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Silver Diner, a Rockville-Based Diner-Car Concept with Locations in MD, VA, and NJ


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Maybe someone can help here, but when exactly did they transform themselves from a so-so retro diner concept to the fresh food, locally sourced, with interesting menu preparations from Chef Ype, who appears to be a co-founder? I don't think that the "fresh local" concept was there from the beginning, or was it? 

I ask because it's obviously a few rungs up the ladder of quality, and not a bad idea at all for local chains that appear to be doing well in and throughout our own metropolitan area as well as the greater Mid-Atlantic region.

 

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2 hours ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

Maybe someone can help here, but when exactly did they transform themselves from a so-so retro diner concept to the fresh food, locally sourced, with interesting menu preparations from Chef Ype, who appears to be a co-founder? I don't think that the "fresh local" concept was there from the beginning, or was it? 

I ask because it's obviously a few rungs up the ladder of quality, and not a bad idea at all for local chains that appear to be doing well in and throughout our own metropolitan area as well as the greater Mid-Atlantic region.

I can't give you the exact date, but it was sometime in the last few years.  

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I googled: they announced it on their website on May 4, 2010, so 6 years ago.  I didn't realize that it had been that long.  I do remember a few years ago MrB came home from a business lunch and I asked him where they'd had lunch and he said, "Silver Diner."  I said, "Why on earth would you go there?"  He replied that they had completely revamped their menu and it was wholesome, organic, and local.  I rolled my eyes, but turns out, it was true.

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17 minutes ago, LauraB said:

I googled: they announced it on their website on May 4, 2010, so 6 years ago.  I didn't realize that it had been that long.  I do remember a few years ago MrB came home from a business lunch and I asked him where they'd had lunch and he said, "Silver Diner."  I said, "Why on earth would you go there?"  He replied that they had completely revamped their menu and it was wholesome, organic, and local.  I rolled my eyes, but turns out, it was true.

No, you rolled your eyes correctly: When Silver Diner first made this conversion, I couldn't tell any difference except what I was reading on the menu, and after having dinner in Clarendon, I figured it was a total marketing shtick, but revamps like this - especially with chains - can take years to coalesce into something respectable, and more often than not, they don't - if this has indeed worked out (and the last time I ate at Silver Diner was in Woodbridge for breakfast a few years ago, which was perfectly fine), Silver Diner is the exception and not the rule. 

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It did indeed work out, at least at my former location. The menu included information on sourcing, carried local beers and wines, etc. Obviously there are limitations for a larger business trying to do a sort of farm to table thing, but I think they did it successfully within those limitations. Which is why I'm so disppointed my location closed. 

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Stopped in the Silver Diner in Springfield today for lunch.  The place was busy, service was friendly and efficient.  I got the lamb-spinach-feta burger.  It comes with a side Greek salad (too heavy on the dressing) rather than fries.  The burger itself I ended up eating with a knife and fork, as the bottom half of the bun was incomplete and then completely soaked through with juices, so impossible to use as a hand-held.  A shame; it looked like a nice toasty brioche bun.  The burger itself was cooked to medium as requested, and plenty of arugula on it but no spinach, and just a smattering of feta, although there was plenty of feta on the salad.  It was also covered in griddled onions, which were delicious but pretty much drowned out much of the rest of the flavors of the burger.  Oh, and also one anemic tomato slice which I pushed off to the side, and there were some pickle chips I could add if I wished.  $13, which seemed a fair enough price.

Oh, and Chef Ype, the executive chef for the chain, will be competing on Chopped on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

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On 4/22/2011 at 1:45 PM, Kibbee Nayee said:

Surprising fact -- the breakfast go-to places for meetings involving the IT community are the Silver Diners in Herndon and Tysons Corner. I am personally aware of billions of dollars of IT deals being consummated over coffee and omelets at these two restaurants. I am not aware of any other restaurants in the entire DC metropolitan area where that magnitude of business is done.

I haven't been to a breakfast business meeting in probably 15 years. Let alone have had breakfast at Silver Diner in a very long time, but I had one of those meetings at S D this past week, albeit in Clarendon.  I thought it great on the food front and very accommodating on the meeting needs with ample space and privacy.

