ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – As a freshman Riley Eike was at a loss when her parents would visit and ask where they could all go out to eat.
“I had no idea where to take them, and I would Google different restaurants in the area," Eike recalled. “But we always ended up at Applebee’s. I think we went to Beef 'n' Barrel once and Sprague’s, of course, because that’s what everyone tells you.”
Eventually, she got a car and started driving around the area and was heartened to find "that there were more than three places, and I wanted to experience those for myself and with my parents,” Eike, a journalism and mass communication major, said.
And that is why during the final semester of her senior year Eike is completing an honors project highlighting what the Greater Olean area has to offer in terms of good restaurant food. She started her project by sending out letters to 42 restaurants, alerting them to her site and asking them to consider being included on it.
As a medium for her honors project, Eike created a wixsite blog, which thus far features Green Acres Cafe, Brooklyn Bakery, Four Mile Brewing, On the Side Sub Shop, La Roca and A&J’s Subs, Pizza and Grill.
Eike’s goal is to expand the scope of what people know is available in the area while helping local restaurants. And when a restaurant responds to her, she goes through an interview process.
“I try to speak with the owner and ask why they got into the restaurant business, what is the history of their restaurant and why they chose to start it in the location they did,” Eike said. “I gather all the facts -- like the menu. I take pictures of the restaurant. I have the hours, and I have the average price of what a meal would be.”
And she goes beyond the basics such as hours and location on her website, delving deeper into the lives of the owners and workers.
“The best part so far has been learning the stories of each of the owners,” Eike said. “I’ve learned so much more about the restaurants in the area.”
For example, Steve Douthit, the owner of On the Side Sub Shop, told her he was running a jewelry factory in Hawaii when his brother called him to offer him half of the restaurant. Douthit bought a plane ticket and came home to Olean.
And that’s just one story.
Another tale is that of Michael DiPaola, who runs a pizzeria he calls Brooklyn Bakery in his backyard. Eike said he takes care of all aspects of the business himself and has the goal of grossing $100,000 in sales.
Eike will finish her honors project on April 22, but hopes to turn it into a verifiable website in the near future and hopes more restaurants contact her.
“The restaurants have all been really receptive,” Eike said. “So far, every time I go in to talk to someone, they always say what a great idea it is and how helpful it is for their company.”
Eike was interviewed in a TAPinto Greater Olean podcast on March 31.