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Karen's Diner

Home > Adelaide > Burgers | Food and Wine | Party Ideas | Restaurants
by Jon Cocks (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in the Adelaide Hills.
Published December 5th 2022
Great burgers & very rude service

Remember the 'Bunnings Karen' who specialised in rubbing people up the wrong way by drawing on her matchless reserves of ignorance, insensitivity and ego? Imagine those same qualities unleashed in your waitress at a restaurant. And what if her boss gave her full license to get as snarky as she liked with customers?

Imagine if she were having a bad day

The above Karen 'greeted' my wife and I at the door of the newly opened Karen's Diner, 6 East Tce, Adelaide, by telling us to ring a bell, which proved to be non-existent. When they were handing out smart-ass attitude, she must have gone back into the queue for seconds and thirds. She made us wait unnecessarily before reluctantly granting us entry and showing us to a table, where a surly youth flung two menus down haphazardly and shouldered past us. Welcome to Karen's. At the start of a 70-minute seating, the staff spin a 'game wheel' and co-opt a few likely (or not) types to participate.

Image Supplied

They picked me, a 67-year-old male, to walk down an imaginary catwalk for some kind of prize in competition with three very young women. I did my best, but it wasn't good enough. My wife was too shocked to take a video or even a couple of pics. I am happy with that outcome. But she can't 'un-see' what transpired, and this is - as I see it - a part of the Karen's ethos. Customers are taken from their comfort zones and become objects of derision. Silliness and loud shenanigans are encouraged but clients are warned against the kind of sexist behaviour or harassment that brings to mind recent behaviour in the ranks of the previous federal government.

The staff behaviour aspires to be so bad, it is good. And this is the pointy end of the challenge for the Karen experience. How do you walk the fine line between inspired wicked comedy and crass, boorish behaviour? I witnessed both. The surly flick of menus onto the table and floor next to the table: smart-ass genius. Repeated use of loud, coarse language: crass. Food for thought, Karens.

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Karen's Diner is open for business. It serves 'badass' burgers as its staple, with a number of 'Karen's a bit on the side' sides, like fries, fries with bacon, fries with cheese and bacon, wedges, onion rings… and leafy green salad for those whose coronary wellbeing feels compromised by the proximity of all that cooking oil. But if such considerations fail to trouble you, order the New York Karen roast apple-infused lamb sandwich or the Scomo Hawaiian Special hot dog that comes untroubled by guilt.

And speaking of guilt, throw caution to the wind with the desserts of waffles or churros, thickshakes, and Karen's take on the old-fashioned 'spider', the soft drink with ice cream. For those seeking bigger kicks, try the cocktail and shooter list that rejoices in such titles as 'Karen's Aqua Aerobics' or the 'You've Just Lost My Business' shooter. For those of regular tastes, here are beers on tap and in bottles and a limited wine list as well. And it's the only food outlet I know in which anyone actually called Karen can get a free drink and preferential treatment. My wife and I enjoyed our espresso martinis, despite the waitress whingeing at us along the lines of our lack of imagination in not ordering something that might be a challenge to make. Check out the menu.

Image Supplied

I had the Karen's Mega Burger, one with the lot, close to 20 cm high, with a generous side of chips. The meat was perfect and the rest held together fairly well, partly because I am experienced in burger-related matters and partly due to a strategically inserted, long sliver of bamboo. The black comedy of eating this without any serviettes became my challenge and I did not spill a drop on my pale pink T-shirt. My wife, enjoying her hot dog, nodded approvingly. Rather than ignominiously begging a waiter for a serviette, I went to the loo and cleaned up.

I trust you enjoyed your meal,'am..

Feral waiting staff have the potential to be hilarious, provided it is someone else being battered about the face with a sarcasm hammer. Or forked in the face with irony. For me, the jury was out on the fine line between inspired smart-ass genius and crass boorishness. But if you like generous American-style burgers and all the trimmings, you are getting bang for the buck at Karen's. At $28 for the Mega, the fine line between moderate and somewhat pricey is breached. I suspect people will come at first for the theatre and may stay for the food.

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Why? Yummy indulgent food, and Fawlty Towers-ish waiting service
Where: 6 East Tce Adelaide
Cost: see
Your Comment
An interesting concept, Jon, but as you say there's a fine line and I wonder at what point in the line, someone may well become seriously offended ...
by Elaine (score: 3|9170) 63 days ago
I have heard about the Karen establishment. It's hard to imagine that insults are in vogue but it is certainly a different view to hospitality.
by Gillian Ching (score: 3|6212) 63 days ago
Glad it was you and not me! Thanks for the report, Jon.
by Michael Genrich (score: 3|1870) 54 days ago
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