About 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):
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.
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.
Dirty rice has been a personal favorite of mine since high school when I would devour bowls of it from the Dinosaur Bar-b-que. Back in the day, the Dinosaur was something really special. Enormous portions, a lot of smoke and heat, waitresses with bad attitudes, and an eclectic menu that with barbecue that spoke a Memphis dialect but featured a number of Bayou-inspired touches. Now…it’s still a restaurant I enjoy, but it’s not the same. I think the shine wore off when the waitresses were told to stop swearing at the customers. Anyhow, it’s still somewhere The Wife and I enjoy and take people to when they visit. But, it’s just not the same.
Where was I? Oh, right, dirty rice. So, the Dinosaur’s dirty rice would reach up and slap you with heat from the jalepeños and the rich rice that had been sauteed with okra, bell peppers, onion and garlic. The “dirty” comes from the brownish tinge that the rice grains take on from the browned garlic and onions. The rice binds right to this goodness and enhances the flavor. While I didn’t have okra on hand, I went with some cured andouille sausage for some extra flavor.
Dill pickles have been standard summertime venture ever since I picked up my first copy of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American Roadhouse. I made my first batch while still living with my father, who hated the dill-vinegar smell that would hang in the house for the day or two following.
The project moved to my own dwelling(s), where it is something I put together once or so each year. Frankly, I can’t stand the steamed vinegar that hangs in the air either. However, the payoff is worth it.
I use a modified version of Dinosaur pickle recipe. I don’t know how to do it better than them, but I know that my primary audience (The Wife) does not like jalepeños with her pickles. Sooooooooooo, I try to balance it off with the requisite amount of garlic.
My past container of choice has been a 2-quart Rubbermaid container wrapped twice in plastic. This time around, I’m using a 2.5L sealed lockjar.
I got a look a few minutes ago. You see, I ate the last slice of peanut butter pie that was left over from Thanksgiving. I think The Wife was planning on housing it later, but you snooze, you lose, right? Actually, I think the look was more about the half-can of whipped cream I squirted on top. Either way, I had dessert for lunch.
If there is a most used cookbook in my arsenal, it’s the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American Roadhouse book published about 10 to 15 years ago. I’ve consulted it for just about everything from starters to sides to main dishes. The Wife uses it for the desserts, though she’s made the peanut butter pie so many times that it seems foolish for her to reach for the book.
Much has been made over time about the Dinosaur Barbque. In short, a traveling road show became a takeout joint, which became a full-on restaurant and now a corporate empire. My first experience was in the early 1990s when I was in high school. I went with my father for lunch after a job interview (mine, not his). He ordered me a pulled pork sandwich with fries and slaw. It was amazing and overwhelming, in terms of portion size and quality.
Over time, I’ve worked my way through the menu, introduced friends and family to the splendor, caught a healthy share of blues music and became a believer. And, over time, I have watched the Dinosaur change. This Syracuse success story was a study in socioeconomic diversity. On any given day, you would see bikers wearing cuts and men in $500 suits sitting next to one another. Today, the culture feels corporate. On the late June evening that The Wife and in went, the place was littered with families. Toddlers and strollers clog the aisles. Kids yell while their parents lay waste to ribs. The wait staff, formerly a rude batch of sass, attitude and biker tats, is now populated by cute girls who could work at any restaurant in town. Continue reading Dinosaur Barbque, Syracuse→