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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: 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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