For the past 20 years Ben Varela has worked in some of the city’s more decent kitchens – including Bistro Moncur, Four in Hand and The Collaroy – but had always planned to open his own place. “I finally pulled the trigger on it,” he says.
His creation is a pretty, pastel-pink diner a few blocks from Avalon Beach serving the food you always feel like eating but perhaps don’t often: burgers you need two hands to eat, sundaes you need a buddy to help finish and shakes you can add cream to the top of.
There are palm trees, neon lights and a sunny, dog-friendly courtyard – some locals say it looks like Pop’s Diner in the TV show Riverdale.
Varela says Sunset Diner brings a well-needed fresh concept to the northern beaches dining scene. It follows the recent makeover of Palm Beach stalwart Barrenjoey House, and the opening last year of Bert’s, and The Collaroy – although all three venues are part of larger hospitality groups, not owner-operator projects.
Long-time colleague Lloyd Canney is working alongside Varela in the kitchen. There are Californian-style burgers: classic cheese comes with a meat patty, cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles and sunset sauce. The beer-battered fish burger has cheese, pickled jalapenos and a herb and cabbage slaw. There’s a selection of griddle dogs (hot dogs cooked on a griddle) and salads, such as the Sencha (green-tea noodles, shredded carrot, wakami, wasabi peas, edamame, avocado and miso mayo). “We don’t want to be pigeon-holed as just a burger shop,” Varela says.
There are shakes, which can come topped with whipped cream and a cherry, and decadent sundaes. We reckon the banana split – with banana, white-chocolate fudge and chocolate sauce – is ideal for beating the summer heat.
41 Old Barrenjoey Road, Avalon
(02) 9918 8776
Wed to Fri 12pm–late
Sat & Sun 11am–late
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on January 21, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.