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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7718
JPY
USD
107.32
GBP
USD
0.6125
CAD
USD
1.0974
INR
USD
60.919

Rates may not be current.