The best American restaurants in London
It’s American dude food with attitude at this deliberately scruffy City hangout, which comes courtesy of London’s BBQ king Neil Rankin (Pitt Cue, Temper etc). Neon signage flashes and a punk soundtrack plays as punters sit at diner-style booths and hoover up dishes from a deliciously meaty, US-style menu – think pulled pork and kimchi hash, pancakes topped with fried chicken… and lots of good eggs.
Brassy, energetic and classily cosmopolitan, this NYC import mixes Gallic joie de vivre with snappy US customer service in a glammed-up setting of red leather banquettes, antique mirrored walls and mosaic floors. Manhattan meets Montmartre on an all-day menu that’s just the ticket for a special night out – we love the onion soup, the duck shepherd’s pie and the kitchen’s twisted take on pavlova.
When only a filthy-good US-style burger made with rare-breed dry-aged beef will do, Bleecker comes up trumps for London’s meat-mad hordes. The oozing bacon cheeseburger is a carnivore’s dream – especially when it’s loaded up with ketchup, mustard and a side of ‘angry fries’ drizzled in blue cheese and hot sauce. Bleecker also has a market kiosk in Spitalfields and a bricks-and-mortar outlet in Bloomberg Arcade.
The youngest member of London’s Blues Kitchen group adds lashings of Deep South revelry to its winning combo of live music, Texan barbecue and bourbon. Buffalo wings, St Louis pork ribs, jambalaya, Creole burgers and shrimp taco salad are serious down-home contenders on the menu, while margaritas, mules and mint juleps star on the cocktail list. Outlets in Shoreditch and Brixton.
Like it says on the tin, you know where you are with the flashily decorated Burger & Lobster chain. Hand-minced burgers (made with Nebraskan beef) and lobsters (shipped over from Nova Scotia) are the star attractions, with back-up from lobster rolls, oysters and other affordably luxurious hits. They also do lush US desserts and sundaes, if you have room. Branches across town, from Knightsbridge to West India Quay.
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Fried-chicken heaven for hardcore fans, Chick ‘n’ Sours serves its chooks in various forms, but nothing beats the mercilessly messy K-pop sandwich/burger or the game-changing KFC (Korean Fried Chicken). The vibe is somewhere between a basement house party and a Prohibition speakeasy (complete with a liquor bar), and the playlist is stacked with banging tracks. C ‘n’ S also has coops in Covent Garden and Islington.
Global A-list chef Wolfgang Puck piles on the glamour and style at this jetting-setting take on a US steakhouse within the Dorchester hotel. Acres of marble, floor-to-ceiling drapes, shimmering glass, starburst lights and no-expense-spared trappings provide a luxe backdrop for prime beefy cuts and stateside staples cooked and presented with rare panache. Also recommended for US breakfast, brunch or American-style ‘CUTcakes & Tea’.
‘French dips’ are the thing here, although there’s nothing Gallic about this US diner concept – hot meat sandwiches doused in gravy with more of the juicy stuff in a jug for dipping. They’re fine enough, although we prefer the ‘flip’ side of things – especially their charred-on-the-outside bacon cheeseburger snuggled into a rich brioche bun. We also like D&F’s upbeat soundtrack and its fun-loving vibe. Branches in Brixton, Wimbledon and Tooting.
Styled as a basement ‘dive and dog’ bar, this no-bookings Kensington hotspot is a triumph of studied retro cool – no off-the-wall urban grunge here. Likewise, the menu delivers pimped-up US dude food: stacks of succulent chicken limbs, pots of mac ‘n’ cheese and proper hotdogs (we love the brilliant Mexican pork riff) – plus a cute twist on ‘milk and cookies’. Branches in Carnaby, Shoreditch and Soho.
Easily outclassing its previous incarnations, this sidekick of Notting Hill’s Electric Cinema is done out like a grungy New York diner – all bare brick, concrete and red leather banquettes. A blaring soundtrack adds to the vibe, while the supersized menu is stuffed with Stateside classics – Philly chilli cheese dogs, hot Reuben sandwiches, wedge salads and unmissable ‘fries au cheval’ (inspired by Chicago’s Au Cheval diner).
