Located in Syracuse near the border of the Italian-American hamlet of Lyncourt, New York, Carl’s Kountry Kitchen is a classic greasy spoon right out of the 1960s. Like the surrounding neighborhood, not much has changed here in decades.
On my visit, I ordered the Belgian waffle with blueberries and sausage. The Diet Coke came in a can, which is a pet peeve of mine. They are also a cash only establishment, but provide an ATM. I got the impression Carl’s catered to older regulars, but the waitress was nice and attentive. There is some booth seating, but it has a unique counter setup. There are two, U-shaped counters. The waiter or waitress can walk right up to patrons without ever having to leave the serving area. Condiments, napkins, and silverware are all within easy arms reach behind the counter.
Breakfast is served all day at Carl’s. They offer standard fare of omelettes, breakfast sandwiches, a Belgian waffle, and numbered specials–most of which include two eggs and some kind of side with coffee. They do serve silver dollar pancakes, which is something I haven’t noticed at other diners in the region. Polish Kielbasa, a thick, smoked sausage, is also available.
The Hoover Dam is an engineering marvel, truly one of the great monuments to American ingenuity and strength. Like Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, I couldn’t help being struck by the sheer size of the dam. It was a massive project on an unprecedented scale, like the ancient pyramids. An entire city was built to house the thousands of workers.
The Hoover Dam spans the Black Canyon on the Colorado River, between Nevada and Arizona. U.S. Route 93 used to cross the dam, but a bypass was opened in 2010 to divert traffic away from the structure. The steel and concrete bridge, called the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, is impressive in itself. The bridge is 1,900 feet long and 900 feet above the Colorado River.
The dam was built between 1931 and 1936 and cost $49 million ($700 million today). It was originally called the Boulder Dam, but Congress changed its name in 1947 in honor of former President Herbert Hoover. It rises 726.4 feet and spans 1,244 feet.
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.
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.
My first exposure to Red Rock Canyon was in the game Fallout: New Vegas, so when I visited the real Las Vegas, I jumped at the chance to see it firsthand. It’s right outside the city, only a 10-15 minute drive west of the metro area. Thankfully, I didn’t run into any Great Khans or Cazadors. It was the middle of summer though, so it was ridiculously hot.
Red Rock Canyon, Calico Hill, and Keystone Thrust are simply breathtaking. 600 million years ago, the area was under an ocean and sediments gradually hardened into limestone. By 180 million years ago, the area became a desert and was covered by shifting sand dunes. These hardened into sandstone with calcium carbonate and iron oxides, giving the rocks, called Aztec Sandstone, a unique reddish color. They are only found in the Mojave Desert.
Like Custer State Park in South Dakota, wild donkeys, called burros (donkey in Spanish), roam the park, although I never saw one. The Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association adopted a burro and named him “Jackson.” He sometimes hangs out at the Visitors Center or south of Highway 159 where the Loop Train begins, but you’re not supposed to feed him.
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.
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.