Restaurants We Miss: Zinn’s Diner (Denver, PA)

Zinn’s original look before the fire in the 1970’s.

This morning, I was looking through some old Lancaster County travel brochures I collected as a child. I’ll be leaving for a three-day trip there tomorrow. Most of them were from the early 2000’s. I then discovered I had a brochure from Zinn’s Diner, marked 2002. This place closed the next year after a 53 year run. For my family, Zinn’s was a regular visit. We went to Lancaster sometimes twice a year. On the drive in, we would either stop there or the Windmill Family Restaurant in Morgantown. I guess it depended on the route my dad took. I have vivid memories of Zinn’s since I was always so excited for our trips to Lancaster.

What I love most about the area is the reluctance to change from some businesses and restaurants. Places manage to stay stuck in time just a little bit longer than here on the Jersey Shore. We love to modernize everything. There is constant change. But not in and around Lancaster. Despite being gutted by a fire in the 1970’s, Zinn’s was one of those places that brought on immediate nostalgia, where it was your first or hundredth visit. As a child, I was drawn to this. The interior was vintage, while outside there was a giant statue of an Amish man named Amos. It was an area landmark. There was even a gift shop in the basement.

Do I remember the food or what I ate? No, not really, but there is one exception: the apple butter. There was a bowl of it on every table. It was complimentary to spread on whatever you ordered. It was delicious. I can almost taste the spices. This was the first place I ever tried apple butter, and I admit, after they closed it was difficult to eat anymore because no other version tasted the same.

How it looked when I was a child.

I was 12 when they closed in 2003. Zinn’s was sold and became the Lyndon Diner and eventually the Park Place Diner, which currently exists now. I remember we went two or three times more, to both of the new diners, and while the food was fine, it was just not the same. The vintage old-school vibe was replaced by the same standard you see everywhere else. Amos, meanwhile, was shipped to a museum in Michigan focused on automobiles and vintage roadside America. The amount of people posing in front of the giant statue while sitting on top of their classic cars in the 50’sand 60’s is probably innumerable. Who else misses Zinn’s Diner?

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