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Inside NY's Artisanal Food & Beer Mecca

A founding principle of New York States of Mind is that there’s more than one way of looking at the same thing. Meet five of NYSOM’s friends in Syracuse: Martin, Sarah, Jennifer, Jess and Erica. Read on for their unique Syracuse states of mind, written in their own words, verbatim.

The best resources for learning about Syracuse:

Your go-to locale for...

  • Coffee:
Freedom of Espresso wp Freedom of Espresso.
    • MARTIN wakes up to: Recess Coffee’s Crazy Shawn.
    • JESS: Freedom of Espresso: I keep it simple with their iced coffee with a splash of soy milk.
    • SARAH: Cafe Kubal, the best coffee I have EVER had! Definitely go with the hand-poured coffee, [it] takes a couple minutes [to brew] but it's worth it.
  • A sandwich:
Brooklyn Pickle wp Brooklyn Pickle.
    • MARTIN craves: LoFo’s Chicken and Brie Sandwich.
    • ERICA: Brooklyn Pickle!
    • JENNIFER: Street Eats: It’s a food truck and they are always switching up the menu, but my favorite so far is the Galveston Club.
    • JESS: Strong Hearts: A 100% vegan cafe with amazing food. I always get their TLT, a marinated tofu patty with pesto. So good!
    • SARAH: Absolutely anything at Darwin’s: Hands down, best sandwiches.
  • A night out with friends:
Dinosaur BBQ wp Dinosaur BBQ.
    • MARTIN heads to: Ironwood for mushroom pizza & local beer
    • ERICA: Dinosaur BBQ (everything!), Coleman’s (wings or finger foods), Empire [Brewing Company] has great everything (lobster bisque in particular is fabulous; love the blueberry beer) and Blue Tusk has some good sandwiches and great beers.
    • JENNIFER: Dinosaur BBQ for pulled pork.
    • JESS: Empire Brewing Company: Great relaxed and local vibe. I always go with one of their house-crafted seasonal brews like blueberry.
    • SARAH: Blue Tusk: great atmosphere with lots of outdoor seating, huge [beer] selection, small food menu, as well.
  • Date night:
    • MARTIN savors one-on-one time at: bc Restaurant for the House Smoked Pork Stack and Watermelon and Beets salad.
    • ERICA: Bittersweet(The Maria Maria Tuna Panini), Asti Caffe (the lobster ravioli is to die for) or Pastabilities (Penne with vodka sauce or their specials are always good).
    • JENNIFER: Pastabilities for penne vodka.
    • JESS: CopperTop Tavern: They have a wide variety of delicious food and a warm and inviting atmosphere, perfect for conversation.
    • SARAH: Pastabilities: Love the Chicken Parm and seasonal Butternut Squash Ravioli.
  • A glass of wine or cocktail:
    • MARTIN sips: Blanton’s bourbon (neat) at Al’s Whiskey and Wine Bar.
    • ERICA agrees: I love Al’s. They have a nice selection for wine.
    • JENNIFER toasts at: Avicolli’s.
    • JESS toasts at: Blue Tusk: They have so many beers on tap, I can’t pick a favorite!
    • SARAH thirds the Al’s recommendation: The bartenders are always willing to let you sample something new.
  • DessertBittersweet is the unanimous choice for treating yo’self. Here’s what our friends order:
Bittersweet wp Bittersweet.
    • MARTIN: Stuff My Puff.
    • ERICA: The waffle and s’mores desserts are amazing.
    • JENNIFER: Carrot Cake.
    • JESS: If going with a group, I highly recommend the fondue to split!
    • SARAH: Chocolate Cake. The desserts are huge, though, so share one with a friend or expect to bring some home.

The hotel you always book or recommend to friends, and why:

  • MARTIN sends guests to: Hotel Skyler: LEED certified, designated historic site, beautiful one of kind rooms, great service.
  • JESS suggests lodging at: Mirbeau Inn & Spa: Pricey, but it is an incredible experience and their service is outstanding!

The ONE thing visitors must see or do, and why:

  • MARTIN directs people to: Go hiking. Chittenango Falls, Green Lakes State Park, Rand Tract or Labrador Hollow. We have a ton of great trails, easily accessible from the city.
  • ERICA: Dinosaur BBQ because it's amazing. Go when there's a band, get dinner and drinks and make a night of it. Always a go-to when out-of-towners come to visit.
  • JENNIFER: Dinosaur BBQ and Destiny USA: They have added a ton of fun things to do [at Destiny USA].
  • JESS: Take a walk around Green Lakes State Park, the crystal clear water and scenery is breathtaking! Pack a cooler and make a day of it, you won't be sorry!
  • SARAH: We always bring visitors to Empire Brewing Company - their beers are fantastic, and (in my opinion), their food is even better. It's a great all around experience.

Your favorite hidden (or not so anymore) gem, and why:

Pastabilities wp Pastabilities.
  • MARTIN treasures: Funk ‘n Waffles: Local organic ingredients before most people were doing it, on a unique menu, plus live music.
  • ERICA: I love the [Downtown Farmers’] Market on Clinton Street on Tuesdays; it’s fantastic.
  • JENNIFER: The waterfront: You can sit out on their huge patio and just relax while having a good time.
  • JESS: Pastabilities restaurant in Armory Square, go there for lunch. Great vibe and delicious food with homemade pasta and sauces; I highly recommend their Vodka Cream Sauce over fettuccine!
  • SARAH: Middle Ages Brewery: It's a few blocks outside of downtown, but they offer free samples of all of their beers, friendly staff, and [have] cats. Yes, cats.

Number of hours or days required in town for the "full" experience:

  • MARTIN: 48 hours.
  • ERICA: I think a weekend here is nice. [It] gives visitors a chance to check out some of the great restaurants & bars, maybe a festival....the [Great New York State] fair is really fun in the summer, too. 1-2 days at least!
  • JENNIFER: A long weekend.
  • JESS: 2 days.
  • SARAH: 2-3 days. If you can, come on a weekend in the summer -- there is at least one festival taking place downtown every weekend.  And during Winterfest, the downtown restaurants host chili cook-offs and drink mix-offs.

The town is great for what type of visitor:

  • MARTIN: CELEBRATE (the host with the most/ladies who lunch) / EPICURATE (the foodie) / RECREATE (the adventure-seekers and fitness gurus)
  • JENNIFER: CURATE (the artsy intelligentsia) / INNOVATE (the tinkerers and life-long students) / EPICURATE

The town is best explored by:

  • MARTIN: Car.
  • ERICA: Kind of depends where you're going. Downtown is best by foot but there are other great sections of the city [in which] a car is best.
  • JENNIFER: Car.
  • JESS: Car.
  • SARAH: Foot.

The town is best explored in:

  • MARTIN: Autumn.
  • ERICA: Summer.
  • JENNIFER: Spring and Autumn.
  • JESS: Summer and Autumn.
  • SARAH: Summer.
-- [Photo credit: Rachel Koster from Syracuse.]