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

Russia's 'V-Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

Critics say Soviet-style display of power, nationalism don't recognize tragic scars of warfare that still influence politics, fighting in Ukraine More

Tensions Simmer in Hong Kong in Lead Up to Vote

Many Hong Kong citizen say if the reform plan will be a step back for the pro-democracy movement if passed More

Multimedia Obama Calls for New Commitment to Help Minority Youths Succeed

President introduces My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, foundation supporting better education and job prospects More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalistsi
X
May 04, 2015 3:32 PM
Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8967
JPY
USD
120.22
GBP
USD
0.6616
CAD
USD
1.2116
INR
USD
63.662

Rates may not be current.