43 Farr St Marrickville, NSW 2204
|Opening hours||Thursday-Saturday 5.30pm-8.30pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
As evening thunder rolls above, the Nighthawk Diner appears like a twinkling apparition in semi-industrial Marrickville between brick-fronted warehouses, a vast mock orange hedge and strings of swaying coloured lightbulbs.
Housed in an Airstream trailer, its shiny riveted curves holding a custom-built kitchen, the Nighthawk is ours alone for the moment, guarded by orange safety bollards and a friendly black labrador belonging to owner Alistair Fogg, who is spied cooking our order. Fat plops of rain arrive, and the sound of jazz floats from the kitchen. It's like a private twilight street party, except for two people with an umbrella and a genial dog happy to be patted.
The easing of restrictions, welcome for every food business affected by lockdown, means table service, restaurant decor and shelter from the sun and rain will mostly replace scenes like this. But, waiting on footpaths or in semi-industrial back street driveways to collect carefully packed food bags won't disappear entirely.
Our big bag, full of roasted pork quesadilla, falafel and spice pumpkin taco, a Miami Cuban sandwich and a big box of shoestring chips, is handed over with cheer and waves from Fogg. Optimistic plans to wait until home are abandoned after opening the Miami Cuban, a fragrant and hefty beast on a huge hoagie roll filled with citrus pork, maple bacon, pickles and American cheese. Laced with chipotle sauce, and bigger than its owner's head, this lip-smacking meaty goodness requires pacing.
Equally good are the triangular quesadillas, gooey, golden and layered between greaseproof paper, they mingle slow roasted pork, chipotle, charred pineapple, and three cheeses on house made corn tortillas. This would be the winner if we had not added the taco. Fogg began the Nighthawk Diner after 10 years working overseas, mainly in the US and predominantly in Vegas, where he learnt the true art of Mexican food.
His tacos mirror that. Spicy, crunchy, with a lemony tang and sprinkled with fresh cabbage and herbs, they are built with plump falafels, roasted pumpkin puree, chipotle salsa and fresh herb yoghurt salad. Meanwhile every chip, zested with Southern-style spices, is hoovered up.
There are no desserts at the Nighthawk's current location but the food truck events menu includes enviable-looking ice-cream sundaes, gooey "snickers cookies", three kinds of fudge-sauce covered brownie and cherry, apple, pecan, spiced pumpkin, banana cream and key lime pie. I'd drive back for these in an instant, or at least after a post-main meal lie-down. Fogg is currently creating a new line of lasagnes, and his "I Love Lupé" DIY taco kits, named after the woman who taught him Mexican cooking in Vegas, are available soon.
After starting the business in 2011, and opening Nighthawk Diner restaurants in Chippendale and Alexandria along the way, Fogg is prioritising his small fleet of food trucks towards private events catering. But, happily, the Nighthawk Diner will be on Farr Street "for a while yet". The site is fated for development but Fogg is considering a more permanent weekend food truck locale, possibly in Marrickville or nearby.
That might mean those sundaes loaded with biscuits, whipped cream and glace cherries will be available. It certainly means chomping on gooey quesadillas and smoky salted chips under sultry evening skies will continue, possibly with wine and beer and a chair that is not inside a car. May al fresco, semi-industrial Nighthawk dining live long and prosper.
Main attraction Real-deal Mexican and American quesadillas, tacos, burgers, and sandwiches served up from a gleaming, jazz-filled Airstream food truck in a Marrickville back lane.
Must-try dish Falafel and spice pumpkin tacos, crunchy, fresh and spicy, sprinkled with sliced cabbage and green herbs. Masterful and messy goodness.
Insta-worthy dish Thrill, or frighten, friends with the size of a Miami Cuban sandwich, a burly beauty featuring citrus pork, maple bacon, pickles and American cheese on a hoagie roll.
Drinks Sparkling water $8; Jarritos Mexican soda $6; soft drinks $6; Virgils root beer $6
Prices Burgers and American sandwiches $13-$17; tacos $6; quesadillas $16.50-$18.50; fries $7.50-$12; sauces $3
Hours Thursday-Saturday 5.30pm-8.30pm