As an American, there are few things that I love more than a kitschy, nostalgia-laden diner that serves only the staples of American comfort food. Planting it in a red-and-white checkered booth, with neon signs and 50s Americana adorning the walls, whips me into a devouring frenzy that can only be satiated by the three main American food groups: french fries, burgers, and ice cream. So when I got the chance to check out a place called Joe’s Diner, you better believe I was pretty excited.
While circling around the block, spotting the place was pretty easy for my finely tuned American senses. Amid the other lights and signs of the neighbourhood, the sign for Joe’s stood out like, well, an American-style diner in Heliopolis. The neon sign's style is distinctly that of a timeless establishment that is equally ubiquitous in a 1950s small town or modern Manhattan. The circular ‘J’s’ emblem is accompanied by other small neon symbols of steaks, burgers, and shakes, like it was spelling out American dietary habits in hieroglyphics.
Upon entering the place, I was overwhelmed with some kind of meta-nostalgia, where my sense of nostalgia at the Americana decor – which was similar to places I used to eat at back in the states – was wrapped within the greater sense of nostalgia that my culture has as a whole for framed Billy Holiday records and red-and-white colour schemes. I planted myself in one of the comfy booths and took it all in. Pictures of old Cadillacs on the walls, the neon signs declaring ‘burgers, steaks, & shakes’, and the smells of grilled beef and fried potatoes almost tricked my brain into thinking I was at was at one of my favourite eateries back home.
The food was just as convincing. Besides the aforementioned burgers, steaks, and shakes (which are totes amazeballs, as the American kids would say), there's also a wide variety of snacktastic appetizers, like sloppy cheese fires, baked potatoes, and my personal favorite: boneless buffalo wings. Joe’s also sports a versatile ‘Tex-Mix’ menu with fajitas and Southern-style fried and grilled chicken, just in case burgers aren’t your thing. And, just to make sure they’ve covered every possible dietary quirk, Joe’s Diner will also serve you – or your picky eating pal – a variety of pasta dishes.
After I reinforced the arterial blockages that have been slowly thinning during my time in Egypt (who am I kidding, shawerma and koshary have probably been doing a fine enough job) with all the delicious and homesickness-inducing foods I could, and then washed them down with a milkshake, it was time for dessert. Of course I went with the chocolate thunder because, A) that’s the most American name for a dessert ever, and B) the mountain of ice cream on top of a massive brownie looked like it could provide me with a sufficient enough sugar rush to wrestle myself out of the booth and make it back home.
Joe’s Diner may be in the heart of Heliopolis, but for us American expats who are looking for a burger or any other of our nation’s culinary staples, or others who are looking to get in on some of the best superpowered food in town, it feels like home.
Check out Joe's Diner on Facebook here.