Miss Syracuse Diner
After taking an early retirement from his job as a corporate credit manager, Joe Todisco didn’t know what to do.
“I was home for 3 weeks and I came one day to the realization I was so bored with my life I couldn’t stand it anymore,” Todisco said.
So he decided to take a drive through downtown Syracuse, and noticed a “For Rent” sign on the Miss Syracuse Diner, a city staple for more than 80 years. He took the number down, made a call, and three weeks later he moved in.
“We opened the Saturday of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade downtown,” Todisco said. “We just did it on a whim. The licensing came through at the last minute, so we just decided we were going to give it a shot.”
With the new ownership came a new name, aligning the diner with his other restaurant venture at the State Fair. The new name is officially “JJ’s Miss Syracuse Diner,” but you will find the original Miss Syracuse Diner signs still intact.
“Because people recognize the Miss Syracuse Diner — it has been here for so long — we just incorporated the name.”
Since its new start, the diner has been open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and during special events.
The diner functions right now with a two-person team. You’ll find Todisco behind the grill every day, cooking your typical diner fare: eggs, home fries and daily lunch specials, among other things. Joe’s good friend, Marie Lowery, is out front taking orders and serving the diner’s interesting mix of customers. Having a diner right next to the Syracuse City Hall means Lowery and Todisco see plenty of local leaders.
A steady stream of city, state, and visiting politicians keeps the diner interesting, Todisco said, but he acknowledges the diner caters to a wider variety of people. Even when business has been slow, Todisco is having fun nonetheless.
“I’ve had a lot more fun doing it maybe than I’ve had business but it has been fun to try and start off,” he said. “It has been well received because people are so happy to see it open again.”
It is quite a change from the corporate career Joe had only months before opening.
“I was in an office for 10 hours a day and didn’t really leave and spent half my life on the phone,” he said. “In here, the only thing I answer is the phone for takeout orders.
“And frankly if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it.”
258 E. Water Street
Syracuse, NY 13202