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Half Mag / Half Zine

Karen’s Diner promises a dining experience like no other – where the service is intentionally bad as waitresses throw insult after insult your way.

The interactive diner recently opened up in Manchester and while the idea of eating there brought dread to the pit of my stomach, a small part of me was intrigued to try it.

On Tuesday, July 12 myself and a fellow Mirror colleague, Julia Banim, decided to put on a brave face and give it a go.

When I stood outside I was bricking it – How badly would I feel the wrath of the Karens? Only time would tell…

When I walked through the doors, I was pleasantly surprised at how cute and kitsch the decor was. I was truly distracted by the bubblegum pink chairs, gingham table cloths, fluorescent lights and adorable booths – it’s all very reminiscent of the diner scene in Grease with a modern twist.

But I was quickly brought back to reality with a thud when I heard the dulcet tones of the front-of-house Karen, calling the women in front of us ‘f*ing sgs.’

Yikes. I wasn’t ready.

“Celebrating anything special?” Karen asked the women and they replied “No.”

“I can tell”, she quipped, which prompted a seriously awkward response from the pair.

When Julia and myself reached the front desk I was cringing, just waiting for the insults to start flowing.

After being asked for our names, front-of-house Karen (who we learned is actually called Mica Young) asked whether we knew about the concept.

She quickly asked: “You’re not going to start crying like a little b***h are you? You look the sort.”

I awkwardly giggled, desperately trying not to give sass back and remain as professional as possible – it was a struggle.

We were then shown to our table, and by that I mean, one of the staff pointed in the direction of it and promptly proceeded to throw our menus on the floor.

Julia quickly gathered them and we stared at each other wide-eyed, wondering what else this experience could possibly throw at us.

Suddenly, we heard: “F***ing hurry up and choose your drink.” We panicked and both opted for the 90s Karen which contains spiced rum, coke and ice cream.

In true Karen style, they were slammed down in front of us.

After taking just one sip of our drinks, we were told to hurry up and choose what we wanted to eat.

After a short time deliberating, we both opted for a Fiery Karen – Wagyu beef with onion rings, cheese, jalapenos, iceberg lettuce and Karen’s spicy mayo. We also got some fries which had chicken and bacon on.

I’d considered the Vegan Karen because I don’t often eat beef and there weren’t any chicken options but thought it wasn’t worth the hassle as veggies and vegans were being routinely told to “f**k off” over the microphone.

Whilst I sipped my drink, I soaked up the atmosphere and noticed that some people around the room were wearing hats with some lovely ‘compliments’ on.

One person’s hat read ‘Lidl’s Gemma Collins ‘ and another said ‘Billie Eilish from Wish’, so when I felt a hat get plonked onto my head I was petrified to read it.

Julia gasped and said she wasn’t sure whether I’d want to see it, so I was thinking the worst.

I pulled it off and it had “f**ny hair is even longer” written on it.

What’s worse, a woman had the cheek to ask me whether it was true! No comment, naturally…

For context, my hair is down to my bum, so that’s where they got their inspiration from.

After regaining my composure (just about) our food arrived and we were thrown yet another curveball – the waiter was a male Karen!

We had a giggle wondering what a male Karen was called, and then Julia promptly asked him what his name was.

“What’s a male Karen called?”

He replied in a strong scouse accent: “Well my name’s Kieran, so there you go!”

That certainly told us.

We then proceeded to eat and chat at the same time which didn’t impress the Karens who were surveying the restaurant at all times.

We were hilariously told to “shut the f**k up” and to “eat our food” at least four times.

Once I’d finished eating, I was ordered to go and spin the wheel of misfortune – and I wasn’t happy. At this point, Karen’s Diner really did feel like some sort of Dick and Dom in da Bungalow spin-off series or something equally as chaotic.

After watching other people have to dance for everyone, attempt to seduce randomers and swap places with people to get to know others in the restaurant, I was thinking the worst.

The wheel landed on ‘buy shots for your table’ and Mica asked what did we want – I said I’d let her choose and Julia and I were horrified at what made its way to our table.

Brown watery shots in tiny toilet bowls.

Despite it looking not at all apetising, we took sips and it burned our throats – I decided I wasn’t going to drink it.

After checking the menu, we learned this concoction is called ‘The Potty Karen’ and contains cafe Patron and white chocolate mozart ‘served in a c***per.’ Delightful!

About 10 minutes passed and I thought I’d got away with not drinking the shot when suddenly a wild Karen approached – demanding that I take the shot.

I said I didn’t want it, and she said ‘good!’ proceeding to chant ‘down it, down it, down it’ as I internally screamed.

Bowing to peer pressure, I obliged, and it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever tasted, but different strokes for different folks and all that.

It seems like they really do want you to have the worst experience possible as soon after one Karen bellowed: “Was the food s**t?” down my ear. “Yes”, I obliged, nervously. “Good!”, she shouted back.

We must be gluttons for punishment because, despite the wild experience, we decided to stay for another cocktail.

We had a Tropical Karen which was served in a faux coconut and was delicious.

As we drank our new drinks, we were offered a colouring sheet and crayons, and the four-year-old in me got very excited, quickly getting to work on my masterpiece.

The masterpiece didn’t last very long, however, as it was brutally ripped up – I tried to hide the tears in my eyes as my art to rival Van Gough’s lay in pieces in front of me. I’ll never be a millionaire…

When it came to paying they said ‘f**king finally! You’ve taken the hint then have you?”

We were then told our tip was ‘s**t’ and that we were ‘poor.’ It was the final straw, and we left pretty disgruntled and like we were certainly going to email the manager with a complaint later.

On a serious note though, the Karens (and Kierans!) are incredibly good actors – they never break their character and genuinely make you feel so uncomfortable but in a funny way. I certainly couldn’t keep it up for that long!

It’s something I’d recommend everyone experience at least once – it’s scary, it’s overwhelming, yet it somehow is hilarious – but be warned – it certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted.