Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > New York State (exc. NYC) >
Jul 31, 2003 07:32 PM


  • m

here are a few good places to eat in Syracuse and a
few diners i am familiar with

Dinosaur Bar-B-Q 246 West Willow St just up from downtown. a legend in the making. rated one of the best in America by some bar-b-que fanatics. Biker
owned and operated. their motto: "nothin' but Blues and Bar-B-Q" there is a sister place in Rochester

Doug's Fish Fry 6812 East Manlius Center Road, route 290, East Syracuse fresh fish delivered from the coast every day. his original store in Skaneatlas made news when he said he wouldn't serve food to Bill Clinton. i had a great fish fry here. there is another store in Dewitt somewhere.

Desert Moon Fresh Mexican Grill Armory Square downtown Syracuse an "upscale" fast food Mexican
place with the best and only salsa i've ever enjoyed
the food is as good as what you will get in most "sit down" Mexican dinner places

The Little Gem Diner Spencer St Syracuse (1/2 half mile west off of Hiawatha Blvd which brackets the Carousel Mall) it's an old Stainless Steel diner. open 24 hrs. it's diner food. some of it is good, some isnt, the coffee is lousy. no half & half is available, just that fake creamer stuff and milk if you request it. very popular despite it's marginal food quality and rotten coffee. they seem to believe they are great or something. you'll never find a pretty waitress in this place either, they hire from Nags-R-Us. i still like the place and go there anyway. it's a crossroads of sorts.

Aunt Josie's Italian Restaurant 1110 Salina St, Rte 11 North about 1/2 mile from downtown. good food and a great atmosphere. like eating at a friend's house. i was talking with people i never met before. they also have an ice cream parlor next to the restaurant.

La Bamba Mexican dinner restaurant on Lakeland Ave
in Solvay good place, been there only once

Juanita's Mexican Kitchen 600 Court St an informal
more bohemian/hip Tex-Mex restaurant. good food. most popular place in town.

Coleman's Irish Pub 100 South Lowell Ave the "best"
Irish pub in Syracuse located on Tipperary Hill.
Leprechaun access if you know any. good pub grub. great bar. big place, as big as the pubs in Montreal.
live Irish music weekends.

Kitty Hoyne's in Armory Square, downtown. the best of the many Irish Pubs downtown in Armory Square, IMHO. a good place to meet and greet. good pub grub. nice atmosphere. live Irish and other "acoustic" music on weekends

"Unknown" Diner on Marshall Street at the Syracuse University Campus. i cant recall the name, but they have been around for ages. Marshall street is only one block long so you cant miss them. a friendly old fashioned place favored by students, alumni and working stiffs in the area. there are a host of other bars and eateries on and around Marshall street also.

i've eaten at all of the above places except Coleman's but i can safely say they will live up to their reputation.

pick up a free monthly restaurant guide called Table Hopping or the Syracuse New Times for more restaurant

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I would refer readers to Owen O'Neill's 7/23/03 posting on this board offering , in my opinion, a more comprehensive and discriminating survey of dining opportunities in Syracuse. Please note, relative to the post immediately above , that Table Hopping is a publication which promotes restaurants who presumably advertise in it and offers no independent criticism. Alas,the Syracuse New Times, which is independent in many important areas, is not on restaurants. It doesn't offer real criticm- just a softer boosterism- but contains some useful food news and events.The monopoly newspaper in Syracuse has a restaurant critic who is tired and knows food ,I think, but doesn't really expect much at home (she travels) and thus rationalizes the widely mediocre around here. That leaves Chowhound, which is useful but not terribly active on the nonexistent Syracuse board. I wonder if many of you know how great it is to have a whole board devoted to your town or area.You get a wonderful, independent view of ,say, Babbo in New York by listening to everyone's passions and experiences.I could use a little more Syracuse activity on this board!

    20 Replies
    1. re: mangiabene
      Owen O'Neill

      mangiabene - thanks for the kind words (or at least the referral to my previous posting). I agree on the unfortunate paucity of postings/discussion re the dining scene in Syracuse. While I do agree with Mike that Dino BBQ is "okay" it's certainly not great BBQ - just good for the area.