Quite enjoyed the breakfast I had and rather enjoyed the coffee.  It does a solid ample meal with what I considered quality items that I thought shown through ( had the huevos bison spicy breakfast).

if they are doing the same thing across the board at their many locations then bravo. Quite a big step up from what I recall

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On 2/11/2017 at 3:54 PM, weezy said:

Oh, and Chef Ype, the executive chef for the chain, will be competing on Chopped on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

I think we are past "spoiler" territory. Chef Ype kicked butt. The episode featured four "Diner" chefs, but in fairness, when I saw the other three cheftestants, I predicted he would win easily since the others all ran their own little eateries while he is the head chef for a growing, polished chain of diners that happens to serve good food (some of which is pretty adventurous). He didn't let me down.

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24 minutes ago, Bob Wells said:

I think we are past "spoiler" territory. Chef Ype kicked butt. The episode featured four "Diner" chefs, but in fairness, when I saw the other three cheftestants, I predicted he would win easily since the others all ran their own little eateries while he is the head chef for a growing, polished chain of diners that happens to serve good food (some of which is pretty adventurous). He didn't let me down.

Yep.  Got into the ice cream machine is less than four minutes, I think, on the dessert round.  A record!

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On 9/16/2017 at 5:51 PM, DaveO said:

I haven't been to a breakfast business meeting in probably 15 years. Let alone have had breakfast at Silver Diner in a very long time, but I had one of those meetings at S D this past week, albeit in Clarendon.  I thought it great on the food front and very accommodating on the meeting needs with ample space and privacy.

Quite enjoyed the breakfast I had and rather enjoyed the coffee.  It does a solid ample meal with what I considered quality items that I thought shown through ( had the huevos bison spicy breakfast).

if they are doing the same thing across the board at their many locations then bravo. Quite a big step up from what I recall

I sort of can't describe how good that breakfast was and how it snuck up on me.  Having not been to SD in a very long time, and  not being familiar with the updated modernized menu with local fresh ingredients and more stylish items, I was completely unprepared.  On top of that I had always treated meal meetings of this type wherein we are trying to accomplish something as 90-95% business and a little bit food.

In the course of the meal it hit me hard:   This is good.  Its not good its really great.  It was the bison huevos rancheros.  What stood out was the minced bison somewhat spiced but tremendously tasty in a minced meaty way I haven't had in a long time.  Trying to pin it down I note something the great Zora wrote a while back about the bison at Silver Diner:

Quote

I ordered bison sliders-- the meat was advertised to be coming from Monkton, MD. Two were on the plate, served on whole grain rolls that were chewy and dense, but definitely held up to the meat, pepper jack and guacamole inside. The patties were 3/4" thick, medium rare and with a generous percentage of fat, making them juicy, with a bit of that greasy mouthfeel you get from a Ray's Hellburger. The flavor was deeply beefy with an edge of funk that I've come to expect from grass-fed meat.

Yes, a cut and treatment of the meat that is reminiscent of the formerly great hellburgers at their best.  That description does it justice. 

So now I'll return.  The modernized updated, locally fresh Silver Diner now offers drinks, Mimosas, etc.  Nice place to brunch with the "Bitches who Brunch" in my book, if not particularly stylish or faddish as many of their other choices.   But a terrific dish none the less.

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Going into new building at 750 B. Glebe Rd.

"Current plans are to operate both Ballston and Clarendon, although [Silver Diner founder Bob] Giaimo has acknowledged in the past that site where the Clarendon Silver Diner sits at 3200 Wilson Blvd., would likely be the subject of redevelopment at some point, putting the diner’s future there in flux."

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Had dinner at the Merrifield location last night and had the harissa mint roasted cauliflower and balsamic glazed winter veggies.  Also shared an order of their other roasted cauliflower dish that has almonds and pomegranite seeds and goat cheese.  Both were very tasty dishes, well executed with a nice roasty flavor and very bright and pleasing to the eye.  Service was good, attentive but not intrusive.  I really like their revamped menu and the care they take with their vegetable-centric dishes.

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23 minutes ago, silentbob said:

Do any of the Silver Diner locations stand out as particularly good, or is my family fine going the one in Rockville?  Last time I went was 25 years ago, the night of our HS graduation.  Recent reports in this thread are a revelation!

I had to go support my daughter's school at the Merrifield SD.  I hated it.  I wouldn't go to any SD unless I was forced to.

