S&L’s Diner is Hanoi’s very own American-style diner, and is on a mission to spread the word about chef-inspired American comfort food.
As soon as you step inside S&L’s, you are no longer in Hanoi. American tunes are in the air, licence plates from various American states hang from the walls and swathes of red and white dominate the interior.
It’s got a very cool, retro all-American vibe, thanks to founders Steven Kaczerski and Loan Vu, a young couple who met in college back in Pennsylvania.
My first impression, when I have to ask if the place is open due to my not being noticed or greeted, is quickly forgiven, thanks to the waitress handing me a note with the WiFi password, without me even asking; how very 2017.
Service throughout the meal is friendly and attentive, so I’m putting the initial hiccup down to me arriving in the twilight period between breakfast and lunch service.
Plus Size Menus
The menus are both new in terms of size and quality, and include a few new dishes such as New York strip steak, grilled pumpkin and walnut salad and blueberry pancakes.
As I browse the giant menu, my drink arrives; a soda float (VND65,000) consisting of coke and a scoop of vanilla ice cream; it elicits a child-like excitement.
Even though every sip pushes me closer to diabetes, I couldn’t care less; it’s sweet, sinful and spectacular.
Plus Size Appetite
The first word which comes to my naïve mind when thinking of American cuisine is “big”.
The waitress tells me the VND210,000 party platter appetiser I order serves two to three people. I assure her it’s not a problem.
The loaded potato skins could do with a little less potato, and a lot more “loaded”. The several sizeable onion rings are great for dipping, and are crispy without being at all greasy.
The mozzarella wedges, which are literally just huge triangles of deep-fried mozzarella cheese, are amazing when paired with the marinara sauce dip. The party platter highlight, however, is the chicken wings. I opt for the honey mustard sauce option, which is sticky, sweet and doesn’t overwhelm the taste of chicken.
The Best Regret
When my main course arrives, the VND135,000 chili cheese dog, I’m not full, but also not hungry.
However, the combination of melted cheddar on top of flavourful beef chili is too good to deny, and it disappears in moments. The crusty bread is soft inside, and hosts a frankfurter-like sausage, thick and full of smoky goodness.
My only complaint would be that the fries taste like frozen oven chips; they are saved by excellent table condiments, and go down well after a dousing of Sriracha chili sauce.
As I walk towards the door, a fully satisfied customer, I look down at the food another table just received and suddenly feel a deep regret; I should have had the ribs. Next time.
S&L’s Diner is located at 22 Bao Khanh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. Open daily from 9am until midnight. For more information, call (024) 3710 0529 or visit https://facebook.com/sldiner
Photos by Julie Vola