July 16, 2012
Downtown serves up local fare
Annual Taste of Downtown shows off area’s eateries
Evelyn Sammons and her friends are longtime Cortland County residents who say they miss downtown Cortland’s once-thriving retail shopping.
Downtown shifted during the past few decades from the center of local shopping, to a center of local dining, Sammons and her friends said Saturday.
Downtown is host to some retailers, but also many restaurants, bars, pizza places, and has recently added a Mexican-style restaurant to its staple of dining destinations. A Japanese-style restaurant is on the way.
“I think they’re branching out a bit, and it’s good to get diversity downtown,” Sammons said. “But it would be great to get more retail downtown so it’s more balanced.”
But on Saturday, Sammons and her four friends — Diane Van Houten, Chris Cecconi, Chris Frare, and Suzanne Schmitz — took wine glasses in hand and toured happily with hundreds of others for the annual Taste of Downtown.
Cortland’s restaurants and bars have opened their doors for the annual event to give locals a sampling of their cuisine, drink offerings and other specialties. Downtown was energized with live music, sidewalk sales from local merchants, and other people who said they just wanted to have a good time.
Some said they believe it is a good thing that eateries have become the backbone of downtown Cortland’s economy, and it is a good image to promote.
“Food comes into every part of life,” said Lisa DiMarco, who works at Indulge, a bakery and cafe on Main Street. “Food is the social vehicle we all choose to gather for.”
Indulge was offering samples of homemade coleslaw, chipotle potato salad, and fudge-frosting topped cupcakes.
Like Lisa Crupe, who owns Indulge, all of downtown Cortland’s food merchants are entrepreneurs, who stress supporting local business and offering something different.
Michelle Lang and Jim Durney, who own the Smokin’ Mule on Tompkins Street, are not downtown entrepreneurs, but they set up for Taste of Downtown anyway to show what they have to offer. The Smokin Mule specializes in slow-smoked barbecue dishes.
“It’s unique to our town,” Lang said. “People have to go to Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse for that. Now they don’t have to.”
Dan Cleary and Tom Scheffler, co-owners of Cortland Beer Co. on Court Street, have been in business about three years. They say they are anything but just another place to get a beer. On Saturday, they offered samplings of their brews.
“The beer is made locally, it’s extremely fresh,” Cleary said.
He smiled when asked what beer he and Scheffler consider their best.
“Every one of them is delicious,” he said. “Everyone should try for themselves and decide.”
Sammons and her friends said they love being “regulars” to Taste of Downtown, now in its sixth year.
“We live here, and it’s good to support our downtown,” Sammons said.
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