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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Two Blokes and a Bus

Written by Emma Voigt1 Comment • May 29, 2013

Just as we started getting excited about new food trucks starting in Syracuse, I learned of one becoming a sensation in my hometown of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Two friends, experienced in the restaurant industry, found an old London double decker, and followed their entrepreneurial inspiration. In the fall of 2012, they began serving internationally inspired dishes out of that refurbished 1958 London double decker bus they call, ‘Miss Victoria.’

A life-long anglophile and food enthusiast, I was eager to dine on the bus. I followed Two Blokes and a Bus on Facebook before I finally made it back to central Illinois. While on holiday in Illinois last week, my family and I chose a lovely evening to walk out to the bus, which according to the Facebook page, was parked about a mile from our home that evening.

We smelled the food cooking before we saw the bus. Neighbors—all drawn out by the enticing aromas, greeted each other in the queue. A woman in front of us joked that a make shift block party was forming in the parking lot. This mobile ‘bustaurant’ was bringing neighbors together.

After ordering our food from the side window, we headed upstairs to find a seat. European style seating—if there is an open spot, you are welcome to it. My family and I slid into one of the long booths across from another family.  It was their first time on the bus too. We were all clearly happy to be there, and they gave the food brilliant reviews. After they left, some loyal bus regulars joined us. We chatted about how great the fresh local ingredients were, and when our food arrived we all took pictures of one another’s dishes. I had steak kabobs with sticky rice, one of the blokes’ most popular items. The food is beautifully presented in traditional street food trays.

Before long, Steffan Block, one of the two owners, came up to check on us. He shared stories about England, and how the bus got started. By the time I finished eating, I actually felt like we were all old friends.  We finished the meal with Panna Cotta, eggless custard, topped with mango ginger. About to leave, we bumped into another acquaintance, and took time to catch up. In this fun and friendly atmosphere, you certainly do not want to rush your meal.

Steffan says there are some other mobile food businesses starting in Bloomington-Normal this summer. He has been helping them get started. In the world of food trucks, the more the merrier really is true. Larger cities have events where dozens of food trucks come to the same location to offer food and entertainment.  Some cities even have food truck hubs, where multiple trucks park and share an indoor seating area. We hope Syracuse’s food trucks will create the same sense of connectivity the blokes achieved in Illinois.


Food Truck Collage

Read up on Syracuse’s food trucks and carts at the following links:

Columbus Baking Co.

Fresh Crepe Co.

Gannon’s Ice Cream cart

Lady Bug Lunch Box

PB &J’s Lunch Box

Recess Mobile

Stevie’s Street Eats

STIR Mobile

Tortilla Jacks

On the Calendar: What’s New at ArtRage

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • May 28, 2013

ArtRage consistently brings educational and creative exhibits to their gallery. As they get ready for their 5th Anniversary season, a new exhibit, Remnants of a Secret War: photographs by Michael Greenlar, reminds us of the gallery’s goal toward social awareness, justice, and change.


A Hmong grandmother with sacred strings of good will
given to her by friends and relatives during the New Year celebration.
© Michael Greenlar


Greenlar has worked as a photographer for the Post-Standard and has also published work in publications such as, Life, Time, and the New York magazine. Most recently he’s been traveling to post-war Laos, taking images of the people there, and writing a book published in 2011 also entitled, Remnants of a Secret War. The exhibit at ArtRage will show images from Remnants as well as photos never before published.

His photographs document the Hmong people in two resettlement villages in Laos. The country is considered the most bombed in all of warfare history due to the US covert bombing campaign between 1964-73. The black and white images tell a story of the people who continue to adapt to life after the bombings.

ArtRage will hold an Opening Reception for Remnants on June 1 and the exhibit will end July 20. Greenlar will be at ArtRage on June 14 from 7:00-9:00 PM to give an artist talk.

Looking ahead, a full list of exhibits for the 5th Anniversary season is available online.

If you believe in activism, awareness, and art, then you might consider making a donation to ArtRage through their website. Watch the video below to learn more about ArtRage and its value in our community.


NBP Member: OC’s Fat Boy BBQ

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • May 27, 2013

Memorial Day is only the beginning of the summer’s graduation parties, weddings, and picnics! If you’re still looking for catering, you can’t go wrong with OC’s Fat Boy BBQ. A classic dive bar and BBQ joint, they have over 20 beers on tap, excellent service, and a catering menu with something for everybody. Stop in the restaurant for a rack of ribs and ask about their unbeatable catering prices.




Photo Friday: Headway

Written by admin  • May 24, 2013

Photo Friday: Headway

Enable Golf Classic

Written by admin  • May 23, 2013

On Friday, June 21 Enable is hosting their annual golf classic, but the registration deadline,Wednesday, May 29, is fast approaching.

Enable, also known as the United Cerebral Palsy and Handicapped Children’s Association of Syracuse, Inc. began in 1948.  Since that time they have provided a range of services to enhance the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities.  All proceeds from the golf classic go to support these services.

