Finding Authentic Diner Greatness at Zip's Diner in Dayville, Conn.
Diner, Dayville, Connecticut.
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I have been to more than 70 diners in my lifetime with Zip's
Diner in Dayville, Conn., recently and consistently on my mind as the
go-to place for a great diner in New England.
Most diners share similarities: counter, booths, neon, chrome,
down-to-earth quick service and a large menu of comfort foods. What
separates Zip's from most diners, however, comes from consistency in
its food and service and an authenticity that just seems more real.
Some diners constantly tell you that they are good through advertising
and social media, and others have gone "Hollywood" with elements that
have no place in traditional diners -- like expensive, upscale food and
decor that looks more in line with typical chain restaurants. Some of
the diners I have been to recently seem to be resting on their laurels
thinking that they can get by solely on prior reputation. Zip's Diner,
on the other hand, humbly does its job every day, retains its high
quality food and service, and, physically and spiritually, looks like a diner that your grandma or
grandpa once frequented in the neighborhood. That's because Zip's
1946 and then moved to its "new" location in 1954. And here we are in
the 21st century and the third generation of family ownership keeps
Zip's Diner -- in its beautiful O'Mahoney-style dining car residency -- as
vital as it was back in the day. Although a
restaurant relic by today's standards, Zip's
remains spotlessly clean and holds the classic diner tenets of bringing
in all walks of life to enjoy some coffee, good food and, if you are so
inclined in a less personal society, the chance to converse with locals.
By the way, the name "Zip," according to Zip’s web site history page,
“was the nickname of retired Connecticut state trooper, Henry "Zip"
Zehrer, who started in the diner business in 1946 in Danielson,
Approaching Zip's by car reveals a thing of beauty: The towering
sign that states, "EAT" majestically rises, in a working class way,
above the stainless steel exterior of the welcoming dining car. At
night, the neon illuminates "Zip's," and "EAT," thus making the diner
even more welcoming for those driving this busy road. Funny, so many
businesses today have these sterile, angular newfangled signs ironically designed to
bring in business, but the old-time sign at Zip's has this timeless
appeal that is part of the fabric that brings people in to Zip's. The diner always
seems busy with, at times, a packed parking lot.
In true diner form, Zip's serves breakfast all day and offers many
tremendous lunch and dinner items. If you like three-egg omelets,
bacon, pancakes, waffles, French toast, corned beef hash,
biscuits and gravy, club sandwiches, Yankee pot roast, roast turkey
with stuffing, chicken fried steak, baked meatloaf, homemade soups (and
chowders on the weekend), salad platters, pies, strawberry
shortcake, and baked puddings, then Zip's Diner is definitely is your
place. Astonishingly, what I just mentioned is just a fraction of the
menu. No need to worry, though, about a large menu watering down the
quality of the food (the small menu translating to better quality food theory
is a myth, to me, anyway) -- just take a look around the diner with waitresses
bringing out food that looks like something you'd see in a food
magazine. Further validation: hearing customers say how much they love
the food. It happens all the time.
The last time I visited Zip's Diner, the “Zip’s Special” – an
open-faced sandwich featuring a seared, tender eight-ounce rib-eye
accompanied by a side of perfectly-formed fries -- instantly had a
place in my diner hall of fame memories and taste buds...
While it is easy to let the nostalgic feel of Zip's dominate the
overall dining experience, that emotional response is easily balanced
with an analytical perspective -- that is, that the diner also makes sure
the food quality shares an equal spotlight with the ambiance. Add great
value for the money (many dishes are still under $10), and it is no
surprise that local business people, families, singles, senior citizens, blue
collar workers, and local campers (temporarily escaping their nirvana for a great
meal) help keep Zip's Diner thriving to this very day.
It is not only every day people that frequent Zips Diner, but also some
celebrities: Bill Griffith, a popular cartoonist known for his comic
strip Zippy, and the phrase “Are we having fun yet?” has eaten at the
diner and featured Zip’s in his comic strip! Celebrities that have
eaten at Zip’s include Liberace, Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger,
Brian Dennehy and Renee Zellweger. Athletes experiencing Zip’s: Ted
Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Carl Yastrzemski, according to the CMTQ web
site (http://www.ctmq.org/zip’s-diner). Zip’s Diner was also featured
in Steven King’s novel 11/22/63, and on the cover of a novel, Ring in the Dead, written by J.A.
Unpretentious, friendly, old-fashioned and often with mouthwatering
comfort foods, Zip's, to me, seems like everything you'd expect in a
great diner. No wonder it has been at the forefront in my mind of go-to
diners in New England!
Open seven days a week for breakfast
(served all day), lunch and
dinner, Zip’s is conveniently located off Route 395 in this quiet
northeastern Connecticut town, equidistant to Hartford, Connecticut,
Worcester, Massachusetts., and Providence, Rhode island. Zip’s is
located at Routes 101 and 12, Dayville. Tel. (860) 774-6335. Web site:
http://zipsdiner.com. Facebook fan page: https://m.facebook.com/Zips-Diner-56766818514/
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