Slim's Diner may have the classic red diner stools and booths, but owner Paul Ruppert distinguishes it as a "traditional diner," not a "nostalgic diner."
Ruppert, who also owns Petworth Citizen and recently closed Crane & Turtle, explains he's not trying to recreate the 1950s at the Petworth restaurant, slated to open in early May. "What we're interested in is more of a classic diner, which is not so much tied to a specific era," he says. "We don't want to be stuck in the past."
As research, the restaurateur visited more than 40 diners in the D.C. area and up and down the East Coast. He also put out a public survey asking neighbors what they wanted out of a diner and got back more than 800 responses. One thing pretty much everyone seemed to agree on: the diner shouldn't be too fancy.
Accordingly, the menu is pretty much as straight-forward as it gets. For all-day breakfast, diners will find eggs, pancakes (including blueberry and chocolate chip), omelets, French toast, corned beef (or veggie) hash, breakfast sandwiches, and other staples.
For lunch and dinner, offered from 11 a.m. to close, there's a number of sandwiches like a BLT, grilled cheese, French dip, and half-smoke. Salads range from Caesar to Greek to an iceberg wedge with blue cheese and bacon. Burgers come simply with lettuce, tomato, and onion or with additional toppings like blue cheese and fried egg or jalapeno, avocado, and jack cheese. Add-ons include fries, onion rings, or a salad. At the request of many neighbors, Slim's will also offer several non-meat dishes, including a tofu scramble and veggie or vegan burger.
The menu will be overseen by chef Chris Beasley, who was previously a sous chef at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for Muze and Sou'Wester before that. "It's sort of a relief," Beasley says of being in a more casual restaurant. "You make good food and you don't have to worry about what kind of microgreens you're going to have to pick out to put on top of it."
One of the things Beasley seems to be most excited about is the Reuben. "We want to be brining our own corned beef and down the road, probably not on day one, doing our own sauerkraut," he says.
That said, not everything will be made from scratch in-house. The restaurant will buy veggie burger patties, for example. "We don't want the diner to be precious," says Ruppert. "While we're going to be doing a lot of things in house, we're not going to be trumpeting housemade pickles. If they are that, then they are. If they're not, then they're not. And it's going to be based on quality and affordability."
Slim's Diner looks like it will, in fact, be refreshingly affordable. Sandwiches will range from $6 to $9. Daily specials, like meatloaf or fried chicken, will top out at around $15.
And no diner would be complete without plenty of sweets, thanks to pastry chef Liza Moran, who previously worked at Pastries by Randolph in Arlington and Flying Monkey Bakery in Philadelphia. Moran is also planning to fill a bakery case full of pies, doughnuts, Funfetti cake, and more. She has a pumpkin whoopie pie that she's eager to show off this fall.
"I love the fancy stuff, but this is like coming home and doing the stuff I really like, like the pies and the cakes," she says.
Slim's Diner is also looking to fill the void left by Heller's Bakery by allowing customers to pre-order desserts like birthday cakes and pies to-go.
Milkshakes, egg creams, and ice cream floats will also be available. And while alcohol isn't a central part of the menu, Slim's Diner will offer around half a dozen beers (one craft), a couple cocktails, one red and one white wine, and spiked milkshakes.
To start, the diner will be open 7 a.m. to midnight during the week and until 2 a.m. on weekends. But Ruppert isn't ruling out the possibility of expanding to 24 hours—if there's demand for it.