I'm glad Karen's Diner has shut down and that makes me the ultimate Karen

The restaurant is located inside Birmingham Grand Central
-Credit: (Image: Martin O'Callaghan / Birmingham Live)


I was walking through Grand Central this week, hot-footing it back to the newsroom from a flying visit to Shokupan, when I saw a group of a dozen really dispirited-looking people standing outside Karen's Diner, the restaurant in darkness, the door bolted. They'd come up from Cheltenham they told me when I went over to stick my nose in their business, just to find the diner empty.

When I called the restaurant to ask about it, they confirmed that Karen's had left Brum. And while I felt sad for staff, disappointed that there was another empty unit in Grand Central, I also thought: good.

I never felt that Karen's was good for Birmingham and not least because I hate seeing too-small-to-understand babies being dressed in hats that say disgusting, sexually-suggestive things about bodily fluids.

Read more: Calls for Birmingham cafe to ban kids over 'harassment' as bosses say 'we want to make it clear'

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Call me boring if you must, or the ultimate Karen, but you wouldn't catch me asking for a manager in the diner, unhappy about the foul language or the platform on which they'd given Katie Hopkins space to be poisonous in our city. You simply wouldn't catch me in there at all.

I've said it before and I'll say it until it's no longer true: Birmingham is the best city for food in England outside of the capital. We have so many wicked places to go to get food that I couldn't ever justify spending money in Karen's, where the kitchen dialled it in with bog standard burgers and entry-level dishes.

If I wanted theatre, I'd go to the theatre. If I wanted to be berated, I'd simply read the comments on my food reviews any time I show my extra chins in the header photo. Why pay for the privilege?

All of that aside, I think that Karen's Diner reminded me of everything I dislike about TikTok culture. That's the social platform on which Karen's originally achieved worldwide fame. Quick videos of rude staff embarrassing customers, some there voluntarily, some taken there by young family members who wanted to capture the shock for likes, got billions of views.

I say 'fame' really loosely because by its very nature, the dopamine machine that is TikTok gives quickly, shooting people, songs, artists and restaurants, to astronomic highs before taking away, plunging users back into obscurity once the rush is done. It's disposable enjoyment, fleeting and easily forgettable.

And honestly, I think that's what Karen's Diner's Birmingham stint will be too. It lasted less than two years, long by TikTok standards.

So what of the Grand Central unit that now sits in darkness? In my dream world, it'll be affordable enough for a Birmingham independent to create a home in.

Imagine that? If Grand Central, this gateway into the city for visitors travelling to us by train, would give space to the Brummie businesses that have fortified our reputation as being a culinary hotspot? Where people can nip off the carriage and head up to try something special and distinctly us? It'd be utterly wonderful.

I'm not against gimmick bars and restaurants, I'm excited for the new horror fantasy spot heading to town this summer and I think Grand Central's Sandbox VR is one of the most fun (albeit pricy) experiences in the city. The bartender there doesn't call you names or put a stupid hat on your kid, it's a robot.

But Karen's Diner? That can go on the pile with Tiger King, the Harlem Shake and Rickrolling. Tara-a-bit!