Whether you’re after a stack of syrup-glazed pancakes, a boozy milkshake, or a hearty meal of biscuits, gravy and fried chicken, American diners are home to some of the best comfort foods. The first true American diner was opened in 1872 by a man named Walter Scott in Rhode Island. But it took until the 1950s for diner culture to reach its peak, offering late-night, wallet-friendly bites across the United States.
While many old-fashioned diners have since closed down due to the increase of fast food restaurants in the 1970s, independently owned diners can still be found in parts of the US, and new waves of copycat diner-style restaurants have imitated their old-school appearances—tiled-floors, red leather booths and silver metal chairs. If you’re looking to travel back in time to the 1950s, here are the best American diner-style restaurants in Hong Kong that’ll hit you with a healthy dose of nostalgia.
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You might have to hit up one of Sham Shui Po’s many cafes for a quick coffee fix after your meal at Lady Gourmand to avoid the post-meal slump. Opened in the summer of 2021, this delicatessen cafe comes with blue and white-striped booth seating and matching blue diner stools.
The menu is as extensive as a traditional diner’s menu as well, from burgers that are stacked with multiple patties, to a range of flavourful cheese toasties that’ll pair perfectly with their tomato or French onion soup. They also offer snacks such as cheese sticks, deep-fried cheese bites and salads, as well as other mains including full English breakfast, fish and chips, and pasta sets.
Lady Gourmand, G/F, 86 Nam Cheong Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong; facebook.com/theladygourmand
Little Bao is far from your traditional diner but you’ll likely spot some similarities if you study the menu and decor more closely. At the Causeway Bay branch, the classy wooden booths and warm overhead lights resemble take cues from traditional diners, while the silver napkin dispensers add a touch of retro flair at every table. The Central branch is no different, where a row of diner-esque high bar stools greet you the second you walk in.
On the menu, you’ll find elevated diner snacks infused with Asian techniques and flavours such as the Szechuan fried chicken, chicken poppers, and truffle fries. Instead of your regular cheeseburger, they offer an LB Beef Bao, a play on the all-American burger with Angus beef, roasted onion katsuobushi mayo, cheddar, tomato, and shiso leek. Sloppy Joe lovers may like the veggie Sloppy Chan Bao, made with braised shiitake tempeh, truffle mayo, pickled daikon and fried shallot.
Title: Little Bao Diner
Description: With equal amounts sass and swagger, May Chow's second branch of Little Bao is larger than life
Location: Causeway Bay
Cuisines: Cantonese Chinese Modern
No Milkshake No Life
Echoing their restaurant name’s sentiment, No Milkshake No Life has 15 different milkshakes on offer, from a simple Oreo shake, to caramel peanut butter real bacon shake, and even boozy shakes such as the Baileys coffee milkshake. Aside from making killer milkshakes, the restaurant also offers a variety of brunch staples, such as the pancake burger—two slices of pancakes, with two sunny side up eggs, and plenty of bacon layered in between; the mushroom and cheese toastie; and the fan favourite, beef stew tacos.
No Milkshake No Life, Shop A, G/F, 31-37 Hill Road, Shek Tong Tsui, Hong Kong; +852 6471 3339
No Milkshake No Life, Shop G01, G/F, Mei Kwai House, 13 Pak Tin Street, Shek Kip Mei, Hong Kong; +852 9816 3818, facebook.com/nomilkshakenolife
Burger Circus is Hong Kong’s very own all-American diner, down to its imitation of the curved ceilings found in traditional diners. Featuring a burger-shaped neon sign outside, wooden booth seats, and servers smartly dressed in retro diner uniforms (completed with a bowtie), this diner will fix your burger and milkshake craving in minutes. From an American cheeseburger made with Wisconsin cheddar, sliced onions, pickles and housemade Circus sauce; to a Double burger that includes an extra 5-ounce beef patty; or a veggie patty with miso mayonnaise, take your pick at the seven available burger staples on the menu. Add on a side of jalapeno poppers, chilli fries, candy blended milkshake and more.
Burger Circus, 22 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2878 7787, burgercircus.com.hk
A new pet-friendly diner with bright neon lights and colourful retro interiors located in Tseung Kwan O, Route 99 offers more than just food—the diner has also partnered up with Ruff & Fetch, offering on-site pet grooming and spa services as well. Here, you’ll be able to choose to enjoy a big American-inspired meal. Pick from an all-day breakfast set, Philly cheesesteak sandwich, chilli dog, as well as plenty of dessert options such as the chocolate walnut brownie, ice cream sundae, apple pie, and red velvet cake. If you’re bringing a furry friend, they’ll also be able to enjoy miniature burgers and treats too.
Route 99, Shop 19, G/F, Papillons Square, 21 Tong Chun Street, Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong; +852 6929 1990, facebook.com/Route99hk
You can't miss Al's Diner in Soho—with green sofa booths right by the sidewalk, you'll be able to people-watch as you enjoy American-sized portions of your favourite Stateside classics. Try the meatloaf and pair it with a side of creamed spinach, or the chicken parmesan with creamed corn for a genuinely satisfying meal.
Al's Diner, Shop A&B, G/F, 9-13 Shelley Street, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2521 8714, instagram.com/alsdiner_hk
Boldly claiming to be Hong Kong’s “first truly authentic American diner”, The Diner has been a neighbourhood favourite in Central for years. While the restaurant will be moving to a brand new location on Wyndham Street in early December, the all-American dishes and portion sizes will remain. The famous Skirt Burger is a must-order if you like a challenge—with a dramatic grilled cheese “skirt” replacing a regular slice of cheese, you’ll be struggling to finish the burger in one sitting. Other dishes include the breakfast burrito, spicy corn soup, buffalo wings, hot dogs, healthy bowls and more.
The Diner, G/F, 48 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, thediner.com.hk
Editor's note: The new restaurant will open late November to early December. Please refer to The Diner's website for the latest announcement.