All-American Options: Diners in Prince William

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By Marianne Weaver

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a diner is a “small, informal and inexpensive restaurant that has an extensive menu and that is often made from or designed to resemble a modified railroad dining car.”

But that’s not exactly how Prince William residents define a diner. For some, the most basic requirement is affordable comfort food and tasty desserts. Others set the threshold at specific menu items: open-faced turkey sandwich … with homemade gravy; meatloaf; mashed potatoes. Pretty much everyone expects all-day breakfast options.

As for the type of building, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus: Prince William diners are just as likely to be found in standalone buildings along busy highways as they are in strip malls scattered throughout the region. Some have fed generations of families; others are setting up shop in newly developed sections of the region.

The Yorkshire Restaurant (7537 Centreville Road, Manassas), opened in 1950.

“There were five owners before we bought it in July 1979,” said Elias Natour, who bought the restaurant with his brother Matt. “We were 16 and 18 when we bought this place.” Manassas was a different town then. Centreville Road was only two lanes.

“My family has been eating at Yorkshire for over 20 years,” said Mary Rose Lalli of Manassas. “We started coming when my youngest brother was in grade school, and now he brings his kids. Most Sundays we are a group of 23 but have been known to bring more (my parents have 27 grandkids). Everyone calls the owners’ mother ‘Mama,’ and the waitresses love to play with the babies.”

Some things have not changed: “Mama” makes all of the soups and gravies. “We stand apart because we serve good quality, good portion foods at reasonable prices,” said Elias.

He said breakfasts are popular all day long. Country-fried steak and chicken are also ordered frequently. But the “Top Hat Special,” a sandwich made with ribeye steak, ham and bacon, topped with provolone cheese, lettuce, mayo and tomato, is a customer favorite.

The Yorkshire Restaurant is open seven days a week: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

Back in Time

Like the Yorkshire, The Jukebox Diner (8637 Sudley Road, Manassas) is open seven days a week. The doors open every day at 7 a.m. and stay open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday, they stay open until midnight.

Although the diner opened in 1996, it brings back memories of the fabulous 1950s. Despite its location in a modern strip mall, walking through the door is like taking a stop back in time. There is classic rock-n-roll music in the jukebox, tiled walls and brightly colored booths and barstools. American classics—omelets, pancakes, hamburgers, milkshakes and classic desserts—are complemented by a wide variety of Greek, middle eastern and European dishes. In keeping with modern times, the menu also features gluten-free options, and ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible.

The Silver Diner (14375 Smoketown Road, Dale City) might also appear rooted in the 1950s, but the owners claim it has “reinvented the diner experience by creating a menu featuring classic American favorites with a contemporary twist for today’s lifestyles—heart-healthy options, no trans-fat, fresh and locally sourced ingredients, and entrées with fewer than 600 calories.”

Stephanie Sun and her husband stumbled upon the Silver Diner in July during their road trip from Oregon to North Carolina. After leaving Colonial Williamsburg, they consulted Yelp for a diner along their route to Pennsylvania.

“I compared the options of breakfast and brunch places along our route without more than 15- to 20-minute drive out of the way and picked Silver Diner,” she said. “I particularly liked Silver Diner not only for its high reviews, but also the variety of its menu items. To me food is more than just fuel in the tank; it is a culture, an experience, something to be meticulously created and enjoyed. The menu included avocado toast with optional smoked salmon (my personal choice), and French Toast (my husband’s choice), both turned out to be awesome.”

The Silver Diner is open Sunday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.

New Neighbors

The Gainesville Diner (14674 Lee Highway, Gainesville) originally opened in February 2017. The diner replaced Nora Taste of Lebanon in a strip mall that is home to many international cuisines, including Afghan, Indian and Ethiopian, as well as a Hookah lounge. Although the founders are gone, owner Judith Sanchez—who took over the business in November 2018—said loyal patrons encouraged her to keep the diner.

“We were closed for a few weeks after the original owners left,” she said. “But people in the community told us they wanted us to reopen as a diner.”

Gainesville resident Antonnie Trammell said his family was looking for an after-church brunch. “We found the diner on Yelp, saw the pictures and reviews and decided to give it a try,” he said. “We’re very happy we did. That place is now our go-to if we go out for brunch on Sundays. The quantity and pricing of the food is amazing!!”

Marti Whitehead, Gainesville, also discovered the Gainesville Diner on Yelp. “I highly recommend trying the open-faced turkey sandwich dinner. Last time I checked, they were still roasting the turkeys in-house,” she said. “I found this diner to be comfortable, clean, and friendly. The quality, in my opinion, is better than other (non-chain) diners I’ve been to. Fresh house salads that rival any other higher end restaurant and fresh mixed veggies on the dinner platters plus Eggs Benedict on the breakfast menu put this place in the top spot as far as diners go.”

The Gainesville Diner is open every day 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Editor’s Note: This is not an exhaustive list of diners. Please consult your preferred search engine for more local options.

Marianne E. Weaver ([email protected]) is a freelance editor and writer. She earned a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and an MJ from Temple University.

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