Sydney's much-loved Americana food truck Nighthawk Diner has finally found a permanent place to call home along Chippendale's Abercrombie Street, and it has brought all of its diner-style sandwiches, tacos and burgers along with it. Owner Alistair Fogg has been operating out of his silver Airstream trailer since 2013 and the restaurant opening has been a long time coming.
The fit-out has all of the makings of a modern diner — the open kitchen and old-school menu boards contrast with the exposed brick walls and African beats coming through the speakers. The downstairs section even houses the original Nighthawk trailer, which hosts DJ sets every Sunday.
Burgers may have been the food truck's defining menu item in the past, but the restaurant certainly isn't a burger joint — though its oft-Instagrammed, enormous double cheese burger ($16) does make the menu and uses the same grass-fed beef that Fogg sources from his local butcher. But the focus here is on diner classics that rarely make the cut on Sydney menus.
One of these is the Philly cheesesteak ($15), a hoagie roll of succulent, slow-roasted beef brisket, sautéed capsicum and onions, topped with house-made cheese sauce. Our personal favourite on the menu is the Cuban ($16), which pays homage to Fogg's years living in Miami. It combines citrus pork, maple bacon and oozy American cheese, all topped with chipotle mayo and house-made pickles that give it a real bite. The clincher is the freshly made, perfectly charred and buttery roll.
Neither dish tries too hard to copy its original, instead each emulates the key flavours while creating its own distinctive twist — and it works. Plus, unlike most diners, all of the bread and taco shells are made in-house here. The tacos come in two meat and two vegetarian varieties ($8 each), and the veg options are just as thought out as the meat ones. At Nighthawk, the crunchy eggplant taco is the best of the bunch — the spiced eggplant is topped with smoked provolone and copious amounts of guacamole and slaw. We recommend sharing all four tacos with a friend as they're a hearty bunch.
Behind the bar is Ryan Johnson (Golden Age Cinema) who is turning out a menu of all-Australian beers and Latin American-inspired cocktails on the cheap — think cuba libres ($11) and margaritas ($13), plus a specialty piña asado ($11), made with roasted pineapple-infused gin, lime and Jarritos Mexican soda. For coffee lovers, they're doing an alcoholic cold drip that serves as a nice pairing with dessert.
Speaking of, we're sure you've seen the photos of their insanely over-the-top sundaes — the ultimate ode to the Americana diners of old — but we prefer the fried chocolate cherry pie ($12), which doesn't come with all of the unnecessary hype. The tart cherry filling nicely balances the rich chocolate and the combination of the golden puff pastry with the rocky road gives your mouth the sensation of eating fried iced cream.
Nighthawk will also start offering up more substantial meals in the near future — we have our fingers crossed for biscuits and gravy. Remember, this is diner food, so it's greasy, messy and very filling, but it's damn satisfying, too. Coming down the pike are projector movie nights, comedy events, brunch and block parties, so keep an eye on this space for updates.
On Tuesdays and Saturdays, between 4.20pm and 5.02pm, the diner offers a special $4.20 menu, too. Launched on April 20 (4/20 for you US folk), the discounted menu features the Philly cheesesteak in spring roll form, plus oozing grilled cheese sandwiches, spicy buffalo wings, cheesy fries and loaded nachos. Deals this cheap just don't happen often in Sydney, especially considering the Nighthawk portions are notoriously big, greasy and filling.
Images: Letícia Almeida