The Nighthawk might be a diner but owner Alistair Fogg has well and truly challenged the vinyl-and-laminate hackneyed Elvis idea that belongs to the restaurant category. Instead, The Nighthawk celebrates American eating traditions by focusing on food as a glorious melting pot of cultures and classes.
“The thing that many Australians don’t understand about diners is that they’re so varied,” says Fogg. “The original diners were driven by Greek and Polish immigrants to the States. They were a product of so many different food cultures all coming to one place. Ours is the Sydney version of that.”
Indeed, Fogg has done much to give The Nighthawk a local stamp. The restaurant itself is a commercial kitchen, garage (the truck still operates most nights), and dining space that seems to represent the grass roots community enterprise aspect of Sydney’s food truck movement with a more substantial restaurant feel.
Found on a corner of bustling Abercrombie Street, The Nighthawk is overwhelmingly airy and sleek in a post-industrial way. The decor, designed by Herbee Gutierrez and Emily Vadal of Rockpool Bar and Grill fame, is anything but gaudy or mid-western. White subway tiles create a backdrop for an open kitchen. There are no booths or banquets but in true Sydney style, guests hustle for one of only 28 seats around small polished tables.
“We built the dining space with the intention of people to come in, eat, and leave quite quickly,” Fogg says. “That’s not Sydney, it turns out. People like to linger. We’re now looking to grow the menu, increase our capacity, and offer more in terms of music and entertainment.
After the trucks leave the building, NBA games are projected onto the garage wall and films run on Tuesday nights, with live music and DJs spinning old-school tunes planned for Sundays.
“The goal is to really try to utilise the space.”
The Nighthawk serves some of the only Philly cheesesteaks in Sydney. A toasted mega-sandwich made up of thinly sliced beef, melted cheese, fried jalepenos and onion, the Philly is virtually a national dish of America, birthed in (you guessed it) Philadelphia. But despite our love of all things American dining, Sydney-siders have never quite embraced this dish in the same way we’ve backed burgers and fried chicken.
“We basically slow cook our meat for 12-14 hours. We then slice it and grill it to order.” What also helps diners get on board with The Nighthawk Philly is a velvety homemade cheese sauce comprised of smoked provolone whisked with American mustard.
Also on the menu are tacos, nachos, sambos, and loaded burgers the way only Americans can load ‘em (think multiple layers of meat, cheese, onions, and bacon).
A strong philosophy underpins pretty much every aspect of The Nighthawk. After five years running a food truck (Fogg calls it the “biggest hustle”), the new, permanent digs represents Fogg’s love of the Sydney dining scene. He has avoided creating too much of a social media presence in favour of building up a rapport with the local community.
Plans are already in motion to create employment and training opportunities for the area’s Indigenous residents. “It’s about respecting the area in which we’re servicing as much as making money and putting out great food.”
Tues - Sat 11am - 10pm; Sun 11am - 4pm
69 Abercrombie Street, Surry Hills