Unless you know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to drive right by Mother’s Cupboard. The James Street diner begs to be overlooked as it resembles a large shed or bait and tackle shop more so than any traditional diner.
Don’t let its appearance fool you. Mother’s Cupboard is small and unassuming in appearance only. Once inside everything about the diner is big: its portions, its flavor, its value and its personality.
“Work is work, it’s never fun, but our customers are like family and the conversation that goes along with that is the best,” Amy Easton, co-owner of Mother’s Cupboard, said. “People think we’re family, but no, we just yell at each other like family sometimes.”
Easton has owned the establishment for the past seven years and worked there for five before. It’s an intimate setting – small, crowded with a good batch of regulars – and the staff at Mother’s Cupboard embraces that. Whether things are hectic or it’s a moment of quiet, Easton can be seen doing a little bit of everything. In the course of a single morning she’ll be interacting with customers or waiting tables then switching to work the register and handling a few orders on their impressively massive grill.
“Actually I don’t know if you can learn [the grill],” she said. “I think you have to have a knack for it. You can try to teach it but it’s all timing. You need to feel when to put certain things on, flip them, take them off.”
The ambiance and people are great, but the real calling card of Mother’s Cupboard is the food. It’s incredibly affordable (nothing really over $8) and the menu boasts a combination of popular regular diner fare with daily breakfast/lunch specials. The two most famous dishes even get their own sections of the menu. A full-plate frittata ($7.95) is advertised as the in-house eating contest where finishing it earns you a T-shirt and a clean plate photo on the wall. The foot-wide pancake ($3.95/$4.50 with fillings) description reads, “We’re the funky little shack with the great big stack! Don’t eat two, you’ll hurt yourself.”
“I’ve eaten [the frittata and the pancake] just not anywhere those proportions,” Eaton said.
If you’re looking to satisfy your hunger at an original and intimate breakfast experience, Mother’s Cupboard is the place to go. They’re a traditional diner in the sense they are only open for breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Sunday and 7 a.m. -1:30 p.m. every other day, and you need to bring cash. They don’t have free WiFi and there’s no official Web presence for the diner either, so word of mouth certainly leads many there.
Most of all, don’t be bashful about asking for advice from the staff.
“For the frittata, I would eat the bread first,” Easton said. “When you’re that full and then you need to shove three pieces of bread down, that doesn’t work so much.”
- Super cheap
- Open daily 6 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
- No WiFi or website
- Bring cash
- Small interior, go early for seating (especially on weekends)
- Daily lunch/breakfast specials in addition to everyday diner fare
3709 James Street
Syracuse, NY 13206-2525