Driving down Walden Avenue in Lancaster, it’s not hard to spot the Aunt Robin’s Diner sign positioned prominently on top of the restaurant.
The diner, located at 3580 Walden Ave. in a small blue plaza, is flanked by a laundromat on the right and reiki practitioner on the left.
We checked out this breakfast-and-lunch-only spot to see where it stands among its other area Cheap Eats competition.
Our server recommended breakfast, and so we went all in, trying the Lil Mama omelet ($6.99), which comes with home fries and toast; breakfast sandwich ($4.99); Belgian waffle ($4.99); and side of pancake and French toast ($2.29 each).
Lunch includes hot and cold sandwiches and melts. What stood out is that, with the exception of the steak-and-cheese melt, which is $8.99, none of the melts or hot sandwiches cost more than $7.99, and, impressively, you can get fries with them.
As we waited for the food, we sipped coffee, which would be refilled plenty of times. The cozy interior houses a row of spacious, cushy booths on one side and a counter with chrome stools on the other, along with some tables at the front.
To our left was an unusual sight: two tables brimming with prize baskets. The baskets, one of the servers said, are for the diner’s raffle fundraiser. Aunt Robin's is hoping to fund a cooler to hold the free bag lunches that it gives away throughout the year to youth and also to help offset the costs of the free meals it offers every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. The meals started off with 20 to 30 people in 2014, when the diner opened, and have since grown to more than 100.
The woman behind it all is Robin Finsterbach, who runs the establishment along with her two grown children. She said if she could give people free meals every day, she would, because she likes making people’s day brighter.
“No matter how we look at it, we’re blessed,” she said. “We don't have a lot, but what we do have we share.”
Our food arrived quickly. The standout plate was the breakfast sandwich, featuring two fluffy eggs, crisp bacon and melty American cheese between a toasted Costanzo's roll. Its price, $4.99, is what you would pay at any local fast food spot for a breakfast sandwich, and this was infinitely superior. The omelet, stuffed with feta and spinach, was also very enjoyable. The fluffy pancake, tasty French toast and Belgian waffle rounded out a scrumptious breakfast.
We agreed we would return, particularly for that savory breakfast sandwich. But what stands out most about Aunt Robin’s Diner is the heart of the place. It’s not just somewhere to find excellent cheap eats. It’s a place that gives back to the community.
Finsterbach’s attitude seems to be spreading. Throughout our visit, people kept walking through the door carrying baskets for the fundraiser, making the pile to our left grow larger.
“When I opened the diner I felt totally blessed to have come from where I started off at, and if I can help somebody, I definitely will,” Finsterbach said. “We try to pay it forward.”
Aunt Robin's Diner
3580 Walden Ave., Lancaster (948-9361)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.
Gluten-free options: none