Friday, September 11, 2009

Review: Doc's Little Gem Diner

Name: Doc's Little Gem Diner
Address: 832 Spencer St, Syracuse, NY
Neighborhood: Lakefront
Website: www.myspace.comlittlegemdiner
Menu: n/a
Cuisine: Diner
Hours: Monday-Wednesday 6 AM to 10 PM, Thursday-Saturday 6 AM to 6 AM, Sunday 6 AM to 10 PM
Parking: Private Lot
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Take-Out: Yes
Delivery: No

After searching the Northside for diner food on a Saturday night, and feeling a bit downtrodden after finding out that one of my favorite places in town for late-night eats had just closed for good (TJC's Restaurant on North Salina), I concluded that Doc's Little Gem Diner would be the place most likely to fill the empty voids of both my stomach and my heart. Even if it was only temporarily.

Doc's is a bit of an oasis: a glowing, neon sign essentially pops up in the middle of nowhere as you drive closer. And if the bright, red sign isn't enough to get your attention, when you've reached the corner of Liberty and Spencer streets in what feels like an area of complete desolation, you've arrived.

From the outside and in, Little Gem is your quintessential and classic diner. It's how a diner is supposed to look and feel. A diner in some incarnation or another (like Hank McCall's Little Gem, for example) has been at this location since 1955. And it's only fitting that Rock Around the Clock hit the big screen in that same year. This place feels like Rock and Roll. The Fodero-style diner is covered in metallic and shiny 50's decor that covers counter tops and sides of booths making the place feel bigger inside than it actually is.

The menu is Americana all the way with a relatively large offering that consists of things like burgers, pastas, subs, open-faced sandwiches, seafood, and traditional breakfast options like three-egg omelets, frittatas, breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal, waffles and pancakes.

The order...

Eggs Benedict: $4.55
Home fries with Onions: $1.10
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $8.53

Evidently, I don't have steady hands at 1 AM.

Picture above are Eggs Benedict (two poached eggs, Canadian bacon on an English muffin with Hollandaise sauce) and a side of home fries with onions.

The main plate was very good: well-poached eggs with fluffy whites, creamy Hollandaise sauce topped with a little bit of cayenne pepper, tasty Canadian bacon, all on toasted, crispy English muffins that essentially soaked up everything on top. These were good. And honestly, at 1 in the morning, I wasn't expecting it to be. But it turned out that I chose well. Although it was good, my one complaint though was that there was way too much Hollandaise sauce. As for the other plate, I really liked these home fries. Perhaps a bit greasy, but it hit the spot regardless. I'm picky about my home fries and actually do not prefer the square-style that I got, because I think more often than not they usually end up being undercooked and bland, but these were cooked all the way through. Crispy skins and accompanied with nicely cooked onions. Thumbs up.

Other notes about Doc's Little Gem Diner...

- You know the place is a late-night destination when you overhear the waitress say that it gets busy around 3 AM.

- Even though there are indications on the outdoor sign and menu cover that say otherwise, the place is not open 24-hours anymore.

- Zippy got it right.

The food was good. I'd say it was about average for a diner meal. I think if you go in there anticipating standard, run-of-the-mill diner food and not a gourmet meal, you'll be pleased with Doc's. And as far as late-night eating is concerned, Doc's Little Gem may be the epitome. Overall, the portion sizes were big, it's a cool spot for classic diner food, and the menu has a lot of different options to offer. In my opinion, a bit stiff for diner prices in Upstate New York though. And the location is weird too. Maybe it wasn't back in 1955, but it's odd now. Perhaps it's a good thing - a low-key, working man's diner during the day and a hoping, hot-spot for late-nighters in the wee-hours all located in what is now a run-down and desolate industrial neighborhood. At any rate, I'll be going back. And I'd consider Doc's not only for late-night, but for breakfast and lunch as well.

And just to reiterate how Diners Without Frosted Tips feels, my advice to you would be to check this place out before it's too late. Even if only for the nostalgic purpose. Because as I learned with my old favorite diner spot, you never know when a place like this will surprisingly vanish.

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