Here’s the deal at this singular no-bookings venue: £10 pays for a steak (‘flat iron’ is the US term for a full-flavoured but affordable leg cut), which is sliced into fat mini-slabs and served with a dinky pot of lamb’s lettuce. That’s it, apart from some proper sides, great-value wines and complimentary takeaway ice cream – no wonder there’s a queue. There are now several branches across town (note that the Notting Hill site takes bookings).
Like a sleeper-cell KGB spy, this Russian-backed steakhouse is more American than meeting your therapist for a wiener on Madison Avenue. Goodman’s mahogany and leather interiors set the scene for some deluxe gustatory spoils: lobster bisque followed by a Chilean Wagyu rib-eye with truffle chips, plus a cookie and caramel sundae for afters. You get the picture. Branches in Mansion House and Canary Wharf.
It’s US party time at Hotbox, so maximise the meat. USDA short ribs and mega-spicy pork ribs, we’re looking at you! Smoky, sweet and succulent, these dry-rubbed BBQ masterpieces are some of the punchiest around: St Louis gets its kicks from lethal Scotch bonnet chillies – so keep those spice-tainted fingers away from your eyes. Also check out HotBox’s ‘liquid brunch’ fuelled by huge tankards of Bloody Mary.
A faithful homage to upscale US brasseries, Jackson & Rye looks just right with its uplit bar, American curios, artworks, close-set tables and scribbled blackboard menus. Diner-style breakfasts (including buttermilk pancakes) and plenty of brunch-style egg dishes give way to popcorn chicken, brisket croquettes, veggie hush puppies, well-hung steaks and a smattering of European brasserie dishes. There’s a branch in Richmond.
An artisan fast-food joint in a stools-only space that was formerly a public loo (hipster ticks all round), Joe is all about by-the-slice US-style pizzas cut from 20-inch whoppers. Toppings are strictly Stateside and there’s Joe Public own-brand lager to drink. Prices are an absolute steal for a high-speed sit-down meal. Otherwise, come here for a coffee and butty (served until 2pm).
A bright, post-industrial all-day joint by the water’s edge in Paddington Basin, Lockhouse serves up diner food and booze with an American accent – generous brunch staples, burgers stacked with everything from buttermilk chicken to halloumi, rotisserie chicken with fries, salads and a raft of no-nonsense desserts in jam jars (the Lockabockaglory is pure comfort food). The noisy vibe is fuelled by craft beers, cheeky cocktails and feelgood beats.
A permanent Dalston home for the highly regarded Lucky Chip burger troupe, this diner has all the US trappings you could wish for – red leather booths, a full-length kitchen counter, an 80s rock soundtrack and a menu of mighty burgers, dogs and suchlike. But that’s not all. LC also touts a 100-strong wine list for those who like a tipple with their grub. Also check Twitter for Lucky Chip’s occasional pub residencies.
A slice of California in the City, Malibu Kitchen promotes guilt-free ‘clean eating’ within the swanky surrounds of The Ned hotel/club complex. The menu favours veggie and vegan over meat and fish, although there’s something for everyone – think vegetable and mango rolls with spicy nuts, poké bowls and zesty colourful salads. For that full-on LA trip, wash it all down with some lip-smacking green juice.
Like its siblings across town (and beyond), this branch of due-food burger slingers Meat Liquor is dark, noisy and emblazoned with migraine-inducing graffiti. Here you’ll find an ace hardcore cocktail list and a menu of filthy urban eats delivered with real oomph: bounteous piles of juicy ‘monkey fingers’, chilli dogs, crisply battered fried pickles and their insanely delicious buffalo chicken burgers, to name but a few. Branches in Islington, Marylebone, King’s Cross, Battersea and Queensway.
A market stall turned permanent New York deli-cum-diner, Monty’s is a legend with a cult following – not just for its absurdly good salt beef sarnies, but also for its home-baked bagels, peppery pastrami, latkes, rugelach and more besides. Best of all, parties of four-plus can book a special ‘shabbat dinner’ on Friday and Saturday nights. Monty’s is also part of the Spitalfields Kitchen project and has a pitch in Market Halls Victoria.
Clean-cut and modern, this bubbly New York pizzeria looks the part with its brick-lined walls and purple leather booths. Supersized thin-crusted pizzas (20-inch or 10-inch) are the big hitters, but the menu also throws in wings and fries, trattoria classics such as chicken milanese, and calorific transatlantic sweets including Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough. Don’t forget to order a side of ‘Milly’s meatballs’ – ‘straight outta Goodfellas’!
