Matt Diamond, at left, with his staff.

About two months ago, Matt and Barton Diamond decided to expand on their Gorgers sub shop by opening a taco joint on the Ithaca Commons.

The Ithaca Voice caught up with Matt Diamond on Monday for a conversation about how business is going, why his eateries wouldn’t work in Cortland, and what separates him from Michelangelo.

Matt Diamond, at left, with his staff.

Why tacos?

Diamond: “I felt like we needed some more options late-night; right now, the only options on the Commons after the bars close is pizza or pizza …

“We wanted something else that’s good street food; something else that you can eat with your hands quickly, and something we can turn out quickly as well.”

How did you go about learning to make tacos?

Diamond: “By failing lot …

“I traveled a lot, so I’ve had a lot of different tacos; I’ve had tacos in the southwest, lot of fusion tacos, tacos in NYC, lot of traditional southwestern ones down near the Mexican border.

“I wanted to put my own flair on it, too. If I could give you an example we made a Jewish-style taco the other day. Did you try that one?”

I didn’t … a Jewish taco? And you didn’t call me?

Diamond: “No! (Laughs) I made house-made pickles …a thousand island dressing on top of corn beef hash, just an example of stuff you don’t see in a lot of taco places.

So I’m not really constrained by anything but the tortilla.”

So you see the taco as the canvas, and you are the Michelangelo?

Diamond: “Exactly. Without the nudity…(Pause.)

Usually.”

What’s the response been like (since opening)?

Diamond: “I feel like the people who eat most things like it a lot, and the people who are on dietary restrictions have had issues with it because we just do flour tortillas. But we’re going to expand that pretty soon.”

How have you guys been impacted by the construction?

Diamond: “It’s been really grueling during the work week. It doesn’t affect the late-night crowd at all, aside from maybe restricting the avenues from the bar .. aside from that it hasn’t affected the late-night crowd that I can see.

But right now the lunch crowd is non-existent.”

Is there an overarching philosophy that binds this Gorgers with the old one?

Diamond: “I think the culture is the same in both places. Really laid back. A place to go and have fun and we have a lot of customers that will come in and shoot the (expletive) and have a good time.

I’ve given away free beer to customers some times and they seem to enjoy that.”

How soon after your first store opening did you decide you wanted to do a second one?

Diamond: “As soon as I realized that it was taking off and that people were really appreciating the freshness of our ingredients I really wanted to expand. There was definitely a need for more stuff. Viva’s food is good … but I wanted to do something a little more experimental.

I wanted to do something that an upscale college town would like. It might not fly in Cortland. Go IC!”

What’s the third Gorgers restaurant?

Diamond: I don’t know; we’re thinking about a few different options. Possibly a Ramen shop up in Collegetown, I think that would do really well. Possibly a good burger joint. Possibly good Italian cuisine, because that’s not done really well. We’ll see.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.