      I'm officially back in Syracuse full time after living in the NYC area for the past four years. I'm not excited about being back but will make the best of it and will try post periodically on my latest finds, hits and misses. Most recently.....

      Ruby's Soul Food restaurant - on the west side of South Salina Street a block or so past the Valley Plaza shopping center. This place was a neighborhood pizza/Italian joint for years and then became Gwen's. Gwen used to have a BBQ cart (just a grill and an ice chest) at the corner of Ballantyne Road and South Salina and she made a mean rib sandwich as well as good grilled chicken. She started a real sit-down restaurant and it either failed or is now under a different name. The "menu", which is the Ruby's ad from the back of the Syracuse banner newspaper, mentioned using Gwen's sauce - there must still be a connection. One young girl working the front of house, obviously a family member. Under $10 with tax and tip got me fried chicken with two sides and a lemonade. Lemonade was obviously Country Time powder mix and the chicken was too oily. The skin was properly crispy and the spices excellent but the oil was definitely overused. A bit rundown on the inside - most folks would prefer takeout. The mac 'n cheese was of the classic African-American style and good although it was microwaved and a bit congealed on top. The collard greens were outstanding - the best I've had in quite some time. Service was adequate but I stress that this is really best utilized for takeout. I'd give it a 6 out of 10 in its category. There used to be a place on South Ave called Smitty's Smokehouse that made outstanding fried chicken but they appear to be out of business.

      Several weeks ago I tried Paisano's - a neighbnorhood Italian restaurant up at the end of Butternut at the edge of Lyncourt. I think this place used to be Gruen's German restaurant years ago. It's the classic bar with separate dining room - family pics, trophies, plastic flowers, cheap wood paneling and vinyl covered banquettes with booths. There are other places in this category in town that I like - Smorol's on Avery Ave is good for a moderately priced family meal and the Corner House on Grant Blvd can be okay (depends on what you order). Paisano's left me unimpressed - really slow service and medicore food.

      The spot that held Vinnie's on North State (behind St. Joe's Hospital) is now Cafe Ilario. Checked out the menu - not a spaghetti and meatballs place. I think they had ravioli and maybe fettucine in the $11 range but most of the menu was veal, beef, fish and poultry in the $14 - $22 range per entree. Nice space inside and I spoke with the owner'd daughter, Bianca, who is the hostess. I'll go back to check it out - looks like a possible winner.

      Asti Caffe on North Salina by the intersection of North State (just north of the Learbury building) is okay but not great. I ate there a month or so ago - really liked the atmosphere and also the friendly service. We had one dish that was good and another that was midle of the road. Nice little salad and I appeciated havign a carafe of good quality EVOO to put on the bread plate with some herbs for dipping the bread - more places in Syracuse should try this rather than the ubiquitous Columbus Bakery Italian bread with butter. I think this place has lots of potential and I may have been there on an off night or didn't order the right dish - it's obvious that they're trying to do the right things and I will visit them a few more times before offering a definitive assessment.

      Had dinner again last night at New Century Vietnamese on Kirpatrick Street (a block or so east of the intersection of Park Street). Some dishes such as their House Chicken with Fish Sauce are a bit too simple but fiery hot. Not crazy about their yellow curry but the Pho is outstanding as are the summer rolls, the Hue Beef Noodle Soup and many of the vermicelli dishes. They also have the best iced coffee with condensed milk that I've ever had in any Viet restaurant (I'm picky and that is high praise).

      1. re: Owen O'Neill

        The Craftsman house is a very good restaurant.It is located in Fayetteville ( a few miles east of Syracuse)
        It has a great atmosphere decorated with all stickley furniture. prime Rib, mahi mah, rack of lamb etc.

        The Mission, located on E. Onondaga street is set in an old church.serves Pan american and traditional mexican.

        We also enjoy the Sunday Brunch at the Regatta (Wyndham hotel) The best brunch in Syracuse. It's huge also.

        Hana's on Erie Blvd is a good Middle Eastern restaurant that also has a little market attached. They also have baelly dancing on elected Saturday nights.

        1. re: mcnh63
          Owen O'Neill

          I'll have to respectfully disagree with some of these assessments....

