What's the deal?
Plantbased Americana, with a second branch for the vegan junkfood kings. There are plenty of imitators out there now, but Rudy's have been doing it longer (and are still doing it better) than most.
What's the vibe?
Rudy's Islington, like the OG in Camden, is all about bright, clean diner aesthetics. Thankfully that includes formica-style wipeclean tables, because the food, though bright, is also along trad diner lines — heavily topped, filthy to eat, dripping with cheese. As such it makes for a great stomachlining pitstop ahead of a bigger night out, but it's also a good evening in its own right — when we visit the other tables (all taken) are a mix of dates, family groups, and some (probably) influencers taking advantage of the photogenic chequered floors and canary yellow booths.
Upper Street, with two sides of windows and their vegan butcher selling their own 'meat' and other vegan products at the back.
What's on the menu?
Everything's loaded, from the dirty fries, to the hot dogs creaking under the weight of their toppings, to the mac and cheese piled with bacon bits. The main difference between other cheesy, saucy diner classics and these ones is just that Rudy's is entirely vegan.
A lot of them. The Destructor chick'n burger (below), a soya and seitan chick'n fillet with a perfect crispy coating, and then just layers upon layers of excess — cheeze, pickles, slaw, BBQ sauce, and with a massive tongue of baycon lolling out of it. And the mac and cheeze, made with cashew nut sauce, sprinkled with baycon bits, and — though we'd reckon not one that'd trick you into thinking it's the non-vegan version — one of the best mac and cheeses, vegan or not, we've had in ages.
Star turn's probably the Dirty Dogz, a seitan hot dog with caramelised onions, sauerkraut, mustard and ketchup, and crispy onions on top.
Really good. Mains are all cheaper, and much, much better than your average gastropub main — the chick'n burger and dirty dogz are all under £9, sides and desserts are about £5-£7, and shakes are £5 for something fairly large and flamboyant. We went ferociously hungry and still only just managed to finish a main and side each — with judicious sharing you could eat really well for less than £15 each.
Drinks are (London) pub prices or better, with pints of generic but okay lager and pale ale for £5.50, and cans of cocktails for £7.50.
Can you reserve?
Nope. Take your chances — there's no shortage of other spots around Upper Street and Essex Road to move on to if you get knocked back.
Pre-game and post-game?
There's no shortage of beer gardens in Highbury, but with Rudy's on the cards for later, we reckon you should make your pre-game a can of G+T and a frisbee in one of the nearby green spaces to work up enough appetite to do it justice.
Rudy's Vegan Diner, 206 Upper Street, N1 1RQ.
Londonist were guests of Rudy's Vegan Diner.