Bob Wilhelmy writes the Dining Out column for The American Israelite.

The Famed #34, the roast beef and turkey double-deck sandwich

interior bar area

The Outdoor signage at Silverton Cafe.

By Bob Wilhelmy 

Silverton Café on Montgomery Road south of Plainfield is a hidden gem, according to GM Nick Heidel, younger member of a family that has owned and operated restaurant and bar businesses that stretch more than fifty years into the past. One reason the café enjoys “hidden gem” status is because of a major section of its menu.

Those Jewish diners-out of a certain, somewhat advanced age who do not know of this long-time eatery may be in for a nostalgically pleasant surprise. Double-deckers! Not just any double-deckers either. Heidel put it this way: “Our double-deck menu is the same as the Marathon Inn, the same numbers (of the sandwiches) even—one through thirty four,” he said, adding that the sandwiches are the hands-down favorites of older diners who have such fond memories of Marathon days. Younger diners-out may not have the cherished memories, but the double-deck sandwiches are a hit with them too, according to Heidel. 

Jewish diners-out may want to go to Silverton Café in honor of tradition as well. How so? Did you know that while bread with something in between is named after the now-famous Fourth Earl of Sandwich, he was not the first person to eat what we now call a sandwich. That honor may go to perhaps the first sandwich-eater of all time, who was Hillel the Elder, a rabbi and scholar born in Babylon. Hillel the Elder lived in Jerusalem in the first century BCE, and the Haggadah recounts how he made a sandwich of Paschal lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread. He did that some seventeen centuries before the Earl and his game-table noshing took place.

Getting back to the present, the nostalgia doesn’t fully stop with the menu. Turns out Silverton Café now occupies the space in which Marathon Inn resided at the time it closed its doors for good. While the end date of Marathon Inn is sketchy, it seems that by 1981, the restaurant had shuttered for good. Its former space was occupied by Silverton Grill in 1993, the grill rebranding to Silverton Café at the time of the move.  For urban historians who follow the ebb and flow of businesses, Silverton Grill had been located for some twenty years prior at the corner of Ohio Avenue and Montgomery Road, not more than several hundred feet from where Marathon Inn had done business. The newly established Silverton Café also took over space adjacent to the Inn, knocking out the dividing wall to form an eatery more than double the size of what had been Marathon Inn.

As a late teen and young adult, yours truly visited Marathon Inn as an end to date nights and as a late-night place to go with friends. In those days, the thirty four double-deck sandwiches were nearly the entire menu, the sandwiches brought to table with chips. Soft drinks were available also, as was a version of Greek-style Cincinnati chili as I remember it, but that was about it. 

Those double-deck sandwiches were gigantic. In the days of Marathon Inn, we used to order the turkey and roast beef, the egg salad and tomato, the roast beef and sliced egg, and the tuna salad and sliced egg. Half a sandwich was a meal, and a whole sandwich was nearly impossible to eat in one sitting. Even with the ravenous appetite of an always on-the-go teen, it was hard to eat the whole thing, though I managed on some occasions. 

While all that was decades in the past, perhaps four months ago, we went to Silverton Café for the very reason that the place featured the sandwiches of Marathon Inn. The sandwiches we enjoyed were just as we remembered them nearly sixty years earlier, mammoth, and delicious! Try the turkey and roast beef double-decker (number thirty four on your menu!) if you want an outstanding sandwich. I did, and my sandwich featured generous piles of thin-sliced turkey and beef, along with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Mouth-watering! Bring an appetite if you plan on eating all of it, because you’ll need a hearty one.

Unlike Marathon Inn, Silverton Café features much more on its menu than just double-deck sandwiches. “We have salads, burgers, pizza, chicken tenders, quesadillas, gyros, subs, hoagies, fish sandwiches, soups (including Uncle Billy’s chicken noodle) and lots of beer on tap,” Heidel said. Among the beers on tap, there are local craft brews, including Madtree, Rheingist, High Grain, Taft, Cartridge Factory and more. Also, ample parking is available behind the eatery, accessible from Montgomery Road.

See you at Silverton Café!