Hackensack: an American diner experience in Manila

Hackensack: an American diner experience in Manila

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Hackensack looks and feels like someone plucked it off an American highway and placed it right smack in the middle of one of the metro’s busiest cities. This new diner, which aims to offer a classic 50s experience, is home to affordable and delicious burgers that pay tribute to the classic American diner.

Located at the former food park, Devour Food Hub, Hackensack’s retro green and pink neon sign is one of the first things that will greet you right when getting into the compound. The inviting exterior mimics that of a classic US roadside diner with its floor-to-ceiling windows encased in metal frames.

Stepping inside, you’ll find that Hackensack is absent of the cliched ideas of a usual diner, such as checkerboard floors and red leather seats. You’re, instead, greeted with a light, airy, more modern design that is still very reminiscent of a classic diner. It’s littered with memorabilia and design elements from that era as well.

A wall at one end of the restaurant shows off old food and oil cans that imported straight from the US. They have the classic stools and bar setup as well as a moderate amount of seating for large and small groups. They even have a modern record player tucked in the back that can play either vinyl or music from a phone.

Hackensack Manila

It’s obvious that a lot of effort was put into making sure their elements stay faithful to the American design, even going as far as importing their glasses and plates straight from US diner suppliers. Chatting with Hackensack owner, Patrick Dy, he mentions that Hackensack’s design leans more towards the classic east-coast diner versus the more common and exaggerated diners of LA.

Patrick Dy actually already has a history in burgers having created and operated the Slammers burger kiosk for many years now. Through Slammers, they were able to develop and produce their own recipe for potato burger buns which then inspired them to create their own restaurant.

The name of the restaurant, Hackensack, is actually a town in New Jersey, one of the states where the first American diners popped up. New Jersey has long been associated with slider burgers which gave Patrick the inspiration for the name. He said that his vision for the restaurant is to offer “old school, no-frills, quality comfort food that keeps you coming back” and, boy, did they deliver.

The menu is, as Patrick puts it, no-frills. You’re not bombarded with a copious amount of choices but instead keeps it simple and basic; burgers, fries, chicken, hotdogs, and shakes. If you’re into customizing, they also offer some extras like bacon and extra cheese sauce. And, of course, they’re able to cater to the Filipino palette by offering just a handful of rice meals.

Starting off with the most obvious, the burgers. Hackensack offers you two kinds of Angus beef burgers: onion-steamed and smashed and they cook it right up in front in a glass-encased flat-top grill station so you can watch your burgers being made. The 50s Hamburger and Cheeseburger are the items that adopt the onion-steamed method of cooking.

A handful of onion slices are placed on top of the patty, flipped, then steamed until fully cooked. Not only does this prevent the patties from burning, but it also allows the onion’s flavor to fully fuse into the patty. This also produces less grease for a “healthier” burger.

This style of cooking is actually how they really did it back in the day so taking a bite from Hackensack’s 50s Hamburger is almost like taking a bite from the 50s.

The burgers were less greasy than your average burger and the taste of the meat and onions are very pronounced. Partnered with pickles, cheese, and those good ol’ potato buns, your first bite will easily turn into a second, then third, then, before you know it, it’s gone.

The smashed burger is another classic cooking method to bring out the meatiness of the burger. It’s a bit more tedious compared to how the majority of burgers are cooked and does produce a thinner patty. Although, that patty is guaranteed to be packed with flavor.

By smashing the meat, you’re given a wonderful and tasty crust on the outside which, not only keeps the juices in but also maximizes the browning of the meat as it cooks. Get Hackensack’s Deluxe Cheeseburger if you want to test this out. It comes in a single or double patty, just like the 50s burger, and is loaded with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and onions.

What’s a burger without fries? Hackensack offers regular fries but we do highly suggest you get the Waffle Fries. The coating is delicious and quite reminiscent of a certain popular, curly fry but gives off a much more satisfying crunch with every bite. It pairs perfectly with their burgers and if you’re extra hungry, they also have really good chicken wings that come in either Buffalo or Honey Garlic.

To complete the experience, pair your burgers and fries with a classic milkshake or rootbeer float. Nothing fancy here, just familiar flavors full of milk and ice cream goodness. Yum! Their float uses the A&W-brand rootbeer to give you that classic American flavor. You even get to pour it over the ice cream yourself so you can see the magic happen right in front of you!

And while burgers may seem like the highlight for this diner, they also serve up a really good (really big) hotdog. Don’t order this if you’re going for something light because it’s a 6-foot hotdog sandwich loaded with saurkraut and pickles on the side. For a non-beef option, you can opt for their Southern Chicken Burger.

Patrick says that people often overlook this item and lean mostly towards the burgers but he regards it as one of his favorites on the menu and one of the items they really took time to develop. You’re presented with a sizeable chicken fillet that’s fried with a delicious, crispy coating. Juicy with a hint of sweetness, it’s sandwiched between vegetables, a blanket of cheese, and that homemade fluffy, milky potato bun.

Lastly, we were able to try their classic, homemade apple pie for dessert. Each bite was packed with lovely, caramelized apples mixed with just the right amount of crumble and cinnamon. The ice cream on top gives it that sweet kick since this apple pie was purposely made with less sugar so it melds perfectly with the ice cream. Get yourself a hot cup of coffee and you have another perfect combination.

Hackensack really lives up to its motto, “Quality is our story” by offering high-quality dishes that are reasonably priced. With comfort food that makes you sigh with contentment at every bite, it’s easily a contender to become your go-to neighborhood restaurant. Their limited menu just means that each item was carefully thought out and developed. Hackensack, with its well-intentioned design and high-quality food, is a definite must-try for a true classic 50s diner experience.

Hackensack 1950s Hamburger

E Rodriguez Sr. Ave, New Manila, Quezon City, Metro Manila