          I find the Craftsman House to have a lovely and soothing atmopshere and decent service but the food hasn't wowed me. It's always been better than average but I've never had anything there that made me say "Wow.... this is amazing.... can't wait to come back here and try more things on this menu". Caveat - highly subjective opionion based on the fact that I get bored with the old standbys of broiled fish, prime rib etc.

          Han's - I had takeout from here and it was good - about the same qaulity as King David's but the atmosphere in the dining room looked a bit stark and barren - have they jazzed it up?

          Brunch - I'll have to try the Regatta sometime but I"m not much of a brunch guy. I wish someone still offered dim sum on Sundays around here (uses to ba availabel in Ithaca at the Golden Dragon but they're long gone).

          The Mission - I really want to like this place but after three visits I have yet to have a good meal. The owner Steve Morrissey is a guy I happen to like and respect.... the service has been okay and I like the atmosphere but I just can't get with the food. Doesn't seem consistent enough to me. If you haven't tried Alto Cinco on Westcott I strongly suggest that you do so - it's very good.

          1. re: Owen O'Neill

            Da Vinci's in Fayetteville. Has anyone tried it yet?
            We went there when it first opened. This...Owen... MIGHT wow you. We liked it and I have heard many people say they really like it. It is also in Fayetteville. The same owners as the one in Armory square. (the one down there is a cafe though I think)

            1. re: mcnh63

              I haven't tried Da Vinci's yet but will do so in the near future. The owners did have a pizza place on Walton Street by the same name but lost their lease when it was renewal time - their successor pizza place is Nick's Tomato Pie (okay but not spectacular).

              My daughter spent a summer working for "Tiger" and Anthony, the owners of Da Vinci's. They appeared to be totally clueless about how to run a business but appear to be doing well with Da Vinci's and if I recall correctly it got a good writeup from Yolanda in the Syracuse paper (her word is far from the absolute on restaurants but I think she treats people fairly, writes with an understanding of the Syracuse market and doesn't hesitate to comment on the shortcomings if they are significant).

              By the way..... slightly OT but it's worth driving up to Fulton to try the Blue Moon Grill. Very nice room and ridiculously cheap prices for good quality and huge portions. It's also in the Entertainment Book if you happen to have one.

              1. re: Owen O'Neill

                Yes we do have the entertainment book and I've heard of that place. Will really have to give it a try.
                By the way I can't believe I forgot to mention Cora D's on Milton Ave Cam. We really liked it there and I have heard good things from others also.The outside looks like nothing but the inside is nice but small. Reservations are almost a must on some nights.

                1. re: mcnh63

                  I tried Cora D's last year based on the recommendation of someone in this forum. I liked it but it was NOT really an Italian restaurant per se, which is how it had been represented to me.

                  I've eaten at the Blue Moon twice and enjoyed it both times. From Syracuse it's 690 W to 690 N and then turn right over the bridge towards downtown Fulton. When you see some older brick buildings on the left with the river just beyond them turn onto the one way street in the center of those buildings. It's a cute little area and they're in the middle of that short block. I wouldn't worry about reservations as they';ve never been busy when I've been there (a Tues and a Thurs - can't speak for weekends).

                  Tried Lock 24 in B'ville last night with the former GF. It was another Entertainment book deal - two iced teas, one dessert two entrees, a cup of onion soup and salads came with the meal. Not wonderful but certainly acceptable and pleasant enough - it's right on the canal in front of the lock and the boats go through. We sat outside which was nice until the sun went down and mosquitoes appeared. Bill came to less than $34 for two incl tax before the coupon - very reasonable but not memorable enough that I'd go out of my to return unless I had a coupon and wanted an okay meal for cheap.

