With the easy charm of genuine American diner, Nighthawk Diner, have made their permanent digs in a building that used to house the Sex Workers Outreach Project. Both inhabitants utilising this space, decked out with exposed wooden beams and an adjoining garage, cater to all comers.
Where outreach vehicles packed full of condoms once rested, a shiny silver Airstream trailer now sits. Alistair Fogg began his exploration of classic American fare back in 2013 with a series of food trucks, and they continue to roam the streets.
The long open kitchen, framed by backlit menu boards and caged ingredients, dissolves the barrier between diner and chef.
Floor to ceiling windows let in the red brake light parade of Abercrombie Street at peak hour. Concrete floors and roughly cleaned up bricks help to keep everything gritty and real; with exposed hanging bulbs lighting up the urban ‘backyard’. A row of three comfy barber’s stools face the white-tiled kitchen, staffed by five friendly men. As opposed to a food truck experience, what this space offers is a chance to sink your arse into a padded banquette and throw some light on the subject.
Rest your peepers on the golden brown curves of a soft, hoagie roll – an American submarine sandwich – presented as a classic Philly Cheesesteak ($15). The beef brisket is slow-cooked in-house for 12-14 hours, and then sliced and tossed on the grill to order. It’s teamed with melted cheese, onion and jalapenos, and then slathered in a smoky, creamy, cheesy mess that has a hint of American mustard.
In my hands, it’s more about sploshing than eating; which, with a serviette dispenser on the table, I’m okay with - though I sure am glad I’m not eyeballing the kitchen from those well-padded bar stools. Eventually I admit it’s too creamy even for me, and reach for the sriracha to help cut through.
Better boozing is the other fixed venue advantage, running from tinnies to a short list of wine; to boozy shakes and cocktails. We take the edge off with a Bloody Mary ($13.50) and a Piña Asado ($13) that teams roasted pineapple-infused gin with lime and pineapple Jarritos (a Mexican soft drink). They both drink well, without taking the art of cocktail mixology too seriously. For a throw-down – or as my dining companion call them, a cocktail chaser – the Philter Brewing XPA Extra Pale Ale ($9) does nicely.
The floor team are wonderfully laid back, taking their time at our table to ensure we feel at home. They save us from our usual pelican syndrome - where our beaks hold more than our bellies can – by suggesting that a taco apiece followed by a sandwich will be more than enough. Fogg and his team make their own tacos from masa (corn flour), ensuring they are soft, tasty, and gluten-free. Beef Brisket ($8) showcases the taco quality against slow cooked beef, red salsa, some greens and smoked provolone cheese.
Speaking of dietary requirements, don’t be dismissing the vegan taco - Fried Broccoli ($8). Arriving filled to the brim with broccoli, charry grilled onions and refried beans, it was actually my favourite bite!
For the late night sandwich masterpiece though, it's all about the Miami Cuban ($16). Citrus pork and maple bacon are glued into a toasted hoagie roll with chipotle mayo. and luminous American cheese. Plentiful pickles keep it upbeat and easily digestible.
I’d like to meet this sandwich in a dark Chippendale back street again soon.
69 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale
Ph: none provided