In a recent post on Syracuse.com, Don Cazentre, food and beverage editor at The Post-Standard, points out how subjective, random and arbitrary restaurant ratings can be on crowd-sourced sites like TripAdvisor.com, and asks readers to weigh in with their own local Top 10.
He’s right. The Top 10 restaurants for Syracuse on TripAdvisor include several that aren’t restaurants, exactly -- like Wegmans, Gannons Isle and Columbus Baking Co.
Inspired by fellow CNY food blogger Jared Paventi, whose blog, Al Dente, focuses on food, cooking and eating (click here for Jared’s list), I decided to come up with my own list of local favorites.
My list leans toward restaurants that emphasize seasonal, locally grown and locally sourced food, but is not limited to them. The list was compiled and is presented in no particular order.
What are your favorite local restaurants? New discoveries and places that have long held a place in your heart -- and your food memory? Leave a comment below.
bc: bc is TN: Top notch. The new owners have added community tables, artisan pizza and other menu items for grazing and sharing, but fine dining in a casual, upscale atmosphere is still the hallmark. How about a pork chop brined with Middle Ages IPA, with spicy sweet potato puree on the side?
Empire Brewing Co.: “Eat Where You Live’’ is the mantra at this subterranean brewery and farm-to-table restaurant in Armory Square. In season, about 85 percent of the produce used at the restaurant comes from Empire’s garden, Polo Ridge Potager, in Cazenovia. Empire’s commitment to local sourcing is impressive, and the food is really good, too. Order a craft beer and a Tumbleweed Burger. Your belly will be happy.
Riley's: What’s not to love about a warm and inviting neighborhood tavern with a pub menu, specials that change daily, Brian’s killer desserts (pies, cakes, cheesecakes -- outstanding!) and an owner that plays the upright piano in the dining room? Riley’s is a gem. The restaurant does not have a website. It’s at 312 Park St., Syracuse, NY 13203. Info: 315-471-7111.
China Road: Some of the most authentic Chinese food in the area can be found at Chef Simon Teng’s unassuming storefront on Route 11 in Mattydale. The daily menu board in both English and Chinese and the diverse array of diners tell you this place is the real deal. Looking for a place to take vegetarians? I recommend the scallion pancake and the sauteed green beans.
Asti: This is Syracuse. No list would be complete without Italian, right? Asti’s Utica-Style Greens are some of the best in Central New York. You can’t go wrong with Italian comfort food, like lasagna and eggplant Parmesan, or with seafood and steaks cooked on the restaurant’s wood-fired grill. Buon Appetito!
Joelle's French Bistro: Beet and avocado salad? Mussels with frites (French fries)? Yes, please! Chef-owner Joelle Mollinger was born in France and raised in Morocco. Her plates are a work of art. I can’t think of anywhere else in Central New York where you can order a tagine – meat and vegetables cooked in a clay pot -- and served with couscous.
The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond: The restaurant is at the center of a 100-acre, certified-organic farm in the Finger Lakes, near Skaneateles and Auburn. Food doesn’t get more fresh and up-to-the minute. Be sure to try the Lego family’s own pasture-raised pork. Note: The restaurant is open mid-March to December.
The c. 1820 House: Come for the sunset, linger on the deck, stay for the food. Chef and co-owner Rich Schreiner is a creative spirit who has traveled all over the world. He grows his own produce and herbs in season and likes to experiment with ingredients, spices and nightly specials. There’s also a tavern menu with everything from soups and burgers to seasonal gourmet fare.
The Mission: The interior of this downtown landmark (the former Syracuse Wesleyan Methodist Church) transports you to somewhere in Latin America – and so does the food. Order Margaritas and a selection of appetizers for the table to share or an elegant entree like shrimp, scallops, clams and crab claws cooked in a smoked chile broth with grilled bread for dipping.
Circa: Alicyn Hart’s restaurant and market in the village of Cazenovia is at the forefront of the eat local movement. Her motto: Food that’s seasonal and local tastes better. Need convincing? Taste the roast chicken, raised at a nearby farm, or the Circa Burger, made with your choice of local beef, lamb, elk, turkey or veggies. Even in winter, the menu is local, local, local and changes weekly.