Decades-old institution Silver Diner boasts 19 area locations, but the first in D.C. proper finally opens this week. On Wednesday, October 5, the family-friendly chain debuts a shiny new outpost right across from Nationals Park.
D.C.’s inaugural Silver Diner is a tale of two levels (1250 Half Street SE). The downstairs portion feels familiar, with an old-school aesthetic and menu that marries classic American road trip food with contemporary trends of farm-sourcing and flexitarian cooking. Silver Social upstairs represents the brand’s first bonafide bar. The 21-and-up space targets millennial and game-day crowds with small plates, booze, and bottomless brunch. The 121-seat perch trails its downstairs counterpart by a few weeks, opening Wednesday, October 26.
Silver Diner’s catch-all menu includes omelets and pancakes to sandwiches, salads, burgers, and entrees. Dishes are a little more refined than a typical greasy spoon, highlighting local products while catering to dietary restrictions with lots of gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options. Quinoa coconut pancakes are piled with fresh fruit and agave; meatloaf is made from local black Angus beef; and dairy-free shakes like Mocha Cold Brew and Minty Grasshopper. The downstairs Silver Diner offers a 139-seat interior and 82-seat patio, with a slightly pared-down version of the chain’s usual lengthy lineup.
Weekday “blueplate” specials include $8.99 breakfast until 11 a.m. with complimentary coffee and juice and $10.99 lunch combos featuring a half sandwich and soup or side salad. A few doors down, glam American diner The Gatsby already dedicates every day of the week to a different “Blue Plate” special since opening in spring 2021. On the same day Silver Diner debuts, Gatsby plans to add a competitive edge by releasing all its specials daily — from fried chicken to braised brisket — with discounts until 6 p.m. (and starting at 11:30 a.m. this Wednesday only).
Silver Social plans to lean into its fast-paced nightlife neighborhood. Items across the menu, from bar bites to mini entrees, are meant to be shared among groups. Executive chef and Chopped winner Ype Von Hengst likens the approach to “an American way of eating tapas.”
The daily menu features scallops with pea and goat cheese risotto, tenderloin medallions with wild mushrooms, and a variety of flatbreads and sliders. Brunch offers churro French toast, a meat-free ranchero hash with a vegan egg substitute, breakfast flatbreads, and sides like latkes and maple bacon, along with classic brunch drinks like bellinis, mimosas, and bloody marys.
The bar menu upstairs includes a substantial wine, beer, and cocktail list. Beverage manager Richard Torres sends out twists on classics like a “Maui Mule” and “Old Fashioned Cherry Cigar,” alongside drinks highlighting local distillers. “DC Reviver” mixes Green Hat citrus gin with absinthe and orange liqueur, while a fruity “Strawberry Limoncello Spritz’’ loops in Seven 16 vodka.
Founded in 1989, the Rockville-based company has exploded with locations across Maryland, Virginia, and one in New Jersey. Although D.C. doesn’t have a Silver Diner until now, the company operates Silver — its upscale, brasserie-style spinoff — in upper Northwest’s Cathedral Heights neighborhood.
At least two more Silver Diners are expected to open next year, including one in Chantilly, Virginia and another at Maryland’s National Harbor that’s currently under construction. Baltimore’s White Marsh community will get its own Silver Diner in 2024. For now, the brand continues to focus on expanding close to its origins.
“We’re locally based and we want to be able to get in a car and get to one of our stores within two hours,” says vice president of real estate Mark Russell.
Silver Diner is open 7 a.m. to midnight on Sunday through Thursday, and 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Silver Social will operate from 4 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday; and 8 a.m. to midnight Sunday.
—Tierney Plumb contributed to this report