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?



  1. Greg,
    While trolling the internet, I read your article about Zinn’s Diner in Denver,PA. In 1962, when I was then courting my now wife, Florence,I would drive 90 miles from Yardley,PA on weekends and we would go out and many times we ate at Zinn’s since it was very close to her house.The last time we were in Zinn’s was around 1963 and I was sorry to read that it burned down in the 70’s. i am now over 81 years old and Florence is over 77.Time flies, and we both want to thank you for bringing back our youthful memories.

    Ted and Florence Paric

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Greg, one of my colleagues is heading to Lancaster and I immediately recalled Zinn’s diner. As a boy I went there are few times with my parents which would’ve been after the fire. They went there in the 60s with their parents. In fact I have a photo of them standing in front of Amos – if only I could find it. Anyhow, i remember birch beer and chicken and gravy and some pie for dessert, It was great. Sorry to hear it’s no longer the same. Still, great memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this trip down memory lane. My parents would take me to the Lancaster area at least 3-4 times a year. We would walk the antique stores for hours, or go to Vanity Fair Outlets) and then always to Zinn’s for dinner. We didn’t even mind the always present wait for a table. The gift shop was unique, and I still have many toys/ memorabilia from there. I agree the apple butter was the best, but I have to disagree as far as the quality of the food. They had the best fried flounder anywhere, real homemade tarter sauce, great mashed potatoes with gravy, and the best homemade baked beans anywhere. I still miss this place and was sorry to hear that the new owners didn’t keep it the same. Thanks for a great article.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved going to Zinn’s Diner. Miss it. There is a big Amos Statue at The Hersey Farm Restaurant & Inn. They have a nice Smorgasbord and we stayed at the Carriage Inn. Real close to the Outlets.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I went to Zinn’s many times in the ’70s on trips from Pittsburgh to Hershey Park. I agree, as a kid I never noticed the food one way or the other – but it must have been good because my parents stopped there repeatedly! Do you remember this: kids who could recite the Distlefink poem that was on the menu would get a free something – meal maybe? or just dessert? I can still recall many of the words, beginning with, “The Distlefink is a lovely bird, his song’s not loud nor is it heard, but he’s our friend, a voice or not, his presence here a happy lot. Descended from another age, this golden finch was once the rage. Admired and loved by mass decree by folks in Prussia and Germany. A symbol of pride, good fortune too, like all good Dutchmen, he grew and grew. […] and so protects us with a knack, with one head front and one in back.


  6. I remember zinns 1985-1991 it was a great place I’m from Connecticut but went to Lancaster frequently to visit family the food was great and I always remember playing miniature golf out back those were the good old days things have really changed.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am from the UK and was going through some of my old photographs when I came upon a menu for Zinns diner from 1988. This was when my wife and I came to visit the USA and we were travelling through. It was a magical time for us and I was hoping it would still be there as I remembered it but, alas no. Anyway it was great to read up again on such happy memories. I have the photo of my wife standing proudly in front of Amos before we went into eat.


  8. Zinns diner was always a good stop for a wonderful meal after attending drag races at Maple Grove Raceway. While driving past the restaurant late one Saturday night in 1975, I saw the racing rig of Don Prudhomme`s Army dually wheel truck and Chaparral trailer stretched-out in the front parking lot. That was way cool, as I imagined the Snake and his mechanic, Bob Brant enjoying a good meal at Zinns. A good memory .
    jack > pittsburgh.


  9. Loved this place. My family would travel to the area for the Reninger’s Antique Extravaganza weekends. We enjoyed the mini golf, playground, baseball games, and snack bar in the park and the candy store next to the diner (loved to buy chocolate licorice ropes for the car ride home). While waiting outside for dinner, If you pressed Amos’ toe, he would say “Well, hello there. Welcome to Zinn’s.” I remember my dad loving the chipped beef on toast for breakfast. I would buy a new Smurf for my collection in the gift shop in the basement. I also remember really hoping to get a hole-in-one on the 27th hole in hopes of getting a free round of mini golf. Fond memories.


  10. For many years starting in the 80’s we went to Willow Valley Farms in Lancaster a couple of times a year. My children loved it. We would always stop at Zinns on our way down for lunch. My kids loved playing in the park and visiting the store after lunch.
    We are on our way now to Lancaster and I went on google to see if there was still a diner where Zinns used to be. I know it won’t be the same but we are stopping there for lunch. I have wonderful memories of our trips to Lancaster. They can change a diner but never take away the memories


  11. My favorite aunt lived in Denver (Pennsylvania). We had a meal at Zinn’s pretty much every time we visited her. She passed away in the late ’90s and neither of my cousins lives in the region anymore.
    I will be passing through the area later this spring, so I thought I’d check online to see if they were still in business. Sad to see that they’re gone. Yet another piece of my childhood/young adulthood vanished into the ether of the past.


  12. I’ve never been here but I heard a lot about it with myself obviously sharing the last name. Always wondered if I was related to the owners since I’ve never met another Zinn that I wasn’t somehow related to. Wonder if anyone remembers the owners on this thread


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