A day in the life of the Silver Grill Cafe begins long before the restaurant opens its doors at 7 a.m.
By the time diners have entered the eatery at 218 Walnut St., staff have already arrived by 5:30 a.m., preparing grills and getting stations set up in preparation for opening.
But even that is not the start of the day, which actually begins the night before, with bakers working overnight to prepare the Silver Grill’s iconic cinnamon rolls, typically arriving by 8:30 or so and working through the night.
The restaurant closes after lunch at 2 p.m., but the day continues.
“By the time everybody filters out and we finish cleaning up for the day, it’s around 3:30 or 4 o’clock,” said owner Alan Jantzen.
“Then our janitorial crew will come in. They will — basically from top to bottom, from front door to back door — clean the entire restaurant, and what a blessing to have them because they do an amazing job. This is a busy place, and we make a mess throughout the day.
“About the time they’re leaving, our bakers come in,” he said, “and our bakers — depending upon the day of the week, the time of the year — we’ll give them orders for what we need for cinnamon rolls, and they’ll start baking.”
Bakers work from six to 10 hours, depending on demand, which picks up during the holidays.
“About the time they’re leaving, here we are showing up for the next day’s business,” Jantzen said. “It’s a pretty interesting dynamic for a business that’s only open 7 to 2, as to what the public sees … there are not a lot of people who realize that we really operate 24 hours a day. The life of Silver Grill never stops.”
And those cinnamon rolls? Jantzen said the restaurant averages about 12,000 sold per month, including for in-restaurant diners, takeout orders, corporate orders and special requests for holidays or other functions.
“That’s just what we’ve sold,” Jantzen said. “I’m not going to tell you how many that my wife and I consume.”
Jantzen and his wife, Jackie, purchased the Silver Grill from longtime owner John Arnolfo in December 2021, drawn by the nostalgia that the restaurant evokes.
“We’re both small-town kids,” Jantzen said. “I’m from Nebraska, she’s from North Dakota, and we have a lot of fond memories going to our local diners with relatives, Grandma and Grandpa, and what that meant to us and what those places meant to our communities. So we wanted to bring that sense of our hometown here to Silver Grill. Our mission is that this feels like a hometown diner that you remember, from wherever you are from, and when you walk through our doors, it feels like you’re going back in time to recreate those memories with your family or your special group.”
Those childhood memories are pervasive throughout the Silver Grill, with generations of families having frequented the restaurant over its 90 years.
“I think it’s a very special place for a lot of people, who, for 90 years, have built memories here with families, loved ones. It’s nearly every day that somebody will stop me here in the restaurant and say, ‘My father introduced me to this place,’ or ‘My grandma introduced me to this place.’ … ‘We would eat there every morning before Dad went to work and before I went to school.’ Those extra memories just permeate throughout the entire community that we have here. It’s become one of those places that people like to come to show people from out of town.
“In this wonderful downtown that we have, this busy, bustling urban environment that we have, you can step back in time a little bit here and enjoy a bit of a reprieve from the busyness of our downtown.”
As Jantzen speaks at 10 a.m. on a Saturday in September, the restaurant buzzes with dozens of conversations, the clinking of dishes, the sound of forks and knives on plates, wait staff taking orders.
But as the hours progress, the sounds of customers will give way to the quieter sounds of the janitorial staff, and then the bakers, and eventually the daytime staff and customers, as the day begins anew.