Even if the idea sounds like an ironic punishment for people who don’t bother to leave a tip for their waitstaff, the promise of a Karen’s Diner pop-up restaurant in Dallas attracted a lot of interest.
The concept was founded in Australia in 2021 and promises patrons a burger, fries, and a drink with a side of attitude and disdain for the most basic rules of decent human interaction. Its tagline is “great food, terrible service.” Think Dick’s Last Resort, but in a 1950s diner setting with very rude servers. In 2023, the concept announced it was going on a worldwide tour, with a stop in Dallas.
News of the rude restaurant experience coming to town was shared and promoted by ExploreHidden.com with a planned date for Jan. 13-14. The event date came and went, but the pop-up never happened. No one told the customers or the venue hosting the Karen’s Diner experience.
“We went on the website to see if there was a cancellation or something that was sent out or whatever,” says Karen Heruth, who bought tickets for her and her friends to celebrate her birthday. “I never received anything, and they were still selling tickets for that day and the whole next day for the event.”
Heruth says her ticket said the Karen’s Diner pop-up was supposed to happen during the weekend of Jan. 13-14 at Solo Burgers and Wings on Hillcrest Avenue. A manager who asked to be identified as Angie H. says the Hidden Media Network, the organizer of the Karen’s Diner pop-up in Dallas, approached Solo Burgers and Wings in September 2023 about hosting the event but hadn’t contacted them since.
“They were supposed to send a team to make sure,” Angie says. “Nothing, no contact.”
This isn’t the first Karen’s Diner pop-up announcement for Dallas. In April 2023, CultureMap reported the pop-up would be coming to Dallas and the event would be held Sept. 16-17. A post on the Karen’s Diner Facebook page lists those September dates for the pop-up and Solo Burgers and Wings as the venue. Angie says she only heard from the pop-up once in September, and then silence.
The link to buy tickets in that CultureMap post lists the date of the event as Jan. 13—the same date Dallas Observer listed in its story that was posted in September. We’re not sure what happened on Sept. 16-17, and it’s not clear if ExploreHidden.com or Karen’s Diner organizers decided to move the dates. ExploreHidden.com, Hidden Media Network, and Karen’s Diner did not respond to requests for comment.
Karen’s Diner has been going through a lot on its own. Last year, the chain closed all of its Australian locations for financial reasons, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. They now operate diner locations in Indonesia, UK, Ireland, and as alleged pop-ups.
Angie says on Jan. 13, several groups came to the restaurant expecting to be ridiculed by waitresses with chips on their shoulders.
“I forgot about it until the people showed up asking about it,” Angie says.
Heruth says she didn’t receive an email telling them that the event wasn’t happening. She and her friends learned the pop-up wasn’t happening when they tried to redeem their tickets at Solo Burgers on Jan. 13.
“We walk into the restaurant, and it’s completely empty except for one table of people who were having food, which was weird,” Heruth says. “[A restaurant staffer] said the company that puts on these pop-up diners and they talked about having them on these dates. He was saying they just stopped responding to him to confirm the actual event was gonna take place on this time and this day.”
Heruth says she was even more shocked to learn that the event’s ticket page was still up and running. She also tried to contact the company behind the event but could not get in touch with anyone. She eventually received a full refund for her and her friends’ tickets.
Angie says they also tried to contact the company in the weeks leading up to the date but they were either met with total silence or complete denials.
“I called and she said, ‘wrong number,'” Angie says. “I told them, ‘No, you contacted me on my cell phone.’ She contacted me through email and phone call in September. She said, ‘You don’t have any agreement to use my location and I apologize and will inform my department responsible for this and I would tell customers to contact us.'”
Comments from patrons in other cities on business review sites like Trustpilot and where ExploreHidden.com sold tickets for pop-ups present similar scenarios for customers in other cities.
“Event was canceled with no prior information,” wrote a user named Ilona on Trustpilot.com. “We found out once at the venue, £120 paid and hard to get back. Absolutl jo9ke. [sic]”
More patrons continued to show up through the weekend of Jan. 13-14, only to be told their tickets were no good, according to Angie. Angie says her restaurant was forced to take some of the blame even though they never signed an agreement or accepted any money to host the event: “They hurt our reputation, too.”