For the Love of Food and Music
By E. Jay Zarett | Photography provided by Adam Gold
As a Syracuse University student, Adam Gold performed live music and served waffles at the house parties he hosted on Ackerman Avenue.
Nearly 11 years later, that concept still thrives as Funk ‘N Waffles, a unique restaurant and live music venue in downtown Syracuse.
During their junior year, Adam and his housemates were craving waffles. They decided to experiment. The group raided the freezer, found Thin Mints and threw them in the batter. Once those were successfully prepared, they branched out, trying batches including fruit, cream cheese and even bagel chips.
From there, the group began serving waffles at their parties, where Adam and his band played. When those parties were a hit, Adam and his friend, Kyle Corea, came up with the idea to turn the combination of live music performances and distinct waffle recipes into a full-time business.
“That first party, everybody just went nuts,” Adam remembered. “They were like, ‘There’re waffles at this party.’ They were texting all their friends. Everyone was getting excited. We really felt like we had hit something at that point.”
Adam and Kyle entered their idea into the Panasci Business Plan Competition, a student business contest hosted by the Whitman School of Management. They received positive reviews from the judges, and eventually their plan took home fourth place.
Following their graduation, the first Funk ‘N Waffles opened on South Crouse Avenue in 2007. Seven years later, the business expanded to a second location downtown.
This year, Funk ‘N Waffles is branching even farther, this time with a new location in Rochester. Adam said the new location will be the biggest yet, and will allow Funk ‘N Waffles to host largescale musical acts.
“There are many, many music venues in Rochester that have ticketed events on a regular basis,” Adam said. “That just means there are people to go see that.”
Sam Levey, Funk ‘N Waffles general manager, said Adam has a specific vision for the restaurant and musical acts that perform there. He’s seen Adam grow during his time owning the business, Sam said.
“He is a mature and respected business leader in this town,” Sam said. “He’s also a friendly guy who’s still cool and has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening in music, what’s happening in this town and what’s happening locally.”
After operating for more than 10 years, the original Funk ‘N Waffles location closed in February, as plans to level the structure and build a luxury apartment complex in its place are in the works. Adam said the restaurant could return to the area by campus once the new building is complete.
“It might just be that it’s a break for a year and a half and we’ll build a new one there,” he said. “There’s a lot of factors to it. I don’t have all the numbers I need to make that decision, but I certainly would be interested in it. We had a good thing going there.”
Adam still performs at Funk ‘N Waffles and at other locations throughout the country with his band, Sophistafunk, a group which combines spoken-word artistry, old-school hip-hop and funky rhythms to create a unique live band experience, according to its website.
Adam’s interest in music was sparked when he began taking piano lessons with his older brothers. He was instantly hooked on the piano, he said. Soon he was writing his own music and performing.
Sophistafunk has toured across the country and played venues in major cities like New York City and San Francisco. His favorite performance with Sophistafunk was at the Shambhala Music Festival in the United Kingdom, he said.
“It was just such an experience to be out there in another country with my buds and my bandmates,” Adam said. “Just seeing how far the music took us. That was really a trip.”
Touring gave Adam the opportunity to explore how other music venues operate. It’s allowed him to improve the procedures and expand the musical offerings at Funk ‘N Waffles.
“[Touring] gives me a little more perspective on what is happening out there at other music venues,” he said. “The ones that I respect the most, I try to take as much as I can and learn from them, and apply it to my own business.”
Charley Orlando, Funk ‘N Waffles talent buyer, first met Adam when both were touring musicians. It’s Adam’s passion for music and food that allows Funk ‘N Waffles to be successful, Charley said.
“He is this business,” Charley said. “Without him, this would not exist.”
Ten years ago, Adam never imagined Funk ‘N Waffles would grow the way it has.
“I love seeing families come in here and eat waffles and I love seeing their kids jump up on stage and get excited about the idea of music,” Adam said. “There’s something about music. It’s the universal language. And food is the same way.” SWM
For Funk ’N Waffles locations, menus and calendar, visit funknwaffles.com. To learn more about Sophistafunk, visit sophistafunkband.com.