Located in the close-knit residential Petworth neighborhood, Slim’s Diner stands out from the pop-up restaurants and transient eateries that crowd the neighborhood’s artistic space. Slim’s is not just another hipster establishment trying to modernize the “diner atmosphere.” Walking into Slim’s, you can immediately envision yourself in a sock hop dress, hair high and holding the hand of the guy you are “going steady with.”
Black and white tiles line the floor and the sides of the counters, while red booths and countertop stools accent the simple retro layout of the small space. By following the conveniently large sign and arrow located at the entrance, guests will find an authentic jukebox in the corner where patrons can complete their escape from reality and fully immerse themselves in the 1960s. The only stereotype eluding the eatery is roller-skating waitresses.
The restaurant’s simple menu and uncluttered layout embody a ’60s diner — nothing less, nothing more. The breakfast menu — available allday in true diner fashion — features signature eggs, French toast, pancakes and omelets. The tofu scramble is the only item that reminds customers of the newness of the establishment. Meanwhile, the refreshingly limited menu allows the cooks to hone their expertise on these classics and produce dishes that are homely, greasy and wonderful.
Those who plan on stopping by after 11 a.m. must be aware that the options presented to them may not be any more exotic. Grilled cheese or a Washington, D.C. classic half-smoke seem like the perfect combination in a retro setting where the price for almost all of the items fluctuates below a modest $10. Some of the diner’s signature offerings are hardly diet-friendly. Its range of milkshakes — from the classic chocolate to spiked options for those over 21 —, ice cream floats, bottled root beer and egg creams are a perfect way to treat yourself.
This praise comes with one specific, but not insignificant, caveat: the wait. The space has very limited seating, and the restaurant is in a neighborhood that is growing in popularity. Going on a Sunday morning means waiting in line for 30 to 40 minutes, most likely outside. Despite the restaurant’s small capacity, the service is still working out its kinks. Orders often take much longer than expected based on the stripped-down and simple menu.
Nonetheless, for those waiting to get seats, Slim’s shares the block with two other charming D.C. establishments: Willow and Upshur Street Books. During the wait, you can explore Willow, a vintage-styled boutique that will not break the bank, or pop into Upshur, an independent bookstore furnished with comics, unique picture books, classics, artsy magazines and more.
The restaurant, vintage shop and bookstore are all situated in the Ward 4 quarter of Petworth. Like many newly popular neighborhoods in D.C., Petworth is rapidly gentrifying. The diversity that still remains has created a unique neighborhood with a vibrant culture and friendly neighbors who will gladly wave from their porches to strangers passing by. Upshur Street, which Slim’s is just west of, is locally known as “the block.” Paul W. Ruppert is the mastermind behind many of the block’s most popular attractions. His original property consisted of the Petworth Citizen and Reading Room, a literary-themed bar. Since 2014, Ruppert has also opened Upshur Street Books and, more recently, Slim’s Diner.
A visit to Slim’s surely signifies much more than just the one-time decision of eating out. The wait may be long, but it allows customers to explore one of the most vibrant neighborhoods that D.C. has to offer. Entering the diner allows the sensation of being transported to a different time, where everyone is entitled and encouraged to disregard calories and impending grades alike. Listening to the jukebox play 50-year-old music while eating deliciously simple and classic food is an experience not to be missed. Slim’s is open until 2 a.m. late-night Fridays and Saturdays, perfect for when a greasy late night snack may save your evening — or morning.