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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8812
    JPY
    USD
    112.18
    GBP
    USD
    0.6939
    CAD
    USD
    1.3961
    INR
    USD
    68.436

    Rates may not be current.