The Infamous Tunnel Between Zehnder’s and Bavarian Inn | Zehnder's of Frankenmuth

The Infamous Tunnel Between Zehnder’s and Bavarian Inn

By Chef John Zehnder, CEC, ACE, HGT, AAC

Most of what you see and experience in Zehnder’s Lower Level is the result of a massive expansion that happened in the early 1970’s. Restricted basically on all sides, expansion meant one of two things, either add additional stories on top of the existing building or add a lower level area. Since the center structure of Zehnder’s dates back to 1856, it was thought the best plan would be to add a lower level. Zehnder’s Restaurant had been built on a flood plain so there was no existing basement. And…the major “dig” began.

Part of the plan was to dig out under the sidewalk in the front of the restaurant and use the new lower level space created as part of what is now Z Chef’s Cafe’s kitchen and service line area. Curious guests would often ask about all the major construction going on. At that time, there was a maintenance staff member whose name was Fred List. Now Fred, who was also a cousin to the Zehnder family, was known throughout the Frankenmuth area as a prankster and practical joker. Cousin Fred thought he’d have a little fun. So while he was working, he would tell people that we were building a tunnel between Bavarian Inn so that we could have a common kitchen between the two operations.

Fast forward almost 40 years later and we still have folks who from time to time, still ask or comment about “the tunnel to the Bavarian Inn”. I know Cousin Fred is up in heaven still giggling about it!

Janet’s Peanut Butter Fudge:

When I think of holiday treats, one of the top items on the list is my wife’s peanut butter fudge. Each year, she makes two or three five pound batches and hands it out as gifts to friends and neighbors as stocking stuffers.

In a large, heavy pan, place 2 lbs. of powdered sugar, 1/2 cup butter and one 13 oz. can of evaporated milk. Cook over medium heat – stirring until all ingredients melt and blend together.
Continue to cook to soft ball stage – 235F on candy thermometer.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in 7 oz. jar of marshmallow creme.
Next, stir in 18 oz. smooth peanut butter.
Pour into 9″x9″ greased pans.
Cut into squares when cool.


  1. Kathy Duvendeck says:

    Great story.
    Thanks for the recipe.
    And thanks for making our holiday tables extra delightful! We purchase the pumpernickel duck every year just before Thanksgiving, hollow out a section and place a bowl with spinach dip in it and decorate around it with colorful fall leaves for Thanksgiving day dinner. Afterward we wrap it and freeze it until Christmas and use it again surrounded with fresh greens and berries. Really festive!

    Thanks also for the baking/cooking classes. Definitely worth the drive from Ann Arbor.

  2. Dan & Judy Anderson says:

    We’ll see you on Thursday, my husband, Dan’s birthday!! With friends, Junior and Linda Near, her birthday is today!! Yes, we have our Rewards cards!!

  3. Ruth Dow says:

    I am enjoying your newsletter. It keeps me posted on what is happening as well as historical events . I enjoy the humorous ones !

  4. joshua clawson says:

    I am 33 and told my kids about the tunnel last year…i will always look around the same corners and wondern

  5. Jane Ward says:

    Cute story about the tunnel. A myth confirmed.

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