News / Economy

    Farm-to-Table Concept Distinguishes US Diner Chain

    Farm-to-Table Concept Distinguishes Diner Chaini
    X
    Julie Taboh
    August 08, 2014 8:23 PM
    Diners are a uniquely American-style of restaurant with a distinct look and menu that can be found virtually everywhere across the U.S. They specialize in so-called comfort food: simple, filling and inexpensive. As VOA’s Julie Taboh recently discovered, though, one innovative chef has taken the popular diner concept to a whole new culinary level, with surprising results.

    Diners are a uniquely American-style restaurant with a distinctive look and menu that can be found virtually everywhere across the U.S. Often built to resemble a railroad dining car, clad in shiny stainless steel with large windows, they typically feature padded vinyl seats and an art deco theme. They specialize in so-called comfort food: simple, filling and inexpensive.  

    But an innovative chef has taken the popular diner concept to a whole new culinary level. What sets the Silver Diner apart is its menu, which keeps customers coming back.

    “I like the food. It’s fresh, it’s good,” said 19-year-old Ashley Holt, who was dining with a group of her friends. “I would come here more often especially because it’s a lot healthier."

    “Great atmosphere, quick service and great food!” said Sergeant First Class Norman Bailey, as his uniformed friends at the table nodded in agreement.

    Founders Chef Ype Von Hengst (right and Robert Giaimo during construction of the first Silver Diner in 1989. (Courtesy of Silver Diner)
    Founders Chef Ype Von Hengst (right and Robert Giaimo during construction of the first Silver Diner in 1989. (Courtesy of Silver Diner)

    That great food comes courtesy of Executive Chef Ype Von Hengst, who co-founded the first Silver Diner with his partner Bob Giaimo 25 years ago. The men spent a year visiting diners all across the country to better understand how this classic American eatery had endured for more than a century… and how best to add an individual touch to one of their own.

    “We wanted to create an atmosphere where families wanted to go with their kids and [have] not just a great atmosphere but also better food,” Ype explained.

    One of the most popular breakfast items on the menu: Chorizo sausage, bison, black beans, rice, goat cheese, eggs, guacamole, salsa roja, multi-grain tortillas. (Julia Taboh / VOA)
    One of the most popular breakfast items on the menu: Chorizo sausage, bison, black beans, rice, goat cheese, eggs, guacamole, salsa roja, multi-grain tortillas. (Julia Taboh / VOA)

    Healthier food options

    So they decided to offer healthier versions of traditional diner food, like pancakes, burgers and meatloaf. Their pancakes are made with unbleached flour and the meat is free of antibiotics and hormones… which was good news for customer Nicholas Hurysh, who was there for the pot roast.

    “I had it last week and it was so good I’m doing it again!" he admitted.

    When business slowed during the 2009 recession, Chef Ype took his commitment to good food a step further, by adding more options to their menu. “We started preparing healthier local food, fresh food, vegan, vegetarian; giving people the lifestyle and the options that they want nowadays.”

    Chef Ype and Giaimo have partnered with more than 15 local farms to incorporate even more fresh ingredients into their recipes, with delicious results.

    “It’s my moral obligation that I need to provide a better product for people," he said, "and when I did, surprisingly, and somehow not surprisingly, we noticed that the volume started coming back and over the last three years we have gone up by 30% in customer count, which is phenomenal.”

    One of those customers is 19-year-old Logan Hare, who has a taste for bison, which is on the menu because chef Ype has been able to find it locally.

    “I got bison because I didn’t actually know they had it and I was surprised that they did because bison is so hard to come by sometimes,” Hare said, adding, “And I bet it’s going to be pretty good!”

    Chef Ype with farmer Chris Parker, July 29, 2014. (Julia Taboh/VOA)
    Chef Ype with farmer Chris Parker, July 29, 2014. (Julia Taboh/VOA)

    From farm to table

    On a recent sunny day, Chef Ype helped pick zucchini and yellow squash with Chris Parker at Parker's family farm a short distance from the Waldorf diner. He's been supplying the restaurant with fresh produce for years. They wandered through the green fields, picking through the sun-ripened vegetables as the chef delighted in the abundance of the colorful crops.

    “If we could get all the restaurants in Washington, D.C. to commit to local produce, it would be a great thing for business,” Parker noted.

    That evening, Chef Ype incorporated the produce he had helped pick earlier that day into one of the many non-traditional dishes he serves on his menu; stir-fried pasta primavera.

    Chef Ype Von Hengst greets customers at the Silver Diner in Waldorf, MD. (Julia Taboh / VOA)
    Chef Ype Von Hengst greets customers at the Silver Diner in Waldorf, MD. (Julia Taboh / VOA)

    Not a fad

    “This is not a fad,” said the award-winning chef. “This is here to stay. People are going to want healthier food. They’re going to want better food… If you don't jump on this, you're going to be out of business.”

    Today, Ype and Giaimo own 15 Silver Diners, almost all in the Washington, D.C. area, serving 10,000 customers a week with tasty, nutritious food, and a generous dose of caring on the side.

    “This is my passion,” said Ype. “If you don’t have a passion for what you are doing, you really need to get out of it.”

     

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8998
    JPY
    USD
    103.32
    GBP
    USD
    0.7594
    CAD
    USD
    1.3176
    INR
    USD
    66.954

    Rates may not be current.