A Farewell to Doc’s

By Nathan Mattise

A lot of people wonder “Why diners?” when they see allusions to the upcoming SyracuseDiners.com project. The answer is best summed up by a This American Life episode entitled “24 Hours at the Golden Apple.” Ira Glass and crew spend 24 hours straight inside their local diner talking to the variety of people who pass through in just a single day. They find love and heartbreak, youth and wisdom, humor and tragedy. It’s the scene for the microcasms of life to play out side by side almost on a daily basis (but to make it better coffee is served along the way).

Doc’s Little Gem was that landmark for me during my undergraduate years. It was the place I first fit in, becoming the forum where some of the older folks in First Year Players asked me to join their 3 a.m. frittata runs. As as resident advisor, I brought residents there to hear about their life hopes and dreams while debating literary characters with tables around us. It was the first place I took my sister to eat when she finally came to see my campus. It was the first place I met the two-years-and-counting girlfriend’s father. I’ve even taken multiple close friends there for “morning after coffee” – when grandparents passed away or their own farewells from the area were imminent.

The ideal diner will forever be represented by Doc’s in my mind. The decor was retro yet inviting. The staff was friendly and engaging. The food was plentiful and affordable (not to mention always strangely satisfying). It was the first place that came to mind whenever I was asked where someone should eat in Syracuse and it was the last place I ever expected to go away.

As I grow older and inevitably make memory lane pilgrimages to campus, those trips became a little less satisfying last week. It’ll be great to walk across the quad or step inside the Dome, but to me Doc’s was just as much a part of my time in Syracuse. I know I’m not the only who feels that way. I’m just unfortunately among the last who will have the chance to do so.

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One Response to “A Farewell to Doc’s”

  1. Hal Rood says:

    Little Gem played a role in my life. I remember a late night in early 1990 when I met up with Mike Tierney for a coffee at Little Gem and on a napkin we worked out a relaunch of WJPZ, Z89. The student radio station from that point doubled it’s ratings and became a national radio story. People still bring that up to me. It is memories like that which make diners so special.

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