Roadside America

All-American Diner Tour: The Gem Diner in Syracuse, New York

Located off Spencer Street near I-690 in Syracuse’s Lakefront neighborhood, The Gem is a 1950s-style or rock ‘n’ roll-themed diner that also has an impressive beer menu featuring local breweries.

The Gem was founded by Henry “Hank” McCall in 1950 as The Little Gem Diner. In 1997, Francis “Doc” Good bought the Little Gem and renamed it Doc’s Little Gem Diner. In 2003, the State of New York banned smoking in most public places, and Doc estimated he lost 40% of his customers.

Then, in September 2007, a fire ravaged the diner and it was closed for repairs for over two months. After years of financial trouble, he sold it in 2011 to Len Montreal and Samuel Flatt. Doug LaLone leased the Gem, renovated, rebranded, and built an addition that expanded its seating from 47 seats to 130.

As an interesting aside, in 2009 Doc’s Little Gem Diner appeared in an episode of Jesse Ventura’s TruTV show Conspiracy Theory. The diner served as a backdrop for an interview with 9/11 conspiracy theorist Mike Bellone of Seneca Falls.

The Gem’s breakfast menu is heavy on the meat. You can get a 6 oz. Filet Mignon with two eggs, home fries and toast for $17.95, or a New York strip steak with two eggs, home fries and toast for $11.95. They also offer a cheeseburger breakfast, or if you want to cut right to the chase, just a half pound of chopped ground beef with with two eggs, home fries and toast for $9.00. You can also smother it in grilled mushrooms, onions, and peppers for a dollar.

Their diverse lunch and dinner menu features half pound burgers, chicken breast sandwiches, hot sandwiches, pasta, seafood, chicken, steaks, and classic dinners like liver, meatloaf, and pork chops. A Seafood Platter, Fried or Broiled Sea Scallop Dinner, and Lemon Pepper Broiled Haddock are only available on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The Gem has a 4.3/5 average out of 110 Google reviews.  Customers with positive experiences generally praise the Germ for huge portions, friendly wait staff, and being extremely generous with coffee refills. In a typical review, Yelp user Maria B. writes, “Service was quick and very good for a weekend. The portions are huge though! Come hungry or be ready to take left overs home.”

Google user Andrew Carlini writes, “Everything that you’ve ever wanted from a classic American diner.”

It was difficult to find a negative review of the Gem. One customer complained that the kitchen staff was dropping “F bombs,” and another that a patron continually cleared his throat, but these complaints are few and far between.

The Gem Diner is located at 832 Spencer Street in Syracuse, New York. Phone: (315) 314-7380. They are open Tuesday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, 6 a.m. through 7:00 p.m. They are closed on Mondays.


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