Sunday, March 1, 2009

Review: Funk 'N Waffles

Name: Funk N' Waffles
Address: 727 S Crouse Ave Suite 8, Syracuse, NY
Neighborhood: University Hill
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: Waffles, Sandwiches, Smoothies, Coffee
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 9 AM to 9 PM, Sunday 9 AM to 4 PM
Parking: On-Street
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Delivery: Yes (available through TakeOut Xpress)

Opened in January of 2007, Funk 'N Waffles has been serving up coffee, smoothies, sandwiches, and most importantly great waffles to the Syracuse University crowd for two years now.

But hold your horses. Before you head over for waffles, you may need some directions first. Funk 'N Waffles is located in the Campus Plaza alley off of South Crouse Ave and behind Marshall Square Mall. Or better yet, walk north on Crouse Ave at Marshall Street, take a right after Bruegger's, walk to the end of the alley, go to the last building on the left and walk down the set of dangerous stairs underneath Chuck's Cafe.

The interior is set up a bit more like a funky, thrift store-esque cafe than a restaurant, with old tables, chairs, and a few couches with SU students lounging around in. It's a perfect spot to unwind, enjoy some free wi-fi, and listen to live music - with local bands and touring artists performing just about every night of the week.

For a small cafe, the menu is excellent with sