Category Archives: Dining Out

Laci’s Lunchbox, Syracuse, N.Y.

2014-11-06 at 12-18-22NOTE: I visited Laci’s Lunchbox and wrote this piece before going to Laci’s Tapas Bar and writing my piece on Nov. 9.

Is it lunch box or lunchbox? I tend to go with the singular word, as if the box’s sole purpose was to carry lunch. But, I think most people would go with two words, as in a box that happens to have lunch inside of it.

The lunchbox in question during Thursday’s midday forage for sustenance was one that belongs to Laci, or Laura and Cindy, the duo behind the raucously popular Laci’s Tapas Bar on Hawley Avenue. These ladies have earned a reputation as more than mere entrepreneurs and businesswomen, but as community leaders. Laci’s Lunchbox, their newest endeavor, is located near the Tapas Bar where Hawley Avenue and Green Street meet. Continue reading Laci’s Lunchbox, Syracuse, N.Y.

Texas de Brazil, Syracuse, N.Y.

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On his 2008 album Chewed Up, all-world comedian Louis C.K. discussed his eating habits, leading to an oft-quouted line: “I don’t stop eating when I’m full. The meal isn’t over when I’m full. It’s over when I hate myself.”

I’m not sure that there is a better characterization of our Friday evening visit to Texas de Brazil at DestinyUSA. I’m certain that one could go to this all-you-can-eat steakhouse, show some restraint, and experience it in a manner that doesn’t result in paralysis and food coma. It would require willpower and knowing your limits, two things that I do not possess.

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Texas de Brazil sits at the back of the Canyon entrance to DestinyUSA, in a court of other higher-end chain restaurants like Cantina Laredo, P.F. Chang’s, The Melting Pot and Gordon Biersch. The concept is Brazilian churrascaria, where passadores, or servers, come to your table with swords of meat, called rodizios. Typically, one flips a painted rock to indicate whether they would like more food or to signal that they need some time to eat. At Texas de Brazil, one receives a laminated card that is typically ignored by the sword-bearing staff. The Turning Stone Resort had a Brazilian steakhouse that The Wife and I had been to prior to its closing. Continue reading Texas de Brazil, Syracuse, N.Y.

Top 10 CNY Restaurants (2014 Edition)

Photo May 02, 6 22 55 PMAbout 18 months ago, I wrote a list of my top 10 CNY restaurants. These were not necessarily the restaurants that I thought were the best, but the one’s that I would go to if I had to build a permanent rotation of places to dine.

Since I posted that list, much has changed in the CNY food scene. One of the restaurants, Circa, has closed. Last week Gentile’s, loved my many in this area, shut its doors. A new version of The Krebs is open in Skaneateles at the end of August.

As we approach fall and begin our CNY hibernation (coming out only for food and SU basketball), I thought I would update the list. These are not necessarily the best restaurants in town or really even my 10 favorites. This list represents the permanent rotation of the area’s 10 best restaurants that I would go to exclusively (in no particular order):

  • Moro’s Table, Auburn [website]. The alpha and the omega. If money were no object…
  • Asti Caffe, Syracuse [website]. The best red sauce restaurant* in Syracuse.
  • Pastabilities, Syracuse [website]. Great for lunch. Good for dinner. The second best red sauce in town*.
  • Dinosaur Barbque, Syracuse [website]. Their bad days are a lot better than my good days. Remember, it’s not the 10 best, but the 10 that I would go to exclusively if forced to pick.
  • The Mission, Syracuse [website]
  • Otro Cinco, Syracuse [website]
  • Zabroso, Oneida [website]. The past three restaurants are distinctly different takes on Latin-American/Spanish food. The Mission is Mexican/Pan-American; Otro is a Spanish/Mexican hybrid; and Zabroso is Spanish. All three are wonderful.
  • Laci’s Tapas Bar, Syracuse [website]. Eclectic and fun. One of the area’s best dining experiences.
  • Ironwood, Manlius [website]. Good pizza. Good beer. Really, I’m easy to please.
  • The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Auburn [website]. An impossible car ride to get there, but farm-to-table begins and ends there.

*Angotti’s is not the best restaurant in town, nor is it the best red sauce restaurant in Syracuse. But it has long been a gathering spot for my family. It’s like my kitchen away from home. It doesn’t make this list because it transcends this list. And because I can almost always get a table.

The Hops Spot, Sackets Harbor, N.Y.


