Geddes (WSYR-TV) - The New York State Fair is known for its culinary novelties as well as the standard deep-fried varieties, but people are noticing that another dining experience is available.
The Empire Room provides a fine-dining experience for Fairgoers, but it almost didn’t happen.
The Empire Room has been plagued with problems, ranging from Inspector-General investigations to firings to legal problems, including a guilty plea entered by a former Fair director.
This year, with a new Fair administration, the Empire Room is starting fresh, with new people who have longtime restaurant experience in Central New York.
The Empire Room’s new managers, the Eberhardts, operate the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles and the Colgate Inn in Hamilton, among other venues.
“It's had a bit of a tough go, so we were excited to come put a good spin on it for the Fair,” said Ben Eberhardt.
The Eberhardts and Fair management arrived at their arrangement just five days before Central New York’s signature event was set to open. The new team had a lot of work to do in a short period of time to open.
Don Agate, the chef and culinary director for the company said, “There was none of this equipment here, ice machines, dish machines, the whole entire line, equipment, staff, food."
The chef has worked in Manhattan, Aspen, and the Bahamas – and now he’ll be serving Fairgoers with a full service menu.
“I thought it would be a nice alternative to a lot of the deep fried veggie apps and stuff out there,” said Agate.
The Empire Room’s menu and beverage selection still features New York State products – including Empire Amber Ale from Syracuse, Glenora White Wine from the Finger Lakes, Saranac Pale Ale from Utica, and New York style cheesecake.
“We've gotten lots and lots of return visits, both on the day and people coming back on another day to stay around,” said Eberhardt.