December 24, 2012
Feeding the holiday spirit
C’ville restaurant owner giving free Christmas dinners
CORTLANDVILLE — Kent Finkelstein decided recently that he wanted Christmas to be different this year — to do something unselfish for other people.
So his restaurant, Uncle Louie’s Backyard Steakhouse on Tompkins Street, will offer free dinners on Christmas Day to anyone who wants them.
“I think this country has become driven by greed and is too much about ‘me, I, mine’ instead of ‘us,’” he said Saturday during a talk in the restaurant’s dining room. “I want to give something back. Life has been good to me and I want to give back.”
Finkelstein is hoping for 100 people to take him up on his offer.
He and his staff will prepare 10 turkeys, 10 hams, 50 pounds of mashed potatoes, 50 pounds of vegetables, six pumpkin pies and six apple pies.
He expected to spend Sunday cooking the turkeys and hams, and today preparing the potatoes and vegetables, with the help of his son, Jon, and cooks Pat Mazzone and Ken Carr.
On Tuesday, the dinners will be offered from noon until 5 p.m.
Finkelstein said the servers will be him, his son and server Rebecca Smith. Mazzone will run the kitchen.
“I’ve never done this,” Finkelstein said, while college football games played on television sets above the nearby bar and several tables held people eating lunch. “I wasn’t open on Christmas Day the past couple of years. My serving staff didn’t want to work on that day and I didn’t want to force them.”
But this year, he began to think that too many people have nowhere to go or little money for dinner at the holidays.
He said that while he enjoyed Christmas as a boy growing up with his two brothers on Floral Avenue, he finds himself at age 72 doing “not much” on Christmas Day.
His son lives in Atlanta. His daughters Laurie and Karen live in the area, so he visits them and his three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“Christmas is more for kids,” he said with a shrug.
The free dinners will cost him $700 to $800, including food and labor.
Finkelstein said he thinks life is “something like school — when you’re done, you hope to have good grades. And this was the right thing to do.”
He said he has invited some people who do not have families and has received calls from others, as word spread the past few days.
“I want people to come in here, so I can see the smile on their face,” he said. “It will be the best Christmas of my life, and I would like to turn this into an annual event.”
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe