ITHACA, NY -- The old Byrne Dairy at 215 N Meadow St. in Ithaca is slated to become Chris Kim and Soyong Lee’s latest business venture — a diner called Milkstand. Architect Jason Demarest was in front of the Board of Zoning Appeals on April 6 to seek a variance in the number of parking spots required.
Because the site is changing from retail to restaurant, the zoning laws require one off-street parking space for every 50 square feet of “net floor area of assembly.” This would require the restaurant to provide 22 spots, however Demarest said they could only squeeze 18 in.
He cited Washington Square Park and other street parking options as potential places for cars if they exceeded 18 cars. The board approved the variance request.
Kim and Lee are the husband-and-wife duo who own Maru Ramen, the ramen shop at 512 W State St. that has been operating for three years. Kim said they always knew they wanted to operate a total of three restaurants in the area, and the idea for the diner was inspired by the closing of their favorite breakfast place.
“We enjoyed the Carriage House, but they closed and other than that we have always felt a need,” he said.
The restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Kim described it as being a little more upscale than your traditional all-American diner.
“We’re not only going to serve breakfast, but we will be a little more focused on that,” Kim said.
The food will be American and European, but with maybe an Asian twist here or there to pay homage to Kim and Lee’s heritage, as Lee’s family owns restaurants in Korea.
Kim said his family travels to Italy every year to enjoy the restaurants and wants to bring some of the traditional Italian pasta dishes to the dinner menu as well.
As for the name, Milkstand calls back to the building’s original use. Kim said when they were viewing the property the former owner pointed out a milk bar, or “milkstand,” that was in the store for people to come in and refill their glass milk jugs in years gone by.
“We wanted to keep that historic story in the name,” Kim said.
The couple decided to go ahead with a second restaurant back in the fall of 2020.
“It was like, peak COVID,” Kim said. “Everyone said ‘are you crazy?’”
He said there’s still quite a bit of work to be done on the restaurant, particularly in upgrading the HVAC system, but that they’re hoping for a July open. However, Kim said even if things are delayed a bit, he definitely plans on being open by the time students return for the fall semester.