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.
The allure of dining week is the opportunity to try places you would not ordinarily go for dinner. Two years ago, our trip to Pastabilities during dining week renewed my faith in their dinner service (I’ve long been a fan of their lunch). A Syracuse-area economic development group, the Downtown Committee, organizes the local version each year. With the exception of a couple of outposts, the concept is three courses for $25. Pretty simple.
We had childcare for Friday evening and planned to take part. When looking at the menus for this year’s event, I mentioned to The Wife that I thought the 317 at Montgomery, Pastabilities and Bistro Elephant/Lemongrass had the most attractive menus. Sometimes places will prepare special menus of smaller or lesser quality items to make it economical. These three looked as if they were just restricting portions of their menu for the event. I left it to The Wife to choose where.
The space occupied by 317 has seen a lot of traffic over the past five years. It’s longtime inhabitant, the Brick Alley Grill, closed a few years back following a flood. Something called Checkers Cafe followed it, then a Persian restaurant called Parisa. This past fall, The 317 opened with a local heavy-hitting chef named Chance Bear and a Japanese-American fusion menu. It didn’t last long; Bear flew the coop for the aforementioned Bistro Elephant/Lemongrass. The reboot is called 317 at Montgomery. Continue reading 317 at Montgomery, Syracuse, N.Y.→
I get bored easily. As a child, everyone thought I wasn’t being challenged enough. This meant advanced reading classes or new educational toys to get the most out of me. It turns out I really was just bored. As an adult, I figured out how to manage that boredom: from time to time, I take things apart and put them back together. I typically subscribe to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” motto, but sometimes boredom wins out. When it isn’t broke and it is successful, I err on the side of caution and let it work.
My long-winded introduction leads me to how I felt when I found out about the changes at one of my favorite restaurants. The owners at bc restaurant in Armory Square stepped away from day-to-day operations last winter, retaining financial control. This meant new faces in the front of the house and the kitchen, where Bill Collins had been at the helm since opening the doors nearly 10 years ago. The most stark changes come on the dinner menu: more pizzas and more dishes that are either brined and/or braised. This was the first time The Wife and I visited since last July, before the restaurant came under its new leadership.
The term “fine dining” brings to mind more than just gourmet dining. It’s about the experience. Any chef can grill a steak, but what is the presentation? You can have the longest wine list in the Western Hemisphere, but how was it constructed? To me, fine dining is an event, not a meal.
For instance, Salvatore’s Restaurant in Buffalo is an event. We went for my sister’s graduation. Dinner took about four hours from cocktails to dessert. If you’ve never been to this eclectic enclave near the airport, you’re missing out. It’s not the best food in the world, but you’re a better person for going.
Event meals in Syracuse are few and far between. The now-departed Kettle Lakes in Tully hit the mark. I’ve never been but I’ve been told that French restaurant L’Adour is as well.
If I have my choice and money is no object, I sit the fence between two restaurants. Koto is the newest sushi entry in this market and I can eat toro all night long. But, more often than not I want bc. It’s the go-to restaurant when the funds are available or for special occasions, like the early celebration of our wedding anniversary.
bc restaurant is located on the Fayette Street side of Armory Square. Taking its name from the owner’s (Bill Collins) initials, bc is New York City bistro dining. Tight intimate table arrangements. Innovative American cooking with strong Asian and Latin American influence. Local produce and wines. Waiters and waitresses dressed like a stage crew. Best of all, it’s the most eclectic menu in the city. The kitchen takes chances with flavors, starting with the maple-black pepper spread for the bread to the lime-basil sorbet for dessert. Continue reading bc restaurant, Syracuse, N.Y.→
Eight-month-old children have a tendency to act like eight-month-old children. It was easier taking The Baby out with us on Friday nights when she was younger. Trips to Panera Bread, the Coppertop Tavern or Angotti’s were easy enough when timed just right. She would nap or otherwise be cute, but in a way that we could eat and not lose control of the table. At eight months, that freedom goes away. The Baby is pretty well-mannered, but she has an earlier bedtime than most senior citizens. The “going to bed process” typically commences between 6 and 6:30 p.m. each night. So, going out for dinner has become a rare option for two people who used to savor evenings where other people would cook.
Since The Baby emerged, we have done three four “date night” dinners — Elderberry Pond (for my birthday in August), bc Restaurant and Koto Steakhouse (host for two of them). Friday brought a new entry…Moro’s Table. And it wasn’t just new to us…the restaurant opened during Summer 2010.