Review | Written and photographed by Nathan Mattise
March is a time for underdogs and upsets in basketball and life. Every field has its share of Kentucky’s and Duke’s. Those are the names first off everyone’s lips in the CNY Diner Scene – Stella’s, Doc’s maybe The Eggplant. Each year however the NCAA Tournament brings to light lesser known sides that have all the characteristics of the major programs, they just lack the exposure (CNY’s own Cornell this year for instance). Today I found CNY’s mid-major diner that deserves major program status. Meet Ruston’s Diner.
Ruston’s is located in Jamesville, fairly close off the I-481 exit graced with the town’s name. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll pass it the first time (if you hit the intersection where you can turn right to head toward Jamesville Beach, you’ve gone to far). Keep your eyes peeled on the right side of the road and when you begin to see a large, worn white building seemingly on its own hill, pull in to park.
Ruston’s is a large establishment but inside it feels incredibly cozy. As soon as you pass through the door you’re met with a very large countertop space and the main kitchen area. Decorations are limited (some seasonal stuff, SU gear as well) but it adds to the genuine diner feel. Move past all this on the left hand side however, and you’ll enter a spacious backroom reminiscent of a church basement or VFW hall extension (mountain mural on the wall, some visible pipes, etc.).
This homey feeling is only accentuated by the staff and setup of Ruston’s. The waitstaff is incredibly friendly, helpful and flexible. They’re ready to adapt to folks experienced enough to just walk in and sit or newbies standing around waiting for interactions. The place is open from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. and breakfast can be ordered at any point, so order accordingly knowing that the waitstaff may leave candy for you when you checkout.
With all the positives so plainly visible, I was expecting a letdown with the food. I opted for a Kielbasa sandwich lunch special (w/ kraut and pierogies, all homemade, for just $5.25) and must’ve devoured the sandwich within two minutes. I’m usually not a kraut individual, but the kielbasa was so flavorful that the kraut merely became a well-placed accent (and the waitstaff recommended mustard didn’t hurt either).
My colleague for the day opted for a traditional fretta and almost immediately casually dropped his opinion that it was a “9 out of 10, easily.” The size of the fretta seemed extremely filling and it came along with some of the thickest cut toast around. All the breakfast action on his end had me craving homefries, and they didn’t disappoint either. They weren’t very greasy, but tasted fresh and the onions were well blended. His large breakfast entree, my lunch special, his side of corned beef hash and my homefries w/ onions all totaled just over $16.
I didn’t know what to expect when I went to Ruston’s, but I know I didn’t anticipate finding a diner that is on par or better than any I’ve experienced in CNY thus far. The atmosphere is classical hometown diner. The food is delicious, filling and affordable. The staff are easy to love. The only negative about Ruston’s is that you probably haven’t heard of it yet unless you’re a Jamesville native. So like the mid-major making a Sweet 16 run, here’s hoping they get their much-deserved spotlight soon.
The Final Tab
Pros: Great space, friendly waitstaff, good homemade food, cheap prices
Cons: Slightly hidden locale
Five out of Five (Robust breakfast platter | Go early and often to the point you can say, “I’ll have the usual)