Since the late 1980s, Silver Diner has attempted to amplify the nostalgia of classic 1950s American diners. The execution of that nostalgic feel is a little cheesy if not unsuccessful – the setting, a mix of vintage furniture and modern customers, feels like a mix of Lou’s Cafe and Cafe 80s from the Back to the Future franchise.
But the restaurant’s menu is diverse, the food is great and the service, especially at the Merrifield location, is good. The regionally-based franchise, with locations in New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, overhauled their menu last year to include more than 25 vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free items as part of their new “flexatarian” menu.
This is easily one of the biggest efforts of any chain restaurant to accommodate diners with nontraditional diets and shows that Silver Diner is in tune with current trends in dining. They’ve also caught up to the trend of many smaller urban restaurants using locally grown ingredients by advertising their use of local and regional farmers on their menus.
Silver Diner’s menu is so expansive that it can be overwhelming at first, but their immense selection ensures something to eat for everyone. And the franchise’s co-founder and executive chef Ype Von Hengst creates a seasonal menu, so there is always room to vary the menu to experiment with new offerings.
The All Day Breakfast menu features some unique selections and has several gluten-free and vegetarian options, though there aren’t any for vegans. Their Quinoa Coconut Pancakes ($11.49), for example, are something you might expect from a gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn, not a chain restaurant. But lo and behold, the Quinoa Coconut Pancakes, which come topped with blueberries, pecans, grilled bananas, strawberries and cinnamon sour cream, are served with agave at Silver Diner.
The franchise hasn’t left behind the standards in their drive to offer unique menu items. For anyone looking to keep it simple but substantial, the American Favorite ($7.99) – with farm fresh Amish eggs, home fries, a choice of meat and a biscuit – is hearty and tasty.
Silver Diner has several options for vegans on their dinner menu. The Teriyaki Glazed Portabellas ($12.99) are hearty, savory, sweet and have a kick of spice from the chipotle-seasoned farro that serves as the bed of the dish. Another dish featuring portabella mushrooms, the Portabella Pesto Veggie Pasta ($12.99) was a little bland, but was substantial and tasted good with a little salt.
But the Roasted Veggie Ciabatta ($10.99) is the vegan dish on Silver Diner’s menu that most easily hits the spot. The roasted brussels sprouts, cremini mushrooms, arugula and asparagus give the sandwich a earthy, hearty taste and the red peppers and pesto sauce make it savory and sweet. Silver Diner even has desserts for vegans – the Chai Tea Soy Latte and Seasonal Berry and Ginger Shake, both $6.99, could be a great finish to a meal. The Chai Tea Soy Latte is better, though. Other vegan menu items include the Veggie Chili ($5.99), Southwest Quinoa ($2.99) and Edamame Beans ($2.99).
A promising new offering for meat-eaters is the Spinach Feta Lamb Burger ($12.99), which comes tzatziki sauce, spinach, grilled cremini mushrooms, feta, rocket greens, tomato and red onions. This re-imagining of a traditionally Mediterranean dish is one of many signs that Silver Diner intends on competing with an increasingly diverse dining industry.
Silver Diner • 8150 Porter Rd., Falls Church • 703-204-0812 • silverdiner.com
Sun. – Thur.: 6:30 a.m. – 12 a.m.; Fri. – Sat. : 6:30 a.m. – 2 a.m.