There are few things in life more satisfying and comforting than a meal from a diner. Anyone that can resist the allure of a restaurant serving all-day breakfast, burgers, and milkshakes has an iron will that is probably borderline unhealthy. Or that’s what I am telling myself after hearing from Buzzkill of the Year Nominee the World Health Organization that bacon and other processed meats increase my risk of colon cancer. I’m gonna go ahead and consider resisting bacon and eating bacon to be a wash on the health front. And that is exactly why I’ll definitely be going back to Nighthawks, a new diner that opened up in South Minneapolis.
Sorry, Nighthawks, I guess I’m probably not getting hired to do your marketing after that intro. For those of you looking for a classic diner experience with a lil somethin somethin extra, Nighthawks really is the place. I really should say a lot of somethin somethin extra because the traditionally enormous diner portions are still very much in play at Nighthawks, a fact we learned just in time as we ordered. Our initial order had a few extra things that were omitted under the guidance of our waitress. I think the exact conversation went something like this:
Me: I’m going to run through what we’re thinking and you let me know if it’s an insane amount of food.
Server: That is insane.
We ended up simplifying our order by downsizing from a full order of fries to a smaller order with our burger, and by cutting out the cauliflower (which pained us to do). Before ordering, Brad mentioned to us that the veggie dog had gotten a lot of love online, with many people claiming its texture was almost the same as a hot dog. Chris, Matt, and I were all skeptical, given that is the common and just plain false refrain given by makers of every meat substitute product ever. However, with our typical adventurous FDC spirit, we allowed Nighthawks a chance to prove us wrong (which they did).
The meal started with what ended up being the two favorites of the night: said veggie dog and the bacon kimchi pancakes. Brad, for whatever reason, always ends up being the one to divide up each of the dishes. A fully loaded footlong hot dog and a stack of three pancakes are very difficult things to split four ways, even for a pro like Brad. Chris gave him the confidence he needed by naming Brad FDC’s official Cutting Director. You’ve come a long way since being Head Writer, buddy. An inspiration to us all.
Now the veggie dog was incredible in a lot of ways that we’re all still trying to work through. First off, not only was it obviously not meat, it was a carrot. Not a carrot pureed and molded into a hot dog with other ingredients. Literally. Just. A carrot. And you know what? It ruled. We learned that Nighthawks takes a carrot, steams it for two hours, and bam: veggie dog. And you know the crazy thing? The texture was remarkably similar to a hot dog, and keep in mind that this veggie dog had the fact that IT WAS A MOTHER FLIPPIN’ CARROT working against it on the texture front. And that doesn’t even take the toppings into account, which were also just…the best. I’ll just list them off for you: dill mayo, spicy cheddar, mustard, Chicago style hot peppers, and shoestring potatoes. So many flavors. So many textures. Also did I mentioned the hot dog was just a carrot? Well played, Nighthawks, well played.
The kimchi pancakes were also awesome, and represented another combo of things I never thought would mesh so well together: kimchi, bacon, and syrup. The kimchi was more mellow than others I’ve had, which I thought was a good move and made the whole thing work. The bacon pieces were nice and thick. Chris was a little more skeptical, calling the pancakes both “interesting” and “different,” which is Minnesotan for “I will never ever eat this again.” He has come a long way in expanding his pallette, but I’ll admit the flavor profile on those bad boys was a little overwhelming. Nighthawks also had a bunch of other pancake mixes, including lime coconut pineapple, banana pecan, cranberry orange ginger, peanut butter chocolate chip, chorizo cheddar corn, and blueberry lemon. I definitely want to try lime coconut pineapple, banana pecan, cranberry orange ginger, peanut butter chocolate chip, chorizo cheddar corn, and blueberry lemon.
Next up came a trio of truly massive entrees: the meatloaf, hashbrowns, and double cheeseburger. Our newly anointed Cutting Director was able to split the burger, but was no match for those monster piles on the other two plates. The cheeseburger was solid. The closest parallel I could think of was the satisfaction I got as a kid from eating a Fuddrucker’s burger. That sounds like a knock, but I went ape shit for Fuddrucker’s as a kid. I can’t remember many times getting nostalgic eating a burger. Certainly not the best in the city by any stretch, but thanks for the memories, Nighthawks’ burger. The fries were classic diner fries with the crisp-to-fluff ratio done to perfection.
The hashbrowns were not really a hit. The edges of the hashbrowns were delicious and crispy, but the cheesy, chili-and-cole-slaw filled center was kind of a soggy mess. The chili also needed a little more oompf; definitely needed some hot sauce or extra spices in a big way. They were also kind of terrifying; the dark chili center was like looking into the center of a black hole, and the plate was big enough to have its own gravitational pull so that fear was actually pretty reasonable.
Then there was the meatloaf. The thing about meatloaf is there is kind of a ceiling in terms of how good it can be. This meatloaf was probably near that ceiling, but it was not super memorable. The ketchup glaze was actually pretty decent, which is stunning coming from the only person living in Minnesota that hates ketchup. Mashed potatoes and green beans accompanied the dish; they were both prepared in a classic way and the green beans were very fresh, but again, nothing new on these. Part of me wishes we had come a different night, as meatloaf is the Thursday special, and the other nights’ specials (fish & chips, chicken fried steak with poblano gravy) seemed more up my alley. Chris and Brad seemed a little more into it, and my problem was more a factor of having 26 previous FDCs worth of plates (plus that damn carrot) to compare to the meatloaf. That’s a battle meatloaf will never win.
Once the dessert menus were passed out, we were all pretty stuffed full of heavy food. So naturally we all ordered our own desserts. Brad and Chris split a malt, Matt ordered a root beer float, and I went with a blackberry guava popsicle. Much to my surprise (and delight!), Nighthawks actually makes their own freeze pops with fresh ingredients. I was pretty pleased with having a popsicle made with fresh fruit, because despite being really full, my body was really craving not meat after that meal.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some carrots to steam.
Now, here’s what we’re talking about. The restaurant was a quirky diner serving upscale takes on classic diner-y food. The bathroom fit perfectly in that oeuvre.
First off, the painting. Every good bathroom should have a painting in it. Preferably, one that has NOTHING AT ALL to do with the theme of the restaurant. Major points.
Second, I liked how this bathroom fused the modern clean look with darker tones. You can see the stainless-and-white theme in the picture, but the top half of that stall was painted, giving the room an extra dimension. The look works well with the raw brick that the painting is hanging on. Not pictured is the sink area, painted the same color as the top half of the stall and with an elegant mirror and very nice stone countertop to tie it all together.
This is one of my favorite bathrooms yet. It’s a perfect compliment to a wonderful restaurant. 4.8 out of 5 flushes.