We’re still basking in the glory of “Best of Dining” awards for our current restaurants, but reinvention is a constant here at Turning Stone. You can’t earn No. 1 Best Overall Dining in New York without it. We’ve had dozens of different culinary concepts and destinations over the course of the nearly 30 years we’ve been serving Upstate New York.
Few people on our staff remember these old-time places better than Dan Jones.
Dan serves as the Director of Guest Experience at Turning Stone. Restaurants comprise a big part of the experience for him over the years.
“No matter how much things change, some really important things around here remain the same: The commitment to the highest-quality product and a philosophy of constantly changing and evolving to always be the best version we can be,” he said. “This alone makes Turning Stone an incredibly fun place to work.”
Every now and again, Dan misses the old joints, such as the Ruby Buffet. The way he explains it, this was basically two restaurants in one--at 5 p.m. every day, workers would pull curtains across half the room, dim the lighting on the back side, change tablecloths to blue, and bill it as Sapphire Steak & Seafood.
Dan remembers when, in the 1990s and 2000s, the space that is now Upstate Tavern was a Brazilian churrascaria with all-you-can-eat meat.
He also remembers a 1950s-style diner, right off the casino floor.
One of his all-time faves was the Forest Grill steakhouse, which had the feel of an old speakeasy club in New York City. Dan said he could go in there, enjoy a nice meal and linger for hours, just soaking in the atmosphere and marveling at the fact that he could be anywhere.
“The fact that all these restaurants existed once and don’t exist anymore—that happens for a reason,” he said. “it’s a byproduct of that burning desire to be different and offer something different and try something new. I guess you could say we don’t do a very good job of sitting still. We’re always innovating, always pushing the envelope, always trying something new.”
Dan also appreciates how menu items at some of the oldest Turning Stone restaurants change over time.
One example: Chicken Riggies. Today the menu at Pino Bianco features this regional delicacy as a specialty. Previously, however, this was an off-menu item that chefs would make upon request. Eventually, so many guests ordered the dish that chefs put it on the list.
As Dan looks to the future, he joked he’ll need about a week to try all the latest and greatest (and award-winning!) food & beverage options at Turning Stone. Luckily, there’s no rush at all.