When Alistair Fogg launched his Nighthawk Diner food truck, burgers weren’t yet on almost every menu in Sydney. Now, American-style cheeseburgers are everywhere and Fogg, despite serving a bloody good one at his new Nighthawk diner in Chippendale, wants you to eat something else, specifically tacos and Philly cheesesteaks.
It’s rare to find the latter in Sydney. Invented in the US city of Philadelphia, it’s made by stuffing thinly sliced beef, melted cheese and sometimes capsicum and onion in a long roll, and Fogg’s version is about as good as they come. For his tacos he uses house-made tortillas and tops them with a spinach and avocado mix. “I lived in Vegas for eight months cooking for rich people. My boss’s housekeeper was Mexican and she gave me a crash course. We spent five days together in the kitchen making everything from scratch,” says Fogg, who has also worked at Nobu in the US, Annandale’s Three Clicks West and Bistro C in Noosa.
Unlike at the classic American diners, Fogg and head chef Sean Jones keep the menu tight. There’s Dorito-based nachos and a few sambos (Cuban, fried chicken and a rich eggplant parma), as well as insanely heavy sundaes and a giant mint slice. There’s a small but well-curated list of can beers, just four wines and a range of boozy shakes.
That probably won’t be what the menu looks like in a few months, though. “We didn't really realise this would be a space where people would want to hang out,” says Fogg, adding that the menu will change to accommodate that. “Maybe steak and fries, fish, $13 cocktails, brunch on weekends.”
The reason people want to linger is also down to Herbee Gutierrez and Emily Vadal’s design. Rather than creating a space with diner-like tables and booth-style seating, Nighthawk is more like a trendy Sydney cafe; light-filed and leafy. Gutierrez is behind other beautiful spaces including Rockpool Bar and Grill and The Smoking Panda, among others.
When the truck isn’t parked in the diner’s adjacent bay, classic movies and American sports are projected on the wall there. “This is always what we wanted, even five years ago, it just took us this long to get here because the food-truck game is a hustle. That's why we picked the name Nighthawk Diner.”