A Full Plate: Danielle Mercuri on Giving Back to CNY

By Margaret McCormick

Danielle Mercuri has a full plate.

Mercuri (pronounced mur-cure-ee) is the owner of Rise N Shine Diner, a breakfast fusion restaurant on Westcott Street, and LODED, a restaurant at the original Rise N Shine location on Thompson Road that features “loaded” shakes, burgers, fries and other over-the-top fare. She’s also in the process of opening two new restaurants. One is an Italian restaurant “with a creative Rise N Shine spin’’ at the former Grimaldi’s Luna Park off Carrier Circle. It doesn’t have a name yet. The other is Clean CUSEine, a juice bar opening soon on Harvard Place, across from Recess Coffee. She plans to open two more restaurants in 2022.

Whew! Mercuri says she wouldn’t be in business and wouldn’t be able to dream big without the support of the community. That’s why she gives back. And one way she does that is through the United Way of Central New York’s annual Kickoff Cookoff.

The Kickoff Cookoff (KOCO) is a dining event that kicks off the United Way’s fundraising season. Twenty Syracuse-area restaurants have partnered with the United Way to donate a portion of KOCO proceeds to support 64 essential programs through the United Way’s Community Program Fund. The event continues through September 30.

September 22 is “United Way Day’’ at both Rise N Shine and LODED. Receipts from all food and beverage sales that day will support United Way programs in Central New York. “The whole kit and caboodle,’’ Mercuri says with a laugh.

This is the second year Mercuri has participated in KOCO. She was introduced to a representative of United Way by her hairdresser last year and recalls she knew very little about the organization and what it does. The organization’s commitment to investing in programs that help people improve their lives and its mission of making an impact where’s it’s needed most resonated with her.

“Once I started doing my homework, I was like ‘wow,’’’ Mercuri says. “These are things that have affected me personally and that I personally take to heart. Because of all the amazing people in this community that have helped me get to this point, one of my main goals is to give back. The United Way helps to fund everything we need in the community. They target the specifics and focus on what’s needed at a specific time. They make sure that everyone is getting their fair share. That’s a huge deal.’’

What does participation in KOCO amount to in terms of dollars raised? That’s hard to say. On an average Wednesday, Mercuri says, Rise N Shine will do 300 to 500 covers over breakfast, brunch and “brinner’’ (brunch-dinner). LODED is more unpredictable – the restaurant has been open only three months. There are seats for 20, but most of its business is takeout.

Have you been craving breakfast nachos, pork belly eggs Benedict or a vegan scramble at Rise N Shine? Or a loaded fried chicken sandwich or smash burger from LODED? Visit on United Way Day September 22 and dine to make a difference.

Learn more about the United Way of Central New York’s 2021 Kickoff Cookoff at www.eatunited.org.

Margaret McCormick is a writer, editor and food blogger in Syracuse.