                  1. re: Owen O'Neill

                    i almost forgot my favorite diner in Syracuse. i dont ever get to Syracuse in the daytime on weekdays so i never get to try all the breakfast and lunch places, but i found a great after hours spot on the east side in Eastwood. you guys/girls must have heard of it. it's called

                    Mama's Place on James Street all the way down towards
                    Thompson on the left almost invisible even at night.
                    it's blocked by bushes coming from downtown Syr so look for a lot then look over and you'll see it.

                    i believe they open at 11pm and stay open til lunch the next morning then close til 11 again.

                    the parking lot is unpaved and unlit and they only have a little sign. it's a small white building and the food and coffee is not only good, the portions are unbelieveable

                    they serve a gigantic pancake and if you can finish it you can have your picture taken. but their version of the Giambotte is totally unreal. it's literally about 4-5 pounds of food stacked on the grill about 9-10 inches high. gigantic. my friend who eats like a horse couldn't finish it. there are pictures on the wall of those who have accomplished this amazing feat.

                    the walls used to be covered with scores of pictures of customers and their trophy plates but the cook told me a drunk sprayed the whole place one night with ketchup and ruined them all. so they are starting over again.

                    credit where credit is due: i found them in Table Hopping

                    p.s. is Serpico's closed now? anyone know?

                    1. re: Mike

                      Minor correction - it's a white building and it's called Mother's Cupboard. Otherwise, you're spot on with the description. Great eggs and home fries, excellent huge pancakes and the Fritatta or "fretta" (what you refer to as a Giambotte) is awesome. Haven't seen mention of Serpocio's in a long time and I'd be surprised if it was still open - that part of the North side has gotten very rough and I doubt anyone would be crazy enough to run an all night diner there.

                      1. re: Owen O'Neill

                        thanks Owen. i noticed i had the name wrong on Mother's Cupboard. drove by yesterday when i hit town on a day off from work. actually the place is yellow in daylight.

                        Desert Moon is gone now. i found another Syracuse dining forum at that mentioned it and i saw them yesterday with a sign in the window that just says "closed". the board is a good little forum a lot like this. i see mnch is a poster on that board also. i signed up as mikeaxe.

                        i checked out Clark's Ale House for the roast beef sandwich and it was awesome as you said. what really
                        capped it was the fact that they have Genesee Cream Ale on tap and it was the perfect companion to a great
                        RB sandwich.

                        also spotted Riley's 1888 tavern on Park st. looks great from the outside. i will check them out the next time i am in town on a weekend night.

                        1. re: Mike (Axe)

                          That would be the Genny Cream Ale brewed from the sparkling clear waters of the Genesee River? The sarcasm is in fun - Back when I drank it was my favorite cream finish ale. Molson Golden should be that good (but it sucks - unlike Molosong Beer or Molson Export Ale).

                          You'll like Riley's - great place with nice relaxed atmosphere. I didn't realize Desert Moon was closed already - I walked by there a few weeks ago and it looked like they were still in business.

                          1. re: Owen O'Neill

                            I heard they closed suddenly but I don't know why.
                            Clark's is great. I have a friend that works there. great Roast Beef sandwiches!!!

                            1. re: mcnh63

                              My husband and I really like to go to the Clam Cove its up between Rt 11 and South Bay Road. Its a little place tucked in behind Fresno's. Nice little bar and excellent seafood. Sometimes the service can be a little slow but we've always found it worth the wait.

                              1. re: SyrWoman

                                I remember Serpico's from my college days in the early 80s. Do they still serve the Gorilla sandwich or the smaller version, the Chimp? Those were huge sandwiches!

                                1. re: SyrWoman

                                  I remember Serpico's from my college days in the early 80s. Do they still serve the Gorilla sandwich or the smaller version, the Chimp? Those were huge sandwiches!

                                2. re: mcnh63

                                  This may be a random time in the discussion, but I haven't seen any mention of Danzer's. When it comes to good food in Syracuse, I'd say Danzer's hits the spot. It's a Belgian restaurant on 153 Ainsley Drive..near where 481 and 81 intersect. They have the most amazing Red Reubens. The entire sandwich is twice the size of a normal sandwich. I always get it without corned beef, being a vegeterian, but it's just as good. Their desserts are fabulously rich, their beers come in three different sizes..I'm not sure what sizes exactly, but the large one is a tumbler about a foot tall. Anyway, it's a wonderful experience, fairly priced, good staff, great food!!

