If you haven't noticed, there is a shiny stainless steel diner located just south of downtown in Lake Geneva. It was relocated from Connecticut, after being caught up and damaged in Hurricane Sandy. While they overcame many challenges in getting the dinner across the country (in two separate pieces) to it's new home here in Lake Geneva, it was worth it. Thanks to the Yunkers, we now have a 1954 O'Mahoney diner, only one of three left in the world and it's right here in our town. I had the chance to sit down with Joni Yunker, owner of Joni's Diner and learned a little more about her, her family, and the diner.
Joni's big dream of owning her very own diner began when she was a little girl. She grew up in Chicago, but her husband, Kelly, who is also one of the owners and involved with the diner, grew up here in Lake Geneva. She went to many diners as a kid, and knew that she wanted to open one when she grew up. It was a family decision to open a diner instead of a normal restaurant. She said "It was a family adventure." Her amazingly talented daughter, Shaye, is a chef who went to Kendall College in Chicago. She oversees all the cooking in the diner and has mostly family recipes on the menu. They try to buy as much food locally to have fresh and healthy ingredients. The diner's specialty is The Meatloaf Sandwich, and they have good burgers too. They also serve old fashioned drinks like malts, milkshakes, banana splits, and sundaes, all served in old fashioned bowls and glasses. In the future she hopes to be open for dinner and is hoping to expand their baking selection to include more pies and other baked goods.
The Yunkers faced many challenges getting here. They found the diner in Connecticut and decided to buy it. In preparation for the cross country journey, the diner was cut in half so it could be transported. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy hit at that time, causing a lot of damage. Finding replacement parts for something made in 1954 was difficult and they had to travel back to Connecticut and all over the Midwest to find parts that were old and in good condition so it would fit well into the diner. They are very pleased with the final results and support they have received from the wonderful community. "Everyday is fun.", said Joni. She likes to visit with the customers and doesn't mind getting up so early to be ready for the 6am opening. I asked her if she would consider having the workers dress up in costume, like poodle skirts, and other 50s, and 60s clothes, and she whispered. "I'm working on it," with a smile. I believe that will make the diner even more fun. In the meantime, girls, put on your poodle skirts and boys, grab your black leather jackets, and head over to Joni's Diner. You'll love everything about it.