Service stations we love (part 1)

It's more than OK at the OK Diner

OK Diner A1
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As Transport Focus publishes its guide to the worst motorway service stations  (this year Thurrock took the dubious title), we think it’s time to reflect on some of the gems of motorway fare.

Independent motorway stops

These are operations which have grown up independently from the behemoths of Moto and Roadchef to provide something a bit more interesting.

The A1M is a prime hunting ground for distinctive motorway fare. Whilst most service stations were commissioned as such, and in tandem with the building of motorways, the A1 is different. The A1 was developed from an A road into a fully fledged motorway over time, and so the truck stops, roadside cafes and restaurants which predate this development remain.

Whilst this diversity is great, the downside is that because they’re often completely unique they don’t have the support of being part of a bigger chain to keep standards up over the longer term. The once glorious Ram Jam Inn on the northbound A1 stretch between Stamford and Grantham seems to have suffered a terminal decline and is now closed.

It's OK to be different

However, there’s a small chain of OK Diners dotted along part of the A1 which manage to strike the balance between consistency, personal service and their own distinctive style. Yes, you have to like American diner style food, but if you do, it breaks up the journey nicely.

The outside gleams with chrome, they’re properly kitted out with neon and leatherette seats and are absolutely the antithesis of the dull monotony of the bigger service stations.

The menu covers all the expected US food groups – burgers, nachos, burritos and hot dogs along with salads, grills and all-day breakfasts. Whilst it sounds like a calorie fest (and let’s face it, nothing with chips is slimline) there is still something for everyone (meat eaters and veggies alike). I can’t resist the curly fries or onion rings. They’re just an upgrade on a salad, right?

OK Diner Club Sandwich

Like any good American diner, filter coffee is refilled on request. And there are milkshakes. They’re proper creamy thick and lush, made with icecream, fruit, cakes and other treats (like Nutella in the Nutella Nut Job, lemon curd and biscuit crumb in the Lemon Biscoff). If that’s not enough, the desserts include ice cream sundaes, banana splits and cheese cakes. I’ve never quite managed to justify one so far.

Stepping into an  OK Diner puts you completely into another world – off the beaten track (or the well-travelled motorway at least) and provides a real break from the journey. It’s a different approach to a motorway stop, done well and delivered with a smile.

OK Diner Jalapenos

Coming soon...

We've tracked a few others on our travels, so we'll be bringing you the joys of Tebay and the South Gloucester Services soon!

by Beate Kubitz at 9 Aug 2018, 00:00 AM