Back to the Garden in Bohemian Oneonta

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Yellow Deli Exterior Oneonta

SUNY Oneonta

Yellow Deli Oneonta

Today was spent shooting in the hippie college town of Oneonta, the “City of the Hills.”

Located just south of Cooperstown in the foothills of the Susquehanna Valley, this earthy arts mecca has a reputation for creativity and critical thinking. The halls of knowledge begin at Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta, bohemian magnets for musicians, artists, writers and poets.

Both schools are teeming with campus life while SUNY even boasts a faculty member nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize!

The downtown hamlet is awash in galleries, exhibits and boutique shops. You’ll hear the occasional whistle of a train rushing by on the historic railroad line built in 1865. Oneonta is also home to one of the largest locomotive roundhouses in the world.

Dining options are many but don’t bother looking for a chain restaurant. The nearest Starbucks coffee house (outside of SUNY) is 52 miles away. Local, sustainable and farm-to-table is what makes the eateries here so special.

George and I watched as student grads poured out of an adorable corner deli reminiscent of a hobbit-house, a real-world version of where Frodo Baggins might live. Inside we sat at one of the many cozy corners made up of hand-crafted whimsical shelters appointed with beautiful lattice work, hanging ivy, bench booth seating and soft lighting fixtures made from bushel baskets.

Indeed, I felt like we had entered Middle-earth when an ancestral kin with long hair and an equally-long beard asked for our order.

The friendly kin call themselves the “Twelve Tribes” and upon entering their lair, free newspapers describe their fantasies, err, I mean philosophies.

The group is quite controversial and some would even argue cult-ish but we remained open-minded and hungry too. The walls are littered with Utopian expressions and thoughts by their long-dead guru Timothy Leary.

In a matter of minutes we enjoyed two cups of chili with sides of buttery sweet bread, a Reuben sandwich and a Veggie burger. Between the atmosphere, light folk music, traditional dress of the wait staff, we were really pleased with our experience.

However, upon taking a few photos of a psychedelic-painted wall I was snared into listening to a biblical lecture. So be it. No harm in listening despite how bad for business it might be for them.

Still, it would be nice if patrons could just enjoy the throwback ideals of the sixties at this restaurant (aptly called ‘The Yellow Deli”) without polluting the concept with zealotry. We’d be more inclined to return to the garden if that were the case.