Aug 31, 2009 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Some people know exactly what they want to do with their lives from the get-go. For others, like Dan and Dina Curley, their calling is more carefully cultivated, pursued over time and flavored with unlikely experiences.
The restaurant business was not exactly Dina’s dream job – in fact, her parents wouldn’t even allow their daughter to work in their Toronto tapas cafe when she was growing up.
But at 25 she moved to Marblehead, Mass. and began working as a bar and restaurant manager. She said she’s worked in restaurants off and on, but has strong background in retail merchandising and spent many years in customer service.
Dan wound up in the kitchen from a very different path. After two years of studying psychology at the University of Jacksonville, the Westhill native enrolled in culinary school in Boston.
Lucky for local diners, the pair fell in love with food and each other, and in June celebrated the 5th anniversary of their own restaurant, Daniel’s Grill in Marcellus.
Seasonal and reasonable
Dina said that between the two of them, she and Dan have about 50 years of experience in the industry. Previously, Dan worked as an executive chef at the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles.
Owning their own place someday was always a goal, but not something they rushed into.
“I think that every chef thinks that they would like to have their own restaurant,” Dina said. “We looked for the right place for a long time.”
When the 69 North Street location became available, it was a great fit for the couple that already called Marcellus home.
Being locally-based personally and professionally has had an advantage.
“I think people like to know who they’re dealing with, it makes people feel comfortable,” Dan said.
They carry that philosophy onto the dinner plates, where they strive to use locally grown products when possible.
In particular, squash from Tim’s Pumpkin Patch in Marietta shows up in the fall squash bisque, organic greens from Monarch Farms is a regular salad centerpiece and maple syrup tapped by Dan’s father, Harry Curley, is an ingredient in several recipes.
But the couple doesn’t sacrifice quality or cost just to be able to tell customers they’re eating local ingredients.
“We try to get the best quality product that is reasonably priced,” Dan said. If he comes across a good deal, diners will be sure to see it reflected in the evening’s specials, but won’t face higher prices for the sake of the local movement.
“Everyone is pinching their pennies these days,” Dina said, “But they can still come here and get a rack of lamb and a nice filet, enjoy a full meal and get out of here for less than $50.”
Consistency is key
By keeping the focus on high quality food, the Curleys have maintained a reputation for consistently great meals in a friendly atmosphere.
“I think that’s one of the reasons we’re so successful,” Dan said. On his nightly rounds among the tables to meet and greet guests, he’s often told the meal was “excellent, again.”
Another key to the couple’s success is the changing Marcellus population.
As the demographic changed in town in recent years and more people are working outside of the community, they’ve broadened their horizons in terms of food.
“A lot of the residents are well-educated and well-traveled, and they want to have really good food and wine,” Dina said. “People travel a lot for work and they experience different foods, and when they come home they want to have that food here as well.”
She added that the wine list has grown through the years to meet the demand for more variety in the wine.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is Dina and Dan’s philosophy – if anything, their success with Daniel’s Grill has only made it all the more important.
“We keep it small and intimate, and serve good quality food at a very good price,” Dina said.