Last year, Silver Diner’s Executive Chef Ype Von Hengst completely revamped the Silver Diner menu with significant changes that had not occurred in ten years. More than 25 percent of the menu was changed. This year, as the much-loved iconic chain marks its 30th anniversary, Von Hengst has made more radical changes with 12 vegan, plant-based entrees on the menu. New items include everything from Tofu Banh Mi (non-GMO tofu glazed with sambal agave, banh mi slaw, vegan mayo, on ciabatta); a cauliflower sandwich; Tofu & Lentils; to Beyond Meatballs “mac” n cheese (smoky tempeh “bacon,” house-roasted tomatoes over cauliflower with vegan cheese sauce); and more.
With homage to its diner roots and the popular diner items on the menu, Von Hengst oversaw a customer contest that asked customers if there were classics they wanted to see back on the menu. The response was huge and Von Hengst brought back these five dishes by customer request: fried shrimp appetizer and entrée; chicken parmesan; pesto burger; and watermelon salad.
Silver Diner may be the only restaurant of its size in the country where the executive chef develops a highly creative menu but then tests it out with customers, refines and retests until customers confirm the items belong on the menu.
“While we have the usual classic diner items—burgers, shakes, pancakes and more; we also have a growing number of calorie-conscious and healthy plant-based items,” explained Von Hengst. “For us, it’s all about choice and it’s all part of our work at reinventing the American diner.”
The company has taken chances during its 30 years in keeping ahead of industry trends and listening to customer input. The restaurant feeds more than 75,000 customers a week so keeping up-to-date with food trends and sourcing locally, something traditional suppliers did not think they could accomplish with such high volume, is a major fete. “Sourcing locally was initially a big challenge,” stated Von Hengst. “But we never gave up. We continued to look for ways to make it work and it has.”
The commitment is not only on the main menu but on Silver Diner’s kids’ menu as well. Silver Diner has won numerous awards its healthy kids’ menu. Child Obesity 180 and Tufts University ran a study on children’s eating trends and used Silver Diner as a national model suggesting that other restaurants should follow suit. The study appeared in several nutrition and medical journals.
A few years ago, Silver Diner made a commitment to adopting vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and low-calorie items to meet customer demands. Now, the company has stepped up its vegan and plant-based offerings. This again, with customer feedback.
To learn more about Silver Diner, visit www.silverdiner.com.