Pattaya has always lacked an authentic-feel American diner reminiscent of those pre-fabricated railway carriage eateries so popular in the United States before and after the Second World War. Until now. Defying the odds by opening during a tourist recession, Route 66 (once called Main Street of America) can only be described as a gem. It must surely be the only place in Greater Pattaya that had 147 customers for the recent Thanksgiving and had to disappoint dozens more who hadn’t made a prior booking.
The secret of American diners has always been wholesome food to US tastes at fair prices and served in a bustling and 1930s-themed environment. The mainstays are multiple burger choices, club sandwiches, meatloaf, waffles, fluffy pancakes, greasy-spoon all day breakfasts, French or curly fries, ice cream desserts and fruit pies. Route 66, which is situated on Siam Country Club Road under the concrete bridge motorway, even manages to include Old English Fish and Chips. Of course, nobody said you should come here if you are on a low-calorie raw fruit and vegetable diet.
The Grand Slam breakfast at 179 baht is certainly a candidate for “best in town” as it includes Jimmy Dean secret-recipe sausage patties and two fluffy pancakes. The Reuben sandwich, named after a poker player from the 1920s, is a hefty rye bread special at 250 baht stuffed with corn beef, melted Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut (the one we were served could have benefitted from a tad more sauerkraut). Amongst other favourites are corn beef hash and butter-milk biscuits with sausage gravy. The biscuits are made fresh-daily, excellent idea, so once they are sold out that’s it for the day folks. The expression “sold out” can be excellent publicity.
Route 66 appears to be busy most of the time, so expect to wait a little longer for your food than in an empty restaurant of which Pattaya currently boasts far too many. Route 66 defies the odds because of the excellent food, the atmosphere, even the location (way out of town but close to popular Mabprachan and adjacent to Pattaya Off Road Safari) and the fact that it is so very different from your typical Pattaya eatery. The multiple neon signs and historic posters will certainly grab your attention.
Diners, of course, are cultural icons in the United States. Any political campaigning must include a compulsory visit by a candidate to at least one, to be seen munching chili fries or adding ketchup to a New York hot dog. American movies have long included references to diners. If Janet Leigh in Psycho had followed the advice to eat at a diner down the road, she might have avoided supper with a maniac and a gruesome end in the swamp. Edward G Robinson planned his murders in diners in several movies, whilst the series I Love Lucy contained a whole episode about the trials and tribulations of running such an establishment.
Americans certainly flock to Route 66 judging from the accents heard at neighboring tables, but the popularity of the place means that the context is increasingly international. Maybe there are a few wrinkles to be ironed out – the coffee cups are surprisingly small for a diner – but Route 66 is something different on the Pattaya eating scene: an instant success offering what it claims: real good country cookin’. If Bangkok Post columnist, New Yorker Bernard Trink, was still functioning, he would certainly be advising you to mosey on over. Real soon.