Friday, February 20, 2009

Review: Bull & Bear Pub

Name: Bull & Bear Pub
Address: 125 E Water St, Syracuse, NY
Neighborhood: Downtown (Hanover Square)
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: Traditional, yet mildly upscale Pub Food
Restaurant Hours: Monday-Friday 11:30 AM to 9 PM, Saturday 4PM to 9 PM
Bar Hours: Monday-Friday 11:30 AM to 2 AM, Saturday 4 PM to 2 AM
Alcohol: Full Bar
Parking: On-Street
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Takes Reservations: Yes
Music: Live Music on Friday and Saturday Nights, Karaoke on Wednesday and Thursday Nights

Opened in 2002, Bull & Bear Pub is situated in the heart of Syracuse's historic Hanover Square district. The interior is inviting and done over in a sort of rustic, funky, and hip style - from the creatively done and purposely aged "Bull & Bear" wall painting to the dark, rich wood at the bar, tables, and booths. Seating varies from stools up at the bar area, tables scattered over the center floor, to booths up against the large windows that overlook Hanover Square. There's also outdoor seating (weather permitting). Bull & Bear Pub also features weekly events such as a Talent Showcase on Tuesdays at 9:30 PM, Karaoke on Wednesdays at 9:30 PM, 80's Fusion Karaoke Dance Party on Thursday nights and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

The beer selection is good, with mostly New York and New England regional beers. They also have a few wines available as well. Drink specials include a "Midnight Madness" from Midnight to 1 AM on Monday to Thursday with $1.95 on all domestic bottles and well drinks. And the "50 Cent Happy Hour" runs on Monday to Friday from 4 PM to 7 PM with all domestic bottles and well drinks buy one get the next for 50 cents.

The menu contains a nice variety of your tradition bar food like burgers, wings, and wraps, but most are done with a slight twist: such as the Summer Chicken Burger (with a teriyaki glaze, pineapple and provolone) and the Rochester Wrap (with chicken, asiago cheese, ranch, lettuce and tomato in a jalapeno wrap). It's a great selection of food and you will most likely be able to find something new and interesting if this is your first time or your fifth.

Bull & Bear also features a "Take Away Menu" with specific items to-go (call for details) and also has an all-you-can-eat soup and salad special at lunch for $7.99.

Anyway, the order...

Coke: $2
The Hanover: $8.75
w/ Side of Sweet Potato Fries: $0.85
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $14

Pictured above is The Hanover (a grilled panini with shredded turkey, mozzarella cheese, coleslaw and Russian dressing on the side) with Sweet Potato Fries and garnished with a pickle slice.

Um, OK. If you put something on the menu that is not only named after the neighborhood your restaurant is in, but also has the phrase "trust us, it's GOOD!" immediately after the menu item, it better damn well be amazing. This was not. Really, the flavors just didn't work together at all and I think one of the main culprits may have been the coleslaw - it was bland, dry, and really didn't provide anything. It was essentially like eating wilted, plain cabbage. The melted mozzarella cheese was good (nice and stringy) and turkey was mildly juicy, but all of that combined with pressed rye bread made it a confusing combinations of tastes. It was such an odd mix of flavors that eventually became incredibly unappetizing. Also, although it was sweet and tangy, I have no idea why they insisted on putting the Russian dressing on the side. Something felt awkward about dunking my sandwich after every bite. If you're trying to make your restaurant more classy by putting condiments in small, metallic serving dishes, having your customers dunk their paninis is not the right way to go about it. Not only that, but I ran out of dressing about half way through the meal because the panini was so dry. In hindsight, it didn't really matter because I didn't even finish the rest of it. Booooo.

The sweet potato fries were OK. The giant grains of salt all over them were a bit much, but I thought the actual fries were decent none the less. Sweet and crispy. I really didn't like the maple butter mixture at all and had to make the jump to squeeze-bottle ketchup after only a few attempts at it. It was way too heavy and buttery for me. (Not to mention, I had already been overwhelmed by the amount of strange combinations and flavors at this point in the meal: turkey, Russian dressing, sweet potato, coleslaw, cheese, rye, butter, syrup, etc...). I mean, I get the whole "sweet potato and butter" combination, but it was just a bit much for me. An accompaniment of a light, raspberry vinaigrette instead of a condensed, maple butter mix would have done the trick here, I think. But oh well.

Service was a bit slow too. This was during lunch service - which should really be one of the more efficient times in moving people in and out. By the time I finished eating, most of the lunch crowd had already left, so I didn't really understand the long wait for the check at the end of the meal.

A few other notes...

The bathroom here is co-ed.

They offer catering. Call for details.

When bands are playing it can get loud and become difficult to carry on a normal conversation.

And yes, they have dart boards.

Overall, I'd say that Bull & Bear equates to casual dining, but leaning slightly towards the higher-end side of pub food (whatever that means). The food that I had in particular was not good, but they get points in my book for a superb location, a good, clean atmosphere, and decent food selection. For right now, I'd say that Bull & Bear seems like a much better place to get your drink on and enjoy some live, local music than it is as a legit restaurant. The other patrons that were there on my visit seemed to be eating burgers, so maybe I'll try one of those next time - though I'm not sure how soon that will be.

My rating of Bull & Bear Pub:

Your rating of Bull & Bear Pub:


Owen O'Neill said...

Hmmmm... coleslaw and melted cheese along with the meat. It sounds like they tried to do their own twist on a sandwich that I know as the Rachel (it has many names) but just didn't think through the changes carefully enough.

The Rachel is a Reuben with coleslaw instead of sauerkraut. Great sandwich is tangy tasty coleslaw is used that is neither too wet or too dry but corned beef offers more flavor contrast than turkey and the Russian dressing belongs inside the sandwich.

I've eaten at Bull & Bear once for an early dinner. Our service was prompt and I had a blue cheese bacon burger that was very tasty indeed. But there was nothing compelling enough to draw me back there solely for the food.

JoeBass123 said...

yeah, i think i just thought i would taste similar to something along the lines of the "the rachel" that you described (which sounds delicious, btw). my main gripe though was don't put words on your menu that boast about something that's awful - even if you're intention is good.

also, i couldn't get over how crowded this place was (with higher-end clientele none the less) on a typical weekday afternoon. i'm sure bull & bear's burgers are decent, but to me it just magnified the fact that there is a large draw for lunch in downtown 'cuse - regardless of how good/mediocre your restaurant food is.

but like you said, the food isn't enough reason to draw me back in the immediate future either. unless i happen to be in hanover and in the mood for a burger.