This year, the golf classic is being held at the Lake Shore Yacht and Country Club in Cicero, NY.  Registration and lunch begin at 11:30 a.m.  Golf starts at 1:00 pm and will be followed by a cocktail hour and auction at 5:30 and dinner at 6:30 pm.

For more information contact Cristina Jardine, Enable’s Donor Relations Coordinator, (315) 410-3384, cjardine@enablecny.org.  Registration is also available online.  Don’t miss a great chance to relax with friends and colleagues while supporting a great cause.

A Tomato is More than a Tomato

Written by Joe Russo7 Comments • May 22, 2013

Editor’s Note:  Joe Russo is a “Nortsider”, a teacher, and an aspiring writer. We’ve asked him to share his stories of the past and offer his perspective on the present and future of our neighborhood. His posts will appear a couple of times each month under the category, “Old Times on the Northside”.


The tomato is very important to the average Italian. It’s not just a fruit or a vegetable but a metaphor for life. My grandparents grew up in Sicily, in the shadow of Mount Etna; a volcano that is still active today. Volcanic ash layered for thousands of years has created a rich bed of soil to grow the most beautiful tomatoes imaginable. Growing flavorful tomatoes has always been a source of great pride for Sicilians and Italians who emigrated to the Northside of Syracuse. The climate, as you might imagine, was a huge challenge. The short growing season, the lack of sunshine and most importantly the soil was just not as fertile, due to the general absence of volcanos on the old Northside. But the old timers were crafty; they knew how to build up the soil with nutrients. Both of my grandfathers loved to garden. Grandpa Russo passed away when I was very young and I never got to talk to him about his gardening secrets. Grandpa Emmi lived into his nineties and I was able to absorb a wealth of information from him.

Grandpa Emmi lived on Grumbach Ave next to Schiller Park. His garden was absolutely magnificent, especially his tomatoes. Grandpa paid attention to every detail, the soil, moisture, fertilizer and of course the sun. I recall stopping by Grandpa Emmi’s home one warm summer day. He was sitting in the backyard under the grape arbor sipping a glass of his homemade wine. The conversation quickly focused on grandpa’s garden. He explained how he just spent the morning pruning his tomato plants. He actually examined each tomato plant and tended to its needs. This morning he concentrated on pruning off the bleeders. If a branch on the tomato plant didn’t have a flowering bud or an actual tomato he would snip it off. It was a bleeder, taking valuable nutrients that would otherwise be fortifying his soon to be beautiful red tomatoes.

I was living around the corner from my grandfather on Park Street at one time. “Tomato inspecta, the tomato inspecta is a here”, I heard over the knock on the door. I recognized the broken English but what was this tomato inspector stuff all about?  I had a very small house with a very small backyard and a very small tomato patch. Somehow grandpa found out about it. He was there to make sure I was doing the job right. We went right to the backyard and my humble tomato patch. Grandpa reached down and burrowed his fingers into the ground grabbing a pinch of soil to taste. I waited nervously for his judgment. “Did a you use a the cow manure?” he said knowingly. “No”, I replied, “I just raked in a bag of top soil I got from the hardware store.” “Oh Joey, you gotta use a lots a cow manure”, he said with his hand on my shoulder. It was clear there was more at stake here than growing tomatoes, it was family pride. The tomato represented hard work, commitment and an understanding of how to live a good life. If you lived on the northside the quality of your tomatoes were indicators of your commitment to that good life.

My grandfather had a stroke while in his early nineties but he still had to have his garden. He could no longer till the soil by hand with a pitch fork. My Uncle Sam Emmi told me he was going to grandpa’s house to rototill the garden. He said, with the big smile he was famous for, “..meet me at grandpa’s tomorrow”.  He thought I might be able to rake the soil or help out in some other way. As we unloaded Uncle Sam’s rototiller from his Buick station wagon grandpa became very agitated. “No, no, no machine!” he exclaimed in a high pitch voice. “You’ll bruise a the soil. Nothing will grow!” Uncle Sam reacted with a big laugh, “Oh Pa, the tiller is so much easier. It saves so much time.” Back and forth went the argument and as one would expect grandpa won. So, Uncle Sam and I spent the entire day digging with pitch forks, raking and breaking up clumps of soil, getting rid of stones and weeds. At the end of the day Grandpa had his beautiful “unbruised” soil and lovely red tomatoes. We had our aching backs.  The essence of this story is captured in a song by John Denver. “What would life be without home grown tomatoes? Only two things money can’t buy, that’s true love and home grown tomatoes.”


Joe Russo_ 4Joe Russo _ 5


On the Calendar: TNT Meeting

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • May 21, 2013

If you live, work, or own a business on the Northside, then you have a say about the future of the neighborhood. Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today (TNT) involves individuals in planning for the Northside by identifying and developing community assets and creating feasible plans and priorities for Syracuse’s neighborhoods. The Northside has it’s very own TNT branch, Area 7 – Northside. This group meets at 7:00 PM in the cafeteria of Grant Middle School every 4th Wednesday of the month. Join the planning committee by attending Area 7’s next meeting tomorrow night!

