Syracuse Online

Runner-Friendly Restaurants

No Reason to Run on Empty

Published March 17, 2003 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Some runners eat to run. Others run to eat. Either way, we treat food with the same reverence as footwear and clothing. Our attention to detail and fixation on proper nutrition can make eating out a stressful experience, especially before a race. So, I have developed this guide of ten criteria for finding a runner-friendly restaurant.

1. Convenience: look for neighborhood eateries with plenty of parking and little waiting. A clean seated waiting area would be nice, and reservations even nicer. Few runners enjoy road-rage in a parking lot or an hour on their feet the eve of a race.

2. Comfort: roomy seating to stretch the legs, with a choice between stiff chairs and lounge booths. A brightly-lit room without loud-music or television contributes to a pleasant meal. The requirement for a non-smoking restaurant goes without saying.

3. Class: I am weary of restaurants that serve on paper plates or use plastic forks. I look for the Syracuse China logo on the dishes and Oneida Silver on the cutlery. Cloth napkins and fully-dressed waitresses are also good signs.

4. Choice: the menu must provide a variety of meats (beef, chicken and fish) and hot vegetarian options, fresh salads (with dressing on the side) or a salad bar, and a selection of cold and hot drinks. Water (with and without ice) must be plentiful.

5. Coffee earns its own category in a runner.s menu. Good-tasting fresh-brewed coffee is a must, with a choice of decaf; espresso is a plus; cappuccino with amaretto is a treat.

6. Carbohydrates: no compromise on carbos . the menu must give a choice among pasta (oil-free), rice (steamed) and potatoes (baked, mashed or garlic-parsley home-fried), and provides lots of fresh-baked bread.

7. Cooking: ranges from .we fry it all. to .we microwave everything fresh from the freezer.. The same piece of fish or broccoli can be deep-fried, pan-fried, stir-fried, broiled, baked, grilled, steamed or radiated. Many chefs accommodate our requests.

8. Cakes: a dessert tray must include all four food groups: dairy (cheesecake), fruit (warm pies with ice cream on the side), grain (bread pudding with whiskey-praline sauce), and chocolate (cake and mousse).

9. Check please: cash-only eateries can create a hassle away from home. Accepting credit cards wraps a pleasant meal.

10. Carry-out: make sure you can take home the rest of that 24-ounce prime rib. You may get hungry before the race.

So, if you know an eatery that comes close to a perfect ten, please email me at

© 2003 The Post-Standard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at