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I only go to the Clarendon location which is fine.  Things to look out for:

  1. If you go to breakfast too early, you will get stuck with sausage and bacon from the day before because they are trying to use it up before cooking fresh versions.   Re-sauteed or refried.  Nasty.
  2. Sometimes when your burger arrives, it is only lukewarm because it has been sitting on the counter for a while.  I always ask the server when I order to get it to me as soon as it is done.
  3. This is true everywhere not just at SD:  nobody knows how to fry an egg that is between over medium and over hard.  It always ends up too runny.  I've asked for medium hard or medium well or described it as in between medium and well but to no avail.
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A few points I may have raised previously....

  • The Herndon and the Tysons Silver Diner locations have been the venue for billions of dollars of local information technology deals. Whether it's teaming on federal contracting, investing in start-ups, or negotiating mergers and acquisitions, the Herndon and Tysons restaurants have been the epicenter for these arrangements.
  • I have been all over the spectrum of poor experiences (mold on my sandwich bread in Springfield) to blow-me-away good experiences (a perfect hamsteak and eggs in Woodbridge, or an incredible Local Leidy's pork chop and cabbage and mashed potatoes in Rockville).
  • The original Silver Diner in Rockville grosses some $6 million a year.
  • It's 1:30am and you're starving....Silver Diner is one of your very few options.
  • If you ever set foot in Mel's Drive In on Mission St. in San Francisco, you'll immediately see that Silver Diner was copied from Mel's.
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On 4/22/2011 at 12:21 PM, zoramargolis said:

 The patties were 3/4" thick, medium rare and with a generous percentage of fat, making them juicy, with a bit of that greasy mouthfeel you get from a Ray's Hellburger. The flavor was deeply beefy with an edge of funk that I've come to expect from grass-fed beefB)

Had the bison huevos rancheros again.  Still an excellent dish.  The meat component has the flavor and tastes as @zoramargolis described the bison some years ago.  Meaty juicy a little fatty and nicely spiced. I have a thing for that bison

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I find it interesting that Silver Diner departed their Laurel, MD location (since converted to a Double T diner) and then opened one up the road in Columbia just off of the 95/175 exit. It's a great location for travel traffic and I often joked with my wife that Jessup (on the other side of said interchange) would be a great location for a Waffle House (which has never materialized - there is a diner over there somewhere called Frank's diner - no idea if it is any good)...

I guess they think they'll make a lot more money at this new location than maintaining the Laurel location (they are probably right).

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6 hours ago, Pool Boy said:

I find it interesting that Silver Diner departed their Laurel, MD location (since converted to a Double T diner) and then opened one up the road in Columbia just off of the 95/175 exit. It's a great location for travel traffic and I often joked with my wife that Jessup (on the other side of said interchange) would be a great location for a Waffle House (which has never materialized - there is a diner over there somewhere called Frank's diner - no idea if it is any good)...

I guess they think they'll make a lot more money at this new location than maintaining the Laurel location (they are probably right).

I read last year that Silver Diner was attempting to move up market, whatever that means in the diner world.

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14 hours ago, Count Bobulescu said:

I read last year that Silver Diner was attempting to move up market, whatever that means in the diner world.

Well in the real world Laurel to Columbia is definitely an up-market move (as is Jessup to Columbia, of course). 😂

Having said that, some of my favorite diners -- the Modern Diner in Pawtucket RI, the Palace Diner in Biddeford ME -- are in far-from-upmarket locales, but the food is outstanding, and with the internet, up-market people will go anywhere for up-market food. 😂

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12 hours ago, Count Bobulescu said:

I read last year that Silver Diner was attempting to move up market, whatever that means in the diner world.

Silver Diner is lame - it has been on the cutting edge of marketing BS since 2010:

On 11/17/2010 at 6:02 PM, Toogs said:

They recently sent out coupons and a flyer talking about their new commitment to local agriculture, which I think is great.

Do they still have mozzarella sticks wrapped in egg roll wrappers? That was a favorite when I was a teenager

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I'm not going to speak to the entire menu but the bison huevos rancheros has been one of my favorite brunchy breakfast dishes in the region.  It is meaty, beefy, gritty in a beefy way, spicy and a little greasy all in one.  A very tasty dish.   It would delight diners in any restaurant.  

Aside from Silver Diner there are some restaurants or restaurant groups that independent of the kitchen put a separate staff into marketing.  If it works more power to them.  If it works with a superb kitchen, more power to them.  If it works with a mediocre kitchen more power to them on the business side, and feel free to call them out on the kitchen side.

