip pan on the gas hob at home. I’d be all over this shit on a daily basis.
The service in Death Row Dive and Dinner was second to non. Our waiter was friendly, the food was served quickly and I’ve absolutely no complaints about the service or restaurant at all. The decor, even though it was based on a rather grotesque theme was all inkeeping with the atmosphere they were going for. The designers knew what they were doing, as does the owner. There’s no names of inmates anywhere, there’s no direct reference to the crimes they committed and the menu/literature doesn’t say anything about the prisoners.
The place hasn’t been opened to attract My Little Pony fans, it’s been opened for shock value and to appeal to a certain clientèle. Not everyone is going to like it, but the ones that do will not be disappointed.
The owner’s humour probably won’t be to everyone’s taste either when you consider quotes like this one from Drink In Liverpool:
“Did we consider this idea might make many feel uncomfortable ? Yeah, we definitely did. Didn’t think that was a problem though. Maybe we’re just trying to shock. Maybe we’re just ploughing that old shock sells furrow. Maybe we’re just in it for the dough. How are you going to know ? Come pay us a visit. See what you make of our efforts. Give a diner a break. You win. We win. Everyone wins. Except the chickens.”
I’m not going to lie. He seems like my kind of guy.
With such a macabre theme, I imagine this would completely divide people about going. I know some would flat out refuse, find it offensive, take to Twitter to express their outrage. But for some, the curiosity that comes with such dark references draws them to the door and makes them want to experience what the establishment may hold inside. It’s a less extreme logic of not being able to look away from a car crash; you don’t want to watch, you don’t want to see people hurt or anything horrible, but you can’t look away. You watch horror films to scare you, you go to these new fangled ‘experience’ venues like The Escape Room with themes such as ‘slaughter house’, because as humans, some of us want to do things that scare us. Intrigue always gets the better of these types of people.
Before it turns in to a battle of morality when it comes to visiting a place like Death Row Dive and Diner, I think it’s worth evaluating other things people enjoy which are ‘morally’ wrong. For example: Horror movies based on real life events, where people have died and suffered. Is taking enjoyment in watching these any different than having a burger? It’s a question I’ll ask but one for people personally to answer. Everyone has a different sense of what is offensive and crude, everyone will be offended on different levels. It’s basically what being a person with a brain is all about.
At the end of the day, it’s a tongue in cheek themed restaurant with frigging good burgers.