Funk n Waffles

Funk n’ Waffles

Ask people where you should eat in Syracuse, and more times than not they’ll say Dinosaur Barbeque. And when you tell them you went to Syracuse, and you didn’t go to Dinosaur Barbeque, they’ll gasp and sigh like you passed on the opportunity of a lifetime. I am not kidding.

Dinosaur Barbeque must be really good. But I’ve had barbecue in North Carolina, and most southern states. And I’ve never had fried chicken served on a waffle before. So when I was in Syracuse, I opted to dine at Funk n’ Waffles.

Funk n Waffles in Syracuse

Funk n’ Waffles is a groovy little restaurant that serves fried chicken tenders on waffles, with an optional selection of sauces. I think I got the ‘spicey maple’. Soul-warming and unexpectedly decadent. Crisp and tender. Savory and sweet. Recommended. Their logo is a waffle on a record turntable — doesn’t get much cooler than that.

I spent some time wandering around Downtown Syracuse. I walked past Dinosaur Barbeque — it was packed, inside and out. Decorated with cartoon dinosaurs. I didn’t get a second dinner, but I thought about it.

The colorfully illuminated art-deco Niagara Mohawk Building:
Art Deco with colorful lighting. Syracuse

A road cone with koi painted on it:
Koi road cone

A metallic building:
Metallic building in Syracuse

The reason why I was in Syracuse, might be more interesting than this story: 17-year Cicadas.

A Rave about Hunter DineRant

The diner: that great American species of restaurant! When I think of a diner, I think of a variety of food, at a reasonable price. Eggs at 2 am. A place where cash-strapped young adults can gather and converse, recovering from or plotting their next adventure over black coffee and fries. A place were laughs, worries and dreams can be shared among friends.

Hunter Dinerant (I’m guessing Dinerant is a portmanteau of diner & restaurant) is located in Auburn, New York, about 3 miles north of the finger lake, Owasco Lake. On Google, it’s called “Hunter’s Dinerant”, but the actual signage lacks the apostrophe. The Dinerant seems to hang over the side of the Owasco River.

The Dinerant is what I would call a classic American diner. Not quite the romanticized Hollywood version with a cast of gum-snapping, pomade-greased teenagers bopping about — but close.

The Dinerant has many of the features that every classic diner should have:

  1. It is shaped like a railroad dining car. A single aisle down the center. Curved corners.
  2. It is wrapped in gleaming chrome, and detailed with crimson and white stripes.
  3. It has booths for groups, and a counter & stools for solitary folks.
  4. Cadillac-pink vinyl upholstery. Pink Formica everywhere.
  5. Meat-pink floors flecked with white and black confetti patterns.
  6. Vinyl-protected menus listings dozens, if not hundreds of reasonably priced comfort foods.
  7. A mini jukebox at every table, with alpha-numeric keypads. You want to play a song just to feel the mechanical pop of those keys.

This type of diner differs from the Jersey Greek diners I’m used to. Jersey Greek diners lack the railroad dining car shape and 1950’s aesthetic. Same basic food and jukeboxes though.

The waitress was polite and welcomed me to sit wherever I like. I ordered a coffee, fries and a grilled cheese on white — my personal favorite diner foods. It’s been 5 months since I was there, but I remember the coffee was strong, but not burnt, bitter or sour. It was perfect. Nice white porcelain mug. The fries — not too thin, not too thick — I covered with a reasonable shower of ketchup — that familiar micro-moment resistance of the fried outside, giving way to the soft potato fluff inside. The grilled cheese was photo perfect — cut on a diagonal. Each bite was a harmony of buttery, barely crisp bread, oozing with just hot enough to not burn your mouth American cheese. Delicious. Exactly the lunch I needed to supply the energy for a long day of driving.

Visit the Hunter Dinerant for its classic looks and a perfect diner meal. Marvel at how it partially hangs over the side of a small river.

Interior of the Dinerant — thankfully just one TV, with the volume turned low. So much pink and chrome.
Interior of Hunter Dinerant

The exterior of the Dinerant — see the river below?
Hunter Dinerant

Across the street and to the right you’ll see a large pale red sign for Genesee Beer. It looks like it was once neon, but the tubes have been removed.
Genesee Beer

Steve Heller's Custom Car

Steve Heller’s Custom Car Sculptures

While rambling along Route 28 on my way to a Catskills camping adventure, I encountered Steve Heller’s amazing space age & custom car sculptures. Staged on the grounds of Steve’s Fabulous Furniture showroom (3930 Route 28 Boiceville, NY), you’ll find U.F.O.s, rocket ships, metal dragons and pigs, and custom cars chopped and cropped into works of art.

At a minimum, you’ll want to stop and take photos, but you really should go inside the Fabulous Furniture showroom and check out Steve’s smaller space-age sculptures and live-edge furniture. You really have to see it to believe it.

A U.F.O.:

Rocket to Roswell

Rocket Ships:

Fintasia 14 Blast Off!

Rocket rebuilt from retro cars

Severely chopped cars:

Retro Rocket Car

Steve Heller Car Sculpture

And even an actual functioning car:

Custom Car