That particular dish is quite excellent.   The coffee they put out with it is okay: I like the feel of the cups;  the OJ is fresh and tasty.  Other than that nothing else at Silver Diner sticks out for me, though I don't find anything horrible. 

On a separate note, as @Kibbee Nayee noted in a different post, several of the SD locations have been the focus of endless early morning business breakfast meals.   They are perfect for that:  comfortable seating, privacy within the booths ample room on the tables, and a solid variety of choices for breakfast.  That is a combination of their marketing, choice of locations, build out and anything else they did to establish that element of their business that has thrived for decades//really decades.  On another tangent I recall some business meals where whatever I was eating was particularly noteworthy, though the purpose of the meal limited my enjoyment or expression of the quality of the  food.

Lastly as long as I'm rambling, Don, you wrote about a breakfast restaurant in Indianapolis I believed.  It sounded exquisite.  I went to their menu and it seemed remarkably special, wherein breakfasts (and lunches) were given remarkable care with both ingredients and the dish.  I can't think of any restaurants like that in this city or suburbs nor have I chanced upon a place like that elsewhere.  How many places are there like that?  I thought it a remarkable find.

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3 minutes ago, DaveO said:

I'm not going to speak to the entire menu but the bison huevos rancheros has been one of my favorite brunchy breakfast dishes in the region.  It is meaty, beefy, gritty in a beefy way, spicy and a little greasy all in one.  A very tasty dish.   It would delight diners in any restaurant.  

...

Lastly as long as I'm rambling, Don, you wrote about a breakfast restaurant in Indianapolis I believed.  It sounded exquisite.  I went to their menu and it seemed remarkably special, wherein breakfasts (and lunches) were given remarkable care with both ingredients and the dish.  I can't think of any restaurants like that in this city or suburbs nor have I chanced upon a place like that elsewhere.  How many places are there like that?  I thought it a remarkable find.

Yes, breakfast is the biggest strength at Silver Diner, without question.

That place in Indianapolis is Milktooth - I didn't have anything *that* extraordinary, but it was the type of place that makes you want to come back, again and again.

(Speaking of "again and again," there's nothing quite like Fremont Diner in Sonoma - even though I've had a couple less-than-stellar meals here, it's the kind of place that calls out to you. The breakfasts here are just, plain fun (it was also my rude introduction to Nashville Hot Chicken).

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14 hours ago, Count Bobulescu said:

there is a diner over there somewhere called Frank's diner - no idea if it is any good)

In case anyone looks for it- Frank's closed last year. I never went but it was popular with some people I know around here and the truckers passing through.

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23 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Yes, breakfast is the biggest strength at Silver Diner, without question.

That place in Indianapolis is Milktooth - I didn't have anything *that* extraordinary, but it was the type of place that makes you want to come back, again and again.

(Speaking of "again and again," there's nothing quite like Fremont Diner in Sonoma - even though I've had a couple less-than-stellar meals here, it's the kind of place that calls out to you. The breakfasts here are just, plain fun (it was also my rude introduction to Nashville Hot Chicken).

The review for Milktooth was intriguing and inviting.  The menu looks excellent.  How the hell did a place with so much care and focus on breakfast end up in Indianapolis?  (j/k--good for the locals and the smart visitors).    If I could have afforded the time, I'd dine in luxury with appropriate alcohol in the mornings and nap during the afternoon.   Life, unfortunately never provided me the opportunity.   I should have lived in an area where siestas are the norm.

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12 minutes ago, DaveO said:

The review for Milktooth was intriguing and inviting.  The menu looks excellent.  How the hell did a place with so much care and focus on breakfast end up in Indianapolis?  (j/k--good for the locals and the smart visitors).    If I could have afforded the time, I'd dine in luxury with appropriate alcohol in the mornings and nap during the afternoon.   Life, unfortunately never provided me the opportunity.   I should have lived in an area where siestas are the norm.

Indianapolis is in the protean stages of developing a hipster subpopulation, but it's a very small subset. Still, there's an amazing pizzeria north of town called Pizzology - keep that in your back pocket if you ever go.

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8 hours ago, DaveO said:

Regardless of what anyone at this forum or any review writer on any website might say, the evidence is that a probable future World Series Star busts out a huge smile at the Clarendon Silver Diner.  That is good enough for me

I suspect that's what they're banking on.

Apr 2, 2019 - "Bryce Harper Loves Silver Diner. Silver Diner Knows" by Jacob Bogage on washingtonpost.com

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