Named after an increasingly hip district in South Philadelphia, this faithfully recreated American dive bar/diner is the real deal. TVs show baseball games, the walls are covered in vintage sports paraphernalia, and the menu focuses on Philly classics including cheesesteaks and tender roast pork rolls packed with Parmesan, pesto and tenderstem broccoli. Textbook fries, peanut-butter cookies and choc-chip cannoli too.
Pitt Cue Co is dead. Long live Pitt Cue. Having closed their rocking but grungy Soho site, the owners have gone upmarket and opened a shiny new City restaurant where you can book a table and dine like a grown-up. Gone are the metal trays and pickleback shots; instead, say hello to white china, napkins, a long wine list and cuts of beautiful meat cooked with impressive skill.
Former street-food upstarts Randy’s now have a permanent roost by the canal in Hackney Wick, and their wings are the business. Try BBQ-slathered Kansas, sweet ‘n’ sticky Korean-style Gangnam or harissa-infused Casablanca with pomegranate seeds – plus smoked chicken scratchings on the side. Bag a deckchair by the water when the sun’s out. There’s a grab-and-go offshoot just off Fenchurch Street.
Mayfair’s Smack Deli is no more, but fans of this street-food riff from the Burger & Lobster group can always decamp to its dinky Soho sibling. The namesake lobster brioche rolls come in three varieties (including a Japanese-themed Seven Samurai version) and they’re custom-built for takeaways, but you can also sit down with a big bowl of rich, warming lobster chowder or a superfood salad.
An edgy bricks-and-mortar site from pop-up vendor David Carter, Smokestak peddles smoke and meat like it’s going out of fashio. The stygian semi-industrial space may feel like a medieval nightclub, but there’s no arguing with the home-cured salami or the sweet, smoky, salty brisket brushed with barbecue sauce and bone-marrow butter – just be sure to order plenty of citrusy fennel and celery slaw as a palate-cleansing counterbalance.
Although it doesn’t take bookings, this self-styled New York steakhouse has discovered how to pull in the Chelsea crowds. To start, Sophie’s has an approachably buzzy, upscale vibe, while the short menu concentrates on steaks from British breeds, all aged and butchered on the premises and charred to a T. Vibrant seafood starters, traditional desserts and some decent red wines complete the offer. There’s a bigger branch in Soho.
This is no wholesome 1950s-style diner, but a dark, grungey space where dim lights dangle in cages, the walls are battered, the staff sport daring tattoos, and the soundtrack is scratchy blues. The anti-establishment vibe trickles into the upfront Italian-American menu, which deals in small plates with big, bold flavours – think prawn po’ boy sliders, Chicago dogs, lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, and Brooklyn toast. Strong cocktails too.
A sheeny all-day eatery from the guys behind the now-glorious Sebright Arms in Bethnal Green, the Vincent serves up everything from late breakfasts to dinners with a broad American accent. Baked eggs, pork hash, ‘vegeree’ and waffles give way to burgers, buttermilk chicken buns, chilli chips and chocolate brownies, while drinks include the ubiquitous craft beers, hard shakes and some jokey cocktails.
Still whoopin’ and hollerin’ after all the years, this Chelsea BBQ/crabshack pulls the crowds with its good-timing New Orleans vibe, high-decibel bluesy sounds, crazy low prices and gut-busting helpings of messy US soul food. Voodoo chicken wings, pit-cooked ribs, stacked burgers and bargain-priced lobsters are the headline acts, with support from a raunchy line-up of X-rated shakes and slushy cocktails. Branches in Covent Garden and Canary Wharf.
Once home to London’s first licensed casino, this handsome Grade II-listed edifice is not only a Covent Garden landmark but also a safe bet if you’re after reliably good stateside food. Juicy Maine lobsters and prime steaks are odds-on favourites, but don’t discount the Maryland crab cakes, Caesar salad, blackened salmon with jambalaya risotto or the pecan maple pie. Pre-/post-theatre deals are a bargain.
Well-bred Wandsworth Town now has its very own hip BBQ and grill in the shape of MeatUp – a fun-loving carnivorous paradise sporting standard-issue cool decor and a funky vibe. Steak-wise, our money is on the huge, hunky short-rib licked with spicy maple sauce, but the menu is stuffed with Stateside classics including everything from buttermilk chicken with zhoug mayo to burgers slathered in Monterey Jack cheese.
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