The 29 Diner has been around for over 60 years, but its latest incarnation is not even a month old. The longtime City of Fairfax joint, which first opened in 1947, closed in May of this year before an ownership change and new management reopened the historic spot on Lee Highway in September.
While the restaurant looks pretty much the same from the street, the inside received a thorough scrubbing plus a new coat of paint, tables, countertops and a fresh polish on the chrome. You won’t mistake it for 1955 Hill Valley, but the neon signs, golden oldies over the speakers and “retro” soda display give it an old timey vibe without being too kitschy.
Like any diner worth its salt, breakfast is served all day (and night) here. There’s the usual morning staples like omelettes, pancakes, waffles and hash, but there’s an unexpected trio of breakfast sandwiches, too. Egg and cheese on toast won’t raise any eyebrows but put that egg and cheese between a pair of waffles, and now you’ve got something special. The heartiest of the bunch, though, is the breakfast burger which tops a cooked-to-order, fresh beef patty with bacon, fried egg and a blanket of sausage gravy. Served along with an order of fries, if you’re looking to stay satiated through lunch and beyond, this is the way to do it.
That’s about as extreme as the menu gets, though, as the rest of the food lineup is standard and no-frills fare. There’s a small lineup of sandwiches and burgers, the highlight being the 29 Club served on toast with turkey, ham, bacon and American cheese and a country fried steak burger covered in sausage gravy. And, of course, there’s the classics: meatloaf and chicken fried steak with, yup, even more of that sausage gravy. (The gravy train doesn’t end there – you can also get a basket of fries covered in the stuff).
In true diner fashion, desserts are a big part of the scene with ice cream and pies as main attractions. Slices of apple, blueberry and cherry are all served a la mode plus there’s a selection of cakes, sundaes, floats and milkshakes.
Service can only be described as exceptional, with an almost too-good-to-be-true friendly and attentive wait staff that was quick to take our orders and keep our glasses full. It helps that the place is small – there’s just six tables in total with another 20 seats available at the counter – so servers could never wander too far off.
Prices are decent, with most dishes between $5 and $10, but still somehow not as cheap as you might expect from a place like this. You’ll spend more at Silver Diner but IHOP would give it a run for its money.
And last but not least, with the new ownership, 29 Diner is back to a 24-hour operation. The restaurant is closed on Mondays but opens for all-day and all-night service through the week starting at 6 a.m. every Tuesday morning.
29 Diner | 10536 Fairfax Boulevard | Fairfax | 703-352-0029 | 29diner.com