When local government buys in to the key moves that strengthen our cities, that’s wonderful. When small business leaders take back their streets and reclaim their vacant buildings, that’s progress. When individuals take so much pride in where they live that they alone create resources for visitors and residents to help them share in their enthusiasm, that’s real grassroots change!
Introducing Utica’s Mike Beck, Communications Coordinator for The Utica Zoo and all-around pro-local good guy.
Working at a local attraction, Mike found himself regularly answering a very simple question that has countless answers in Central New York’s food Mecca.
“Where’s a good place to eat?”
Mike, like any self-respecting Utican, wouldn’t think of sending folks to the nearest Applebees. No, he’s going to direct the hungry and inquisitive visitor to the local establishments that serve traditional Utica staples.
“My current favorites are the Halfmoons from Gingerbread Bake Shop, and the Tomato Pie from Star Bakery,” said Mike. “I also love Joe’s Pizza (upside down), and I had the freshest vanilla pustie ever at Cafe Florentine the other day. Tomato Pie at Utica Bread is next on my list of things to try.”
If there’s anything I have discovered about Central New Yorkers, it’s that they are passionate about two things… their home and their food. Just like a loving Italian Mom, when you walk through the door, you’re family. And you’re eating something.
But how do you introduce outsiders to this mindset? How do you tell people from anywhere the best places to go to understand the true CNY experience?
Easy. You make a map of all the best places to get an authentic Utica and Central New York food and cultural experience.
“It’s an idea that I have been thinking about for a while,” Mike stated. “There was an article about Utica Greens in the New York Times recently, and that was the day I decided to make the map a reality.”
Mike’s map/website, UticaFoodTrail.com gives any visitor or resident a simple, stripped down “here it is, eat it” reference that includes all Mike’s favorite places to get the best local cuisine. Want to understand Utica through food? Easy! Just check out the map.
Think this is a little thing? Well, the thousands of people who have already visited his UticaFoodTrail.com in a short period of time might say otherwise. Mike thinks of it as a catalyst for new ideas about innovation and local pride.
“Ideas are infectious, and they can spread quickly via social media. If you have something of value, tell someone. Tell everyone. I don’t have much time to work on all of my ideas, so I hope to inspire a company or organization that has the time and resources to take them to the next level. I would rather see an idea come to fruition, than to keep it to myself…especially if it benefits the community that I live in.”
Mike’s seemingly simple idea not only introduces outsiders to Utica’s foodie culture, it also reminds residents of the local culinary traditions, something that all of us take for granted from time to time. It also shows how one person can take the smallest steps to generating local pride, and how that pride can be intoxicating and infectious. Mike might be one person with a tiny idea, but it’s a tiny idea that has already made an impression on visitors and Uticans alike.
In the end, it’s the people that get out there and work for their town every day. It’s the little ways we can all show our affection for what we have in front of us. It’s the steps we can all take to realize that tomorrow’s prosperity comes from a common desire to grow together, and truly love where we live.