Although buzzwords like “green,” “sustainable and “biodegradable”
seem to be rolling off everyone’s lips these days, there are a few
concerned citizens who aren’t just talking the talk. These
Syracuse-area restaurants have made changes both big and small to the
ways they do business, adopting green practices that satisfy their
loyal customers—and the environment.
Paper trail: Market Diner owners Tony Imbesi and Elaine Marinos now use biodegradable containers for leftovers and to-go orders. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS
At Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 236 W. Genesee St. (476-4937), Styrofoam
containers have gone, well, the way of the dinosaur. “We do a high
volume of takeout orders, and we were using primarily Styrofoam
containers,” says office manager Lindsay Amorese, who notes that in
late 2008, comments from staff members urged restaurant management to
head in a greener direction. “A lot of our employees have strong
personal beliefs about the environment, and they really encouraged us
to make the switch.”
But making the earth-friendly transition wasn’t easy. Because the
Dinosaur’s delicious eats tend to be heavy—literally—and portions are
plentiful, it was difficult to find takeout containers that could
handle the weight.
“We ran tests with lots of options,” explains Amorese. “The process
took several weeks.” The winner? Recyclable plastic containers that
customers can wash and reuse again and again. Plastic bags and paper
napkins were also swapped for paper bags and napkins made from
recyclable materials. The restaurant completed the change-out in
The response, says Amorese, has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Customers feel better about our products, employees are proud to work
here,” she says. “Everybody’s happy!”
At Market Diner, 2100 Park St. (474-52470), some major, but quiet,
changes have been taking place since Tony Imbesi and his wife, Elaine
Marinos, took over as owners in September 2009. Opened in 1974 and run
by members of the Marinos family ever since, Market Diner has been one
of the most popular spots in Syracuse for decades, serving diner
classics like hotcakes, Belgian waffles and triple-decker sandwiches.
Unfortunately, the diner also served to-go meals in Styrofoam, and
didn’t recycle items like plastic, bottles or cardboard.
“My wife and I knew that times have changed, and we saw a better way
to do business,” says Imbesi. Sparked by a recent Florida vacation,
where Imbesi noticed that many Florida restaurants used biodegradable
containers, the couple came home to Syracuse and started doing their
“All you have to do is Google ‘biodegradable containers,’ and you’ll
see how many choices are out there,” says Imbesi. After determining
which option worked best with their food and their budget, Imbesi and
Marinos made a sweet decision. They chose sugar-cane based containers
that are all-natural and 100 percent compostable. “They’re from the
earth,” says Imbesi. “So when they hit a landfill and break down, they
eventually become food for the masses.”
The new owners didn’t stop there. Paper cups replaced Styrofoam,
napkins are now biodegradable, and even the straws and straw wrappers
are made from eco-friendly materials. Recycling bins were placed behind
the restaurant, and garbage is sorted regularly so nothing goes to
But perhaps the most unusual item that Market Diner recycles is the
same ingredient that makes the diner’s fried dishes so delicious.
Instead of discarding excess vegetable oil, the diner donates the stuff
to a local auto mechanic, where the oil is filtered and used to fuel
diesel engines. With close to 60 gallons of oil donated per month,
that’s one powerful tradeoff.
When Doug Walters took over as executive chef at The Arad Evans Inn,
7206 Genesee St., Fayetteville (637-2020), in January, he brought more
than his 20 years of experience and a fresh take on fine dining. The
chef, who spent years working at restaurants in the Pacific Northwest,
hoped to infuse the venue with his socially conscious, fresh-focused
“This part of the country has become so overrun with big
corporations and mass production,” he says. “I wanted to support local
farmers by using the freshest, best quality ingredients within the
With this goal in mind, Walters began to cultivate relationships
with only five farmers in the area, who provide 90 percent of the
organic, pesticide- and herbicide-free produce used at Arad Evans.
Local farmers also supply all of the proteins, including lamb, chicken
and beef, and all are pasture-raised and hormone-free. Seafood and
fish, such as salmon, halibut and swordfish, are line-caught “by
fisherman with reels,” says Walters. “It’s an old-fashioned mentality,
but it makes for the best quality product.”
It also makes for the best taste. Menu specialties like pan-seared
duck breast, grilled swordfish and filet mignon, have a cleaner, more
natural flavor. “The difference in taste is unbelievable,” says Walters.
So, the next time someone tells you to do something good for the
environment, do your part by visiting one of these local eateries for a
bite. Supporting their efforts means reducing landfill waste,
sustaining local agriculture and enjoying a guilt-free delicious meal.
If that doesn’t convince you to go green, what will?