Tastee Diner is closed as regulars mourn a Silver Spring staple


Tastee Diner at Silver Spring was exactly what it said on the plate. The food was not tasty. It was taste. It was taste as only eating in a restaurant – an authentic, unironic restaurant – can be. At Tastee Diner, an avocado has never been slammed against a thick slice of multigrain toast, then sprinkled with flaked sea salt and served alongside a chai.

But if you wanted eggs over easy, grits, country-fried steak, or a cheeseburger (or AND a cheeseburger), Tastee Diner was the place to go.

Used to be the place to go. Word went out Wednesday morning — on Facebook, in text messages — that the downtown Silver Spring restaurant was closing for good. By the time I got there at 1:30pm, the door was already locked, with a sign pasted on it: ‘Sorry. Silver Spring’s Tastee Diner is closed. Thank you for the opportunity to serve us for so many years.”

So many years. When the restaurant first opened in 1935, it was located on the corner of Wayne and Georgia. When that intersection was developed in 2000, it was picked up and moved half a mile north to Cameron Street.

A year later, in 2001, Nilda Jacobson started working there as a server, weekends, 8 to 3. She came over on Wednesday to collect her last paycheck. She hadn’t known the place was closing. None of the workers seemed to have known.

“We’re closed,” a waitress said as she took a smoke break on the terrace at the side of the restaurant.

“I need bacon and eggs,” said a man in a flannel shirt.

“I need my job, how about that?” said the waitress.

There were still diners inside, people who had come in before the doors locked and were still eating their meal. Every time someone would leave, Chippyphotographer and Silver Spring gadabout, would yell, “What did you order?”

“Salmon cakes,” said Darell Robertsa 64-year-old from Silver Spring.

He was a regular customer. Roberts said when his kitchen was renovated a few years ago, he ate every meal at the Tastee Diner.

“It’s a loss,” he said. “It’s really a loss.”

Jacqueline Dolson was in New Jersey when she heard the restaurant was closing. She immediately jumped in her car and drove 3½ hours to have one last BLT. Her family – husband Ed and children Emma, Claire, Elizabeth And Shall – ate at the Tastee Diner every Saturday for 25 years, and Dolson always ordered the BLT.

“But it wasn’t about the food,” she said.

You don’t go to a real diner for the food, or just for the food. You go because it’s open. You go because it’s light. You go because it’s 3am and you need to be around people, even if the people sitting next to you at the counter are strangers.

You go because it has become a tradition. Dolson had been coming here for twenty-five years, since her eldest was five.

“I thought I’d bring my grandchildren here one day,” she said.

Walked out of the restaurant Bill Metcalf (double cheeseburger, onion rings) and his son Dan Metcalf (Swiss mushroom burger, fries). They’ve had lunch together at Tastee’s every Wednesday for five years, ever since Dan, 43, encouraged Bill, 75, to move to Silver Spring from New England.

“On my Instagram you saw a lot of pictures of black coffee and daddy’s hands,” said Dan.

Bill is a retired Yale Classics Professor. I asked if classical literature contained anything suitable for this sad occasion.

Not really, Bill said, “The Romans ate at home.”

Tastee Diner was no one’s home, but it was a home away from home for many people. There’s another one in Bethesda and one in Laurel. I have left messages for the owner to find out more about the sale. I haven’t heard anything yet, but the Washington Business Journal reported that Roadside Development closed Tuesday on the lot and plans to build a mixed-use residential-retail project that will incorporate the dining car portion of the restaurant.

People kept walking to the restaurant, tried the door, saw the sign, shook their heads, turned around. A lottery sign glowed in the window: Powerball to $96 million, Mega Millions to $396 million. All it takes is luck.

A reminder, circa 1981, of the old Silver Spring Tastee Diner, before dragging it around town like it was a piece of stone for the pyramids. My college roommate, Pat, and I’ve been in clubs all night. We’re excited and we’re hungry and we can’t bear to return to the pigsty that is our apartment in Langley Park.

We stop at Tastee Diner and spoil ourselves with steak and eggs. No Michelin-starred restaurant has ever made two people as happy as we did, at the time, slumped in a booth at 3am, eating our steak and eggs at the Tastee Diner.






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