As someone who grew up in the great state of New Jersey, I’ve always had an affinity for diners. I love the reliability and comfort associated with a true greasy spoon diner. Pour me a cup of piping hot coffee and set me up with a heaping plate of (definitely not healthy) food and I’m good. On the other hand, many of these diners could use some polish, a bit of an update in both decor and cuisine. But striking the balance of comfort and familiarity with the more adventurous and modern can be a slippery slope. Somehow, Silver manages to combine both a sleek and polished design with the charm and authenticity I love about a good diner.
The Bethesda restaurant, part of the group that owns Silver Diner, takes themes from classic American diners and fuses them with a French brasserie style. This is a smart move as brasseries in France are intended to be more casual and approachable yet, in true French nature, the food is taken very seriously. A classic brasserie will usually have the same menu available all day, much like (you guessed it), a diner. Throughout the restaurant, there are subtle nods to Paris, a nice mix of art deco subway tiles gave a clean yet familiar feel to the restaurant.
Start Off with Craft Cocktails
We sat down and started to look over the large menu that is customary at any diner. We quickly found our way to the craft cocktails section that included 18 choices. They use fresh-squeezed juices, all natural can sugar, plus as many local and seasonal ingredients as they can get their hands on.
I started with the whiskey tonic, per the beverage director’s recommendation. The house-made tonic was the star of this drink and added a nice freshness to cut the bourbon flavor just a tad. Kacy went with the silver smash, a mix of raspberry rum, ginger beer syrup, blueberries, simple syrup, cucumber, and lemon. It ended up being the perfect summer sipper. Neither of these drinks lasted for very long.
The Man Behind the Food
Before our food arrived we were lucky enough to get to meet Chef Ype Von Hengst. Chef Ype is the co-founder and executive chef behind Silver Diner and Silver restaurant. He has a reputation for creating flavorful, yet simple dishes using the freshest ingredients available. He was also a recent competitor on the Food Network show “Chopped” and won in an impressive display of cooking ability.
Chef Ype was a delight in person and happy to share stories and joke with everyone. He shared the story of working with 15 local farms to craft local, seasonal food that’s elevated beyond what a normal diner or brasserie may produce. Everything he said left us excited to try out the food.
Starting Things Off
We started off with a few of the smaller sharing plates to kick things off. First up was the boneless short rib bar bite. This dish consisted of thin cuts of short rib covered in a Korean gochujang glaze accompanied with mashed cauliflower, chimichurri, and radishes.
The beef was very tender and the gochujang, which is one of my favorite sauces, did not disappoint. Although tasty, the dish did seem a bit disjointed. The cauliflower mash and chimichurri sauce were both very good but didn’t mesh as well with the short rib and radishes. Overall, we still thought this was a solid dish overall with good flavor and precise cooking techniques.
Next up we tried the goat cheese bruschetta, which was a build-your-own style dish. This was fun at first but then proved difficult as I started to make a mess of it. My clumsiness aside, the dish was a great appetizer. The pine-nut pesto and balsamic drizzle on top of the goat cheese made for some delicious bites.
We had heard a few recommendations on the fried chicken sandwich and were told it was a must-order. After seeing on the menu that it was a pickle fried chicken sandwich, we knew we had been properly advised. Chef Ype told us that the chicken is “pickled” the same way you would a vegetable, using vinegar and sugar and letting it brine for 24 hours. The chicken is then battered and southern-fried to perfection.
This was probably the best fried chicken sandwich that either Kacy or myself had ever had. It was crazy good. The batter was crispy and flavorful, the chicken was tender and juicy, and the slight finish of pickle flavor was heavenly. Other fried chicken joints in the area need to take note, this sandwich is the real deal.
A separate, smaller menu was also available offering some of Chef’s summer specials. These are the most current and seasonal offerings that really showcase local ingredients with the most flair. In an effort to balance out the fried chicken we went with the watermelon and kumato tomato salad. Fresh watermelon and tomatoes were mixed with greens, quinoa, pomegranate, kalamata olives and feta. The salad was also topped with basil, dill, and a tasty blood orange balsamic glaze. This salad embodied summer and added a nice lighter touch to our meal.
Don’t Forget Dessert
For dessert we opted for the butterscotch pudding. Butterscotch gets overlooked as a dessert option, often overshadowed by more popular chocolate and caramel offerings. The pudding arrived in a small mason jar, topped with heath bar crumbles and whipped cream. A delicious end to the meal, don’t sleep on butterscotch.
We definitely enjoyed our meal and overall experience at Silver in Bethesda. The pickle fried chicken sandwich and butterscotch pudding made the meal especially memorable. We really enjoyed the polished, inviting vibe and the fun food Chef Ype has created. Like a classic diner, there’s something for everyone at Silver.