Camillus, N.Y. — A popular diner that hasn’t even been open for two years is moving to a larger building to accommodate its constant flow of customers.
Second Chance Diner is leaving its original location at 103 Bennett Road in Camillus and heading 2 miles up the road to West Genesee Street. It will move into the spot that last housed the Rio Grande Mexican restaurant at 5407 W. Genesee St. That restaurant closed last year and has been vacant since.
Owner Eddie DePalma signed the lease on Sept. 3 and began work on the new place immediately, starting with coating the red exterior with grayish blue paint. He said he will work 20-hour days just so he can meet his self-imposed opening date of Nov. 15.
“If we didn’t expand, we probably would’ve had to go out of business,” DePalma said Friday afternoon in his future dining room. “We outgrew our current location after six months. We lose customers because we’re so small. People come in and have to leave because they don’t want to wait two hours to eat. I don’t blame them. Breakfast is supposed to be fast. They come in and want to eat. This will allow that to happen.”
The new location will have a much larger dining room, a full-service bar and an enclosed outdoor patio with a bar and TVs.
Second Chance opened Nov. 1, 2018, with a 400-square-foot dining room that once was home to Mo’s Pit BBQ restaurant. DePalma and his wife, Gabby Sakran, gutted the building, rebuilt the kitchen and dressed up the dining room.
They got even more creative with their menu. In addition to traditional breakfast food such as omelets and frittas, they created entrées that immediately grabbed the community’s attention: Fruity Pebble Waffles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch Pancakes, Banana’s Foster French Toast and the Garbage Burrito. The menu continues to evolve.
Within a week of its opening, Second Chance had a constant line of folks waiting to get in. But even at full capacity before Covid-19 struck, Second Chance could only hold 46 people inside, including staff. The seven tables outside provided some relief, but that still wasn’t enough.
Since the state allowed restaurants to reopen in March, the diner now can have no more than 18 people inside.
“The rent doesn’t go down during a pandemic, the price of food doesn’t go down. Power, salaries; nothing else goes down,” DePalma said. “We need the people, and the people want us, and the community supports us. So once we heard about this place being available, we jumped on it.”
The new location, which was a Friendly’s restaurant for years until it closed in 2017, has 157 parking spots, about 140 more than the current building. The full capacity of this 1,200-square-foot dining room is 103, including the bar. The outdoor area is about 1,400 square feet and will be big enough to host live music and perhaps a cornhole league (once the state says that’s OK). The patio will likely open in March or April.
DePalma and Sakran have already ordered tables, chairs, booths and appliances. They’re designing it so they can accommodate larger parties at a moment’s notice. They’re covering the walls with barn wood, and the bar area will be lined with shiplap. They’ll also be laying new floors.
As for the food, they’ll still offer an “outside-the-box menu” that will change frequently, but it will expand to incorporate more brunch food and alcohol. Along with mimosas or a bloody Marys, they’ll create fun boozy milkshakes.
Second Chance is moving onto a well-traveled street that has two diners—Stella’s and Nestico’s Too!— and a Denny’s Restaurant within 2 miles. All are very successful, and all are very different.
“I’ve alway been a go-big-or-go-home kind of guy, and I’m a risk-taker,” DePalma said. “We’re taking our little diner and kicking it up 10 notches. It’s going to be fun.”
The current location will become Second Chance’s catering kitchen and a banquet facility. DePalma and Sakran had to stop catering because they didn’t have the room to cook the extra food while tending to the dine-in customers.
Charlie Miller finds the best in food, drink and fun across Central New York. Contact him at 315-382-1984, or by email at [email protected].