                                3. re: Owen O'Neill

                                  Interesting set of recs--to which a couple more must be added. China Road, in a divey-looking building in Mattydale (10 mins. north of Syracuse, off I-81, take x26 to Mattydale) is the best Chinese you'll get north of NYC and south of Toronto. Simply incredible. Ask for "Simon's specials" and let them bring you glorious dish after glorious dish. (Simon was a major NYC Chinatown chef, & wanted to raise his kids outside the city.) L'Adour, on Montgomery & Washington Sts., is exquisite bistro & New French food; Yann, the chef & owner, was a superstar chef in Prague & came here for family reasons. Several new Syracuse places are well worth a visit, most in the Armory Square area: Trio (excellent continental tapas; head upstairs after to the Stoop for amazing margaritas); Dante (not as new, but definitely deserves a mention--good Italian-continental); Tsunami; and nearby, Redfield's at the swanky (yes, in Syracuse!) new Marx Hotel. High-end & very good New American cuisine.

                      2. re: Owen O'Neill

                        Yes we do have the entertainment book and I've heard of that place. Will really have to give it a try.
                        By the way I can't believe I forgot to mention Cora D's on Milton Ave Cam. We really liked it there and I have heard good things from others also.The outside looks like nothing but the inside is nice but small. Reservations are almost a must on some nights.

                        1. re: Owen O'Neill

                          Yes we do have the entertainment book and I've heard of that place. Will really have to give it a try.
                          By the way I can't believe I forgot to mention Cora D's on Milton Ave Cam. We really liked it there and I have heard good things from others also.The outside looks like nothing but the inside is nice but small. Reservations are almost a must on some nights.

                    2. re: mcnh63

                      i should mention that i don't live in Syracuse. i live between Utica and Rome, so i am only out there on weekends. that's why my reccomendations are incomplete. also, i don't rate things as a real gourmet taster. i used to cook the stuff years ago
                      but i don't have current expertise or even want it. i don't like the many weird things gourmets eat. foie gras, squid, oysters, clams, most seafoods, caviar, lamb and all that stuff is not for me.

                      i'm going to check out some of these places you guys mentioned. and there are also the fine Italian restaurants that i din't mention because i've never tried them.

                      p.s. i found out about Doug's Fish Fry from Table Hopping. i think the writing in TH is usually better than what's in the New Times.

                      does anyone know about a neighborhood Polish restaurant i saw recently in Solvay that i saw a bunch of people going into? it was at the edge of the village strip near the Syr side but i forget what street i was on. looked interesting.

                      also does anyone know if Desert Moon is still open? i
                      was in town 2 weeks ago on a saturday afternoon and they were closed and had no hours posted. i thought that was odd. their fresh salsa was dee-licious.

                      too bad about La Bamba. i was going to go back but i guess that's all she wrote.

                      i will post Utica-Rome area places i know when i get a chance.

                2. I agree the Dino BBQ is the best!!
                  La Bamba however is no longer there.

                  1. Ohhh another restaurant that really deserves to be mentioned is Cora D's. Excellent.

                    1. i have to include the Wegman's superstore on Route 5
                      coming into town from the Fayetteville side.

                      the hot foods/deli section of this supersized Wegman's is phenomenal. it's as good as or better than anything i saw in Montreal. they have an entire huge deli, bakery and restaurant/with coffee bar and ethnic food stations all in one area.

                      the deli foods appear to all be made in-house, rather than the pre-made "factory" foods you see at places like P&C in Fayetteville and Utica. same goes for most of Price Chopper's deli items: mass produced, tasteless commisary items. yech. and the hot foods at P&C and PChopper don't come close to Wegmans.

                      at Wegman's they have an excellent "hot dinner" station with a side of beef, ham, turkey, ect and sides to accompany it for around 7.00

                      they have an Oriental hot food buffet AND a made to order Oriental hot food station AND, for you loonies, a sushi bar

                      they have a Kosher deli section

                      they have a hot pizza section with varieties

                      they have numerous yummy looking exotic deli salads in one very large cold deli salad section

                      the other Wegman's around town are smaller and don't have all this. but i was told there is one in Liverpool that is supersized also.

                      the place is not cheap, but i never mind paying when i get back quality food for the money

                      1. The original comment has been removed