Consumer Square will be adding four new dining options in the coming months - and that's great, but might we suggest you try the local versions first?

There's something about Utica and chain restaurants - for better or worse, we can't seem to get enough of them. In spite of the fact that between Utica and Rome, we have some of the best Italian restaurants anywhere, I have never once driven by the Olive Garden parking lot on Commercial Drive and seen it empty...or even half empty.

Consumer Square in New Hartford is set to welcome four new restaurants. That's great - we all enjoy a great meal from a chain restaurant. (I've certainly made no secret of my complete devotion to the Big Mac.) There's nothing one of these chains can bring that we don't already have right here in the Mohawk Valley from local business owners.

Blaze Pizza - according to their website, Blaze offers "exceptional quality at lightning fast speed is what we're all about. Fresh, made-from-scratch dough. Healthful, artisanal ingredients on the assembly line. Inventive to classic. Blazing hot oven + dedicated pizzasmith + 180 seconds = fast-fire’d, perfectly crisp perfection." Yes, that sounds good. But right down the road, on Seneca Turnpike is...

  • Mangia Macrina's - they make oven fired pizza from fresh ingredients, and they're locally owned and operated. If you haven't tried their pizza - you should. They grew from a simple food truck to their current brick and mortar location. (They've still got the food truck, though.)

Starbucks - I think this one goes without saying. We all know what Starbucks is about - they're even a socially responsible brand, and their Caramel Macchiato is ridiculously good. Can you even consider yourself a Utican if you haven't been to...

  • Utica Coffee Roasting? - they import and roast their own beans, just to make you the best cup of coffee you've had in a long time. On top of that, they also carry a number of other local brands, including Utica Bread and Kriemhild butter and dairy products. Plus, I'll put barista Michelle McSweeney up against the best Starbuck's has to offer. You won't meet anyone nicer.

Jersey Mike's Subs - their website says they offer authentic taste, "served Mike's Way® with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, oil, vinegar and spices – is available nationwide. Our secret? Everything about Jersey Mike’s is high quality. Our MSA Grade top round beef are trimmed and cooked right in the store. Our meats and cheeses are all top-quality premium brands. Our bread is fresh-baked each day on the premises." That DOES sound good, but it can't beat the local tradition that is...

  • Mello's Subs - has been in downtown Utica for nearly 40 years, offering some very tasty subs from it's small shop on Genesee Street. The portions are huge, and the prices are great. It's hard to beat the local flavor you get from Mello's.

B. Good: Food with Roots - I have to admit, this one looks pretty amazing. They offer healthy salads, wraps, and burgers - using locally sourced ingredients. I'm glad to see any restaurant that's interested in buying from our local farms. Judging by their website, the food looks fresh and delicious. Of course, they're not the only ones focused on Fresh, locally sourced food.

  • Nola's - Located on East Park Row in Clinton, it's one of my favorite restaurants, and not just because it's where my husband and I had our first date. Their food is always unique, the ingredients are locally sourced and prepared creatively. Whether you're enjoying lunch or dinner, you're certain to enjoy your meal, and the ambiance and decor are delightful.

We're not saying chain restaurants don't offer good, convenient foods - we're just suggesting that you make a deliberate choice to shape your community's landscape when you choose to #eatlocal - and your taste buds will have a good time too.