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The Gem Diner

One summer in college I tried my hand at waiting tables. I am the first to admit, I was terrible at it. I enjoyed the customers, and I could be honestly enthusiastic about the food. But it was probably the hardest work I’ve ever done. As a result, I have a deep and abiding appreciation for the art, devotion, and sheer determination a good restaurant – and all its staff – brings, literally, to the table!

Talking with Gem hands-on owner/manager Anthony LaLone, I heard another side of it. In a way, it’s a love affair. “The restaurant business can make or break you,” he admits, “but at the end of the day, you didn’t just ‘get through’ another day. You had the best day of your life.”

The restaurant business is in the family DNA, it seems, as his grandmother was the proprietor of Mama Nancy’s, another legendary Syracuse eatery. “I more or less got started there,” says LaLone. “I was only three or four, but the restaurant business was part of our lives even then.”

First opened in 1950 as “The Little Gem,” it was purchased by Montreal Construction in 2011, and Doug LaLone, his wife Tammy, and ultimately the whole family went, in a way “back,” into the restaurant business. And it was definitely a family affair – with Doug out front, Tammy keeping the books, and Anthony at work in the kitchen producing the heaping helpings of dishes that have made The Gem one of the most popular places in Syracuse to sit down to a hearty meal, a light snack, or a great cup of coffee.

In 2018, Len Montreal came to the LaLone family with an idea for a restaurant in the developing Inner Harbor area. And The Preserve at 405 was soon a reality – an upscale location serving pub-meets-fine-dining cuisine, enhanced by specialty and seasonal cocktails, wines, and a range of draft and bottled beers. Doug LaLone moved his center of operations there, leaving Anthony to man the ship at The Gem.

Anthony’s the first to admit, “I have an amazing crew who make it possible for me to be three people at one time,” he says. “Though the pandemic served up its own challenges in terms of personnel, we have some loyal and talented people who work here, and they’re the backbone of the business.”

When LaLone started cooking, he was also a college student, though eventually he realized that his heart, and the family tradition, was in the restaurant business. “It is a very traditional business, a real family business. I was expected to work there, and I wanted to work there. That was what I always planned to do – take the reins of the family business.”

Perhaps it’s the family aspect that makes The Gem such a literal treasure for the people of Syracuse. Or maybe it’s just the fact that from the atmosphere – old school diner – to the food (eggs any way you want, biscuits and gravy, hash, Fretattas, burgers, chili… ok, I’m making myself hungry!), to the generous portions, the cozy booths, the counter service and that famous view of your meal being prepared, The Gem offers an experience that is as iconic to Americans as the pub is to most Brits, or the street café to a Frenchman. 

LaLone is proud of being able to put his stamp on the traditional spot, having taken full charge in the beginning of 2023. “But in the end, it’s a family effort. My parents run The Preserve, I run the Gem, but it’s all one family effort. We talk, we discuss what’s needed at each place, it’s a single family, a single business.”

And it’s not just a Syracuse tradition, an older one and a newer one, but it’s some of the best dining fun, friends, and food you’ll experience in town. That’s a promise, from the LaLone family, to yours!

The Gem Diner

Tuesday – Thursday:  6am – 3pm , Friday 6am – 8pm

Saturday & Sunday: 6am – 3pm


Located on the west side of Syracuse, just five minutes down the road from Destiny USA.

832 Spencer St., Syracuse, NY 13204

(315) 314-7380

The Preserve at 405

Tuesday – Saturday Noon – 9pm

Sunday & Monday – Closed


Nancy Roberts