One’s dining choices are few when you are wrapping up midday stop at Old McDonald’s Farm in Sackets Harbor. Yes, we could have had lunch at the farm, but I was looking for more than just snack bar fare. Frankly, we needed to move to a place that didn’t have  a gift shop full of toys within eyeshot.

Sackets Harbor itself is a quaint little village on the shore of Lake Ontario that grows in population each summer when vacationers settle in. We had intended to visit the Anchor, but found it closed (contrary to its website’s listing of a Noon opening. We went to Sackets Harbor Brewing Company last year. While the food was good, I was less than impressed with the beer. And, after a morning with The Father, one needs adult refreshment.

There on Main Street, to the left of the brewpub, was The Hops Spot. A streetside menu advertised an interesting array of burgers and 24 beers on tap and won a consensus from the crowd.

An outdoor patio of about a dozen tables precedes your entry to the bar and restaurant. A small dining room with a built-in cushioned bench surrounds the front of the establishment, as do windows with sills full of cookbooks. A large board on the side of the dining room listed the name, strength and price of each beer available. Depending on the time of your visit, 2 to 3 beers from Skewed Brewery — its sister establishment in Salmon Run Mall — are available.

Continue reading The Hops Spot, Sackets Harbor, N.Y.

Send me to SXSW; torment a food snob

A public service announcement from Brian Moritz, my partner-in-crime on The Chain Challenge.


I hate using my blog for self promotion and for asking you to do something for me. But I’m part of two exciting projects that I need your help with.

The first deals directly with sports media. I’m a part of a proposed panel for the 2015 South by Southwest Sports conference. Adam Earnheardt, Lauren Reichart Smith, Jimmy Sanderson and I want to do a panel where we talk about the impact of social media on the traditional fan-team-journalist model.

A big part of the selection criteria — 30% — is based on how well we do in this open voting period, which runs into September. You can vote here, or by clicking the button below. You need to register to do so, but it’s free and easy to do so. Adam, Lauren, Jimmy and I thank you for your support!

Vote to see my session at SXSW 2015!

The second is about food.

Jared Paventi, the…

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Tuesday Dinner: Summer Fruit and Arugula Salad

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I do read other food blogs when looking for inspiration for menus around her at Al Dente HQ. I don’t just troll The Kitchn and Serious Eats, though it could easily seem like I do. One of the better recipe blogs out there is Two Peas and Their Pod, written by a husband and wife team from Utah.

They have a great balance of written and visual content of which I am jealous. I think my photography is getting better here, but I know I’m far away from where I want to be. I’m also a little envious of their readership numbers. Something tells me they draw a larger audience than I do here. Nothing against you, dear reader, but the goal of any writer is to have his or her work seen by as many people as possible. I’m constantly looking for ways to grow these numbers and it seems to be one of the harder parts of this game. Continue reading Tuesday Dinner: Summer Fruit and Arugula Salad

Fins Raw Bar and Ale House, Rehoboth Beach, Del.


Julie is to blame both for the shrimp boil and our trip to Fins Raw Bar and Ale House.

It’s easy (and fun) to blame Julie, if for no other reason than she is not here to defend herself. That said, she takes it and dishes it back, which makes her fun to drink, eat and travel with. In the grand scheme of things, there are worse things to be blamed for (car accidents, poor life choices, or stock market crashes, for instance) than a restaurant choice.

Julie and I share a love of the raw oyster. The perfect oyster is cleanly shucked, slimy, with a sweet finish and a briny kick. There are some who like it extra briny (like Julie) or extra earthy with that heavy seaweed flavor. Me? Give them to me mild and moderate so I can keep knocking them back with out repulsion.

Continue reading Fins Raw Bar and Ale House, Rehoboth Beach, Del.

The Pickled Pig Pub, Rehoboth Beach, Del.



The pub culture of England gave birth to the gastropub, a step up on the food scale from the neighborhood pub. There, it means raising the bar from bangers and mash. Here, it means stepping up our game from the boring burger.

For Rehoboth Beach, the gastropub means The Pickled Pig Pub on Route 1. The offspring off The Pig & The Fish, The Pickled Pig is situated in the heart of the outlets between Rehoboth and Lewes. Like The P&F, The Pickled PIg has a rather eclectic food and beer menu. Unlike The P&F, The Pickled Pig has quite a bit of seating and is not wedged into a house along Rehoboth Avenue near the Boardwalk.
Continue reading The Pickled Pig Pub, Rehoboth Beach, Del.