Silver Diner finds success in pleasant, unpretentious ways

October 09, 1992|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

The Silver Diner opened last month with all sorts of hoopla -- the result of the sleekest public relations campaign imaginable. But when all's said and done, it's a pleasant, homey sort of place, not very remarkable except that it's so very successful when so many other restaurants are falling by the wayside.

It looks like an authentic diner. I know this is supposed to be a contemporary interpretation of a '40s diner, but you don't stand around going "Wow" at the decor. When the Silver Diner is full of people (and as far as I can tell it's always full of people), the stainless steel and tile and counter stools and booths and jukeboxes at each booth seem completely unremarkable. It's just a family place to get a decent dinner at reasonable prices -- you forget it's supposed to be Baltimore's hottest new restaurant.

This is the fourth in a chain of Silver Diners, and by this time the bugs have pretty much been worked out. Breakfast is available any time. There are Early Bird Specials and Blue Plate Specials and, all in all, it's hard to spend more than ten bucks for dinner.

Sure, there are the traditionals, the hot turkey sandwiches and meatloaf and malts. Tasty homemade soups. (We had cream of broccoli.) Fabulous fried onion rings. But much of the menu is updated. The shakes are made with Breyer's all-natural ice cream. You'll find numerous heart-healthy meals. And, yes, there are Cajun chicken, Caesar salads and stir-fry dishes.

To give you an idea of what an odd mix the Silver Diner is, I found myself sitting in front of a house specialty, country fried steak ($7.50) -- chicken-fried steak is what we always called it -- with sausage gravy, mashed potatoes, a biscuit and a large plastic tumbler full of champagne punch ($2.85). Listening to Elvis.

My friend had another house specialty, the poached orange roughy filet ($9.95) with steamed broccoli, zucchini and yellow squash. (She planned to follow it with a chocolate sundae with all the trimmings.) Both dinners came with a large salad.

And how did the food taste?

Well, anyone who puts sugar in biscuit dough doesn't know how to make biscuits in my opinion (my mother would have said, "should be shot in my opinion"), but at least the Silver Diner's are only faintly sweet.

The round steak was tender and the mashed potatoes homemade and creamy with a touch of nutmeg. But I don't recommend ordering the dish unless you're familiar with it. Sausage gravy isn't the most appetizing-looking food, and a fried crust on beef is something you have to have had young to appreciate.

The kitchen did very well with the poached fish and vegetables, although the dish seemed pretty Spartan to me. (I was sitting there eating chicken-fried steak.) No butter, no seasonings, no sauce, no herbs, no lemon juice. I suppose for that price you can add your own butter or seasonings.

Desserts are good but fantastically huge. A fine slice of carrot cake ($2.50) looked like a quarter of a cake. As for the sundae ($2.95), the Silver Diner promises to make right anything that's wrong or your money back. And indeed our waitress happily took away the chocolate sundae made with chocolate ice cream and brought one back made with vanilla. (Of course, you could ask why she had made it with chocolate ice cream in the first place.)

The Silver Diner

Where: Towson Town Center, 825 Dulaney Valley Road.

Hours: 7 a.m. to midnight Sundays to Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Credit cards accepted: MC, V.

Features: Homestyle cooking.

Non-smoking section? Yes.

Call: (410) 823-5566.

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