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How would you describe the Syracuse scene?

Hello all,

My husband and I are considering the possibility of relocating from our current home (in western Massachusetts) to Syracuse. We would have the chance to live close-in, near the university, in what we hope to be a lively (if smallish) urban setting, with decent dining options.
We have been very very disappointed, often disgusted/exasperated, with the dining scene in this area (UMass/Amherst/Northampton/Valley). Our time spent living elsewhere (Seattle, Santa Barbara, DC, and London) does, I'll admit, color our evaluations of places we encounter today, so are we destined to be unhappy with the options in Syracuse?

For those of you who know the city, especially if you have context for comparison, can you tell me how you would characterize the place? (e.g. -- "strives for mediocrity" is how I would describe the Pioneer Valley dining scene here in MA). Are there trends that are promising or disheartening? Do "ethnic" restaurants deliver authenticity or try to please the non-native's palate instead? Are dining spaces the dowdy-stuffy-grandma's dining room kind of place we have too often encountered in New England, or something else?

I realize that generalizations have their limits, but am hoping for the birds-eye view. Thanks in advance for your insights!!!!

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  1. Syracuse has few ,if any,restaurants worthy of eating at.
    Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is one of the few places even mentioned on Chowhounds.
    The "mediocrity"you sense in the Pioneer Valley(our boy went to prep school there)is minimal in what you can expect in Syracuse.
    The PLUS where you are is that you can hit the Berkshires in a hr. or so,you can go East to Boston,ect. for fine dining and ,if you look at all the reccs for New England at this site you can find numerous places that are truly gourmet,or very good at the least.
    We've been following the New England reccs here for years and we've been told about great restaurants from Vt. over to N.H.,up the Maine coast,and down to Ct.
    If you draw a radius around Syraucse there is viedtually nothing in all directions worth eating at.
    True there are some decent places in the Finger Lakes area but Syracuse is a food wasteland!!!!
    The city is run-down,with industry having moved out(GE,Carrier,ect.) and the really good restaurants left town as well when the good-paying jobs that supported good food in Syracuse moved out.
    I can't tell you of one decent restauant near the university worth going to twice.
    The university used to have 20,000 students tht supported fine restaurants but the enrollment is down to 10,000 or so;again,a lack of support for fine dining.
    There is little authenticity in ethnic restaurants(a lot of chinese buffets),and the place has more than its share of "grandma's dining rooms---I'm sorry to say.
    Sorry to be so negative.
    I've lived in this area for over 35 yrs. and I'm sorry to say the place has gone downhill since the mid-70's---food-wise.
    Sad-to-report-this-Catnip

    2 Replies
    1. re: catnip

      Hi catnip, Really, thank you for your frankness. This is what we need to know. I did not realize this bit about Syracuse University's enrollment -- and if we are to take jobs at the U. and stake our place in the city we'll want to investigate this further to avoid disaster.
      Another question for you, considering your longterm residence in the area -- I have been reading elsewhere about the urban revitalization -- Armory Square, urban loft condos and the like. Is this just so much hype, or has it happened in the midst of the decline in the restaurant scene (and I'm guessing, other cultural offerings)?

      1. re: catnip

        I respectfully disagree. There are fine and economical places in the university area and on Westcott street.

        University Area:
        Kim's Seoul Buffet (Korean)
        Blue Monkey (Sushi)
        Unique Tea House (Bubble Tea and other modern Asian beverages)
        Syrajuice (food, shakes, and smoothies for vegetarians and vegans)
        King David's (Mediterranean)
        Faegan's (Pub grub)
        Funk n Waffles (specialty waffles, coffee, and desserts)
        AppeThaizing (Thai)
        Samrat (Indian)
        Oishi (Sushi)
        ** There are others like Mokhwa (Korean), Panda West (Chinese ), Baja Burrito, Holy Crepes, but I don't care for them.

        Wescott Street:
        Las Delicias (Latino)
        Second Story Books (Coffee and desserts)
        Munjed's (Mediterranean)
        Alto Cinco (fusion Mexican)
        Metro (sushi)

        And actually, for the past 2 years, Syracuse University has had "over enrollment," to the point that students have had to be housed at the Sheraton Hotel.I don't know where you are getting your information catnip. I for one actually work at the university so I know your statements are not true. The campus is also attracting more and more international students, faculty, and domestic racial minorities which is why these types of establishments are thriving.

      2. Log on to the Syracuse Post Standard newspaper and spend a bit perusing the restaurant lists and reviews. Some are old but... We go to lunch in a number of places in the city with my sister, some ethnic, some not but all interesting. We do not seek out high level restaurants but find a wide variety of "chowhound" worthy sites. Mostly, we rely on my sisters life long residence in the city but some of the paper reviews help direct us. In any case, don't sell the city short - look around.

        1 Reply
        1. re: feelinpeckish

          Exactly what I was planning to do. My husband's uncle (the econ. prof. mentioned above) speaks well of the dining scene as well as other aspects of life in the city. We like to first gather impressions and information, and then decide for ourselves with open eyes. Thanks for your comments and encouragement, too.

        2. Saratoga Steaks
          Scotch & Sirloin
          Coleman's
          Danzer's
          Arad Evans House

          All of the above are good restaurants. They are not fancy, do not have micro-portions but are genuine good eats.

          1. The original comment has been removed
            1. Sadly, the negative reports are valid. I have had to visit Syracuse regularly since 1965 - my wife grew-up there and her family family still lives there. A culinary black hole. My first meal there was homemade "lasagna" made by the person soon to be my sister-in-law since she understood that I was Eye-Talian. It consisted of noodles, cottage cheese, Campbell's Tomato Soup and chunks of Velveta! The Syracuse natives thought it was the best Eye-Talian food the ever had! I became the Black Sheep of the family for refusing to eat it! Bread? It's pitiful. Bagel, croissant, scone? Forgettaboutit! Even the much ballyhooed Wegman's can't get bread right up north.

              The best meal I ever had in Syracuse was at Stella's Diner - a greasy spoon breakfast place. I don't know it it's still there.

              The only thing that terrifies me more than my wife saying "Let's visit Syracuse" is getting there and my in-laws saying "Let's eat out!"

              The GOOD NEWS is this: it is unbelievable cheap to eat out in Syracuse. I've lived in NYC Metro area all my life and by cheap I don't mean the rural parts of Pennsy cheap, I mean dine out frequently cheap. Housing - even when the economy was solid - is cheap. (I could get 2 houses in Syracuse with the equity in my NJ place even with today's depressed market) Groceries are cheap - I complained to the NJ Dept' of Argriculture several times because NJ blueberries in season are usually a dollar ($1) a pint cheaper than in NJ!

              I second catnip's suggestion - Finger Lakes region for food out. It's an easy ride from Syracuse (except when it snows) and the winery tours are first rate! Local groups often charter a bus to tour the wineries so you don't have to worry about driving. If wine is an interest, that's the place to be.

              In short - mixed news. BTW - NY State Fair is in Syracuse around Labor Day - it's by far the biggest and best in the US and you can get some great street eats there.

              2 Replies
              1. re: CompareFranco

                I'm not sure if you were joking, but as someone who was raised in the region, I have to mount a defense. People from Syracuse would not consider a lasagna made from noodles, cottage cheese and Tomato sauce to be either good or authentic! Except if by "natives," you meant your sister-in-law, i.e. the chef.

                There are some good Italian spots 45 minutes east in Utica, which has a huge Italian population.

                You are right, however, about the bread.

                1. re: Erikaleelee

                  The bread at Columbus bakery is as good as you can get ANYWHERE!