For more information about TNT, visit their website or contact Luke Dougherty via email (LDougherty@syrgov.net) or phone (315-448-8005).



NBP Member: Lead Safe

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • May 20, 2013



Using state of the art technology, Lead Safe has provided quality lead based paint services for 12 years now. Their group of highly dedicated professionals offer a unique approach when creating and managing lead-based paint programs and will take on the most difficult and complex contamination situations as if they were their own.


Editors Note: Each Monday, we’re introducing a community spotlight piece highlighting one of our Northside Business Partnership (NBP) members in an effort to showcase the diverse and unique businesses that make up the Northside. NBP is a collaboration between Northside UP, the Greater North Salina Business Association, and CenterState CEO that works to promote, support, and engage Northside businesses.

Photo Friday: Echo

Written by Stasya Erickson  • May 17, 2013

ECHO_Photo Friday

Thanos Gives Old World Charm to Northside Neighborhood

Written by Sarah Pallo  • May 16, 2013

Along with the wave of immigrants who came to Syracuse in the early 1900s sprouted a sampling of specialty, family owned businesses. Many of these shops found a home on the Northside, which boasted some of the best bakeries, import stores, breweries and restaurants in town. Fortunately, some of these shops are still in the neighborhood today.

With three generations of owners, Thanos Import Market has remained a staple of the neighborhood for over 90 years. Thanos is the epitome of a neighborhood business. It’s a place that makes you feel like part of the community, where you make a quick stop for groceries but leave an hour later after catching up with the owner and friendly staff. According to Soula Carni, the current owner of the store, this is the way it has always been.

Soula was born in Greece and moved to Syracuse with her parents and 3 siblings in 1968. Reflecting on her days of growing up in Syracuse, Soula recalls the family outing every Sunday starting with mass at St. Sophia’s Church, where many of the area’s Greek population settled. Afterward, they would stop into Thanos Market to stock up on Greek food items and chat with Mr. Thanos, the original owner of the store. The store changed hands when Mr. Thanos’ daughter, Sophia, married into the Copanis Family. They kept the business running until Soula purchased the business in 2008, when Mr. Copanis decided to retire at the age of 91.

Before becoming the owner of Thanos, Soula received an Accounting degree with a minor in Business Administration from Lemoyne College.  She pursued this career for several years working at Testone, Marshall and Discenzo, a local accounting firm. Although Soula didn’t always imagine herself running a business, it isn’t surprising that she came to purchase Thanos. She was raised in a business environment with her parents owning Athens Pizza in Dewitt. The whole family helped out, and Soula started working there in high school. Years later, she bought a deli from her brother called A Taste of Philadelphia. After running the deli for a couple years, Soula decided to sell the business to spend more time with her family, a luxury she feels grateful they could afford. The value and immense care that Soula has for her family is evident from the moment you meet her, and is also something she easily extends into her profession. Customers who stop into Thanos are always greeted with open arms, and the three gentlemen who work there – Jerry, Joe, and Jack will always leave you with a smile.

If the welcoming atmosphere doesn’t amaze you, the quality products available for sale will. The store has an old world charm and offers specialty items from Greece, Italy, Spain and the Middle East. Soula has also made a strong effort to source more of her products locally, which is evident in the “Pride of NY” signs posted throughout the store. A quick look around and I found a handful of local goods, including handmade pasta from Utica NY, flavored roasted nuts, and specialty dipping oils. Yet when it comes to the most popular item in the store, the Wisconsin sharp provolone cheese fits the bill. The secret to its success is having the already aged cheese go through a longer aging process, another 3-6 more months on site. Pair that with the popular cured meats like capocolla and sopressata, add some of the house seasoned olives to the side, and you have the best party platter you can find in Syracuse! Another item that is gaining popularity is a new domestic cheese called Bellavitano. Although it comes plain, the variety of flavors – soaked in merlot, balsamic vinegar, and raspberry ale or encrusted with black pepper or espresso bean, makes this a fun party cheese to add into the mix.

This past February marked Soula’s fifth year Anniversary of owning Thanos Import Market. Looking ahead, she hopes that Thanos and other Northside businesses remain successful and continue to benefit from the neighborhood’s revitalization. We are beginning to see a resurgence of the unique shops that were once plentiful on the Northside, with new businesses being opened by New Americans from Asia to Africa and everywhere in between. Soula imagines their experience is similar to her family’s, who came to America in search of a better life and more opportunities. Thanos Import Market is a testament to what can happen in this search, and is proof that with time and investment into the community, a business can thrive. I have confidence that Thanos will remain a neighborhood icon, new shops will continue to emerge, and together they will create a vibrant Northside.


Thanos Products