Category Archives: Diners

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.

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All-American Diner Tour: Gram’s Diner in Adams, New York

Located in downtown Adams, New York near Sandy Creek, Gram’s is a modern diner with a contemporary style. According to the Watertown Daily Times, Gram’s has been open for decades, with a handmade, wooden sign above the door (you can see old photos in this article). New owners took over Gram’s in 2013 and updated its decor to give it a fresh new look.

When I visited, I was impressed with the diner’s cleanliness, bright atmosphere, and local pride, but not its wait time. I made the mistake of waiting to be seated and was left standing by the register for quite some time before I realized I could just seat myself. I decided to take a spot at the counter. Even as the only person at the counter, it took at least ten to fifteen minutes before I even got a menu. Despite feeling invisible, my omelet was good (loaded with meat), and they offered a wide selection of toast.

Gram’s no-frills menu includes the usual eggs, omelets, pancakes, and French toast. You won’t find many surprises on their lunch and dinner menu either. Their dinner menu is divided into four categories: steaks, chicken, Italian, and seafood, with four offerings a piece. They do have deep fried cheese curds, which is more commonly found in the upper Midwest, particularly Wisconsin.  They also offer bacon cheeseburger poutine for $9.

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All-American Diner Tour: Market Diner in Syracuse, New York

Located off Park Street north of Destiny Mall and adjacent to the Syracuse Farmer’s Market, the Market Diner is rock ‘n’ roll-themed with a cafe-like atmosphere. Owned by the Marinos family since 1974.

The CNY Regional Market is a sprawling flea market in central Syracuse, open on Saturday and Sunday, and Thursday May through November. Many folks stop at the Market Diner to fuel up for a morning or afternoon of browsing through endless tables of junk (I mean, er… treasures), though it is not exclusively tied to the market. When a friend and I visited, I ordered an omelet with toast and a bowl of grits. Grits are usually iffy this far north, but these weren’t too bad.

Despite being quite crowded that morning, we were seated, put in our order, and received our food in a timely manner.

The Market Diner has a traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu with a few custom items, most notably the State Fair Sausage Sub. The sub comes with Gianelli sausage, onions, peppers, and provolone on a grilled sub roll for $7.99. Nonna’s Double Meat Lasagna, Zelma’s Meatloaf (“Famous for our HUGE portions served with smothered in Silky gravy with soup or salad and two sides”), and Niko’s Pot Roast, each for $10.99, are also available.

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All-American Diner Tour: Prospect Mountain Diner in Lake George, New York

Located along US Route 9 just west of Lake George Battleground State Campground, Prospect Mountain Diner is a typical 1950s or rock ‘n’ roll-themed diner in Lake George, New York, complete with tableside jukeboxes.

There is so much to see and do in Lake George, and the Prospect Mountain Diner is at the heart of it all. After a bad experience at a different local restaurant the previous morning, I welcomed Prospect Mountain’s casual atmosphere and reasonable prices. Unlike the other place, which charged $2.50 for every soda refill (more than a gallon of gas!), refills here were free. I ordered a Belgian waffle topped with apples and whipped cream.

The original Prospect Mountain, called Point Diner and located at the junction of Routes 9 and 9L, was a classic Silk City Diner. The Paterson Wagon Company produced approximately 1,500 Silk City Diners from 1926 to 1966 in Paterson, New Jersey. In 1967, the Point Diner’s owner, Phillip Patenaude, moved it to its current location and renamed it the Prospect Mountain Diner. It burnt down in 2007 and a replica was built in its place.

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All-American Diner Tour: Longway’s Diner in Watertown, New York

Located at the intersection of State Routes 37 and 342 several miles north of Watertown, New York, Longway’s Diner is a greasy spoon catering primarily to interstate truckers and soldiers from nearby Fort Drum.

Longway’s has plenty of booth and counter space, although the booths are tightly packed. On multiple visits, the food has been consistently good. Everything is served together–home fries, eggs, toast, sausage or bacon, all on the same plate, giving it that greasy, uniform flavor. Like most 24-hour establishments, people come here after a night of drinking to settle their stomachs with a nice heavy meal. During the day, it’s more of a family place.

There are a few motels, auto shops, and gas stations nearby, so not much to see and do. Patrons mainly stop in as they’re passing through the area.

There are no surprises or custom items on Longway’s menu, just typical diner fare. The menu is simple and easy to understand. Breakfast is tiered, with eggs and French toast listed in increasing increments (1 Egg… $1.49. 2 Eggs… $2.39. 3 Eggs… $3.29. Etc). Generic sides, like meat, home fries, and home fries and meat, are carefully listed beneath each item. I imagine this was done deliberately to make ordering with a hangover easier.

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All-American Diner Tour: Julie’s Diner in North Syracuse, New York

Located off Brewerton Road (US Highway 11) at the terminus of Airport Boulevard just outside the Syracuse Hancock International Airport in North Syracuse, New York, Julie’s is a modern diner with a fresh, contemporary style. Their motto is “We dish it out, you gotta take it!” (Not sure what that’s supposed to mean…)

Julie’s was crowded when a friend and I visited. We sat at the small counter (5 to 6 seats at most) and both had their signature waffles. I also got a side of raisin toast. I don’t know if blueberries were just out of season, but the blueberry topping they used seemed old and the berries were tiny. The waffle was good though. The diner was clean and the wait staff was friendly, despite the rush.

Julie’s is only open until 2:30 p.m., so breakfast is its primary focus. Without a doubt, people come here for the waffles. They are served Belgian style with several different fruit toppings, or just powdered sugar.

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