Judges say Penn Yan Diner is best

John Christensen
Sean and Carrie Ahearn, owners of Penn Yan Diner.

Sean and Carrie Ahearn’s five years of tireless work and struggle have paid off. Their Penn Yan Diner has been recognized as the Number 1 best diner in all of Upstate New York by the judges of NewYorkUpstate.com

From 30 semifinalists nominated and voted by their readers in Upstate’s Western, Central, and Eastern regions, NYUp.com sent their judges to just six diners — two from each region. At each, they sipped mugs of coffee, sampled the Hollandaise sauce of variations on Eggs Benedict, savored rashers of bacon, and ordered pies for dessert.

So excited by the news, owner and head cook Sean Ahearn was dancing in front of the diner on East Elm Street as he posted the announcement on their sidewalk sign.

“Judges’ Choice was the one I wanted,” says Sean. “I knew we’d never get the Reader’s Choice because we’re not in a city or on a major highway.”

“This has finally put us on the diner map,” says co-owner Carrie Ahearn. “After five years of struggle, we have arrived!” The Ahearns thank their customers for the nomination and the judges for enjoying their time here.

Judge’s comments about their top choice included: “When we walked into the Penn Yan Diner, we stepped back in time. The Galion Dining Car is one of six left in the United States, and this one in the Finger Lakes region has been through hell and high water -- literally. Owner Carrie Ahearn said the diner has experienced both a devastating fire and flood. But this gem still stands and boy is we thankful.

“The food was so good at the Penn Yan Diner, we were thinking about it days after eating it. The Sweet Cream pancake was like eating cake for breakfast. But the most impressive part? You could smell the pancake over the bacon. We dare you to think of a bigger diner food feat than that. The house-made corned beef hash was hearty, and the Eggs Benedict had a proper slab of Sunday ham.

“The pies were just as good: The apple pie was layered with well-seasoned apples and was held together with a sturdy, but surprisingly flaky crust. The blueberry pie was not-too-sweet and gingerly topped with crumbles. Watch out, Penn Yan Diner. We're definitely coming back for more. Order up!”

Crazy Otto’s Empire Diner in Herkimer won the Reader’s Choice. 

A complete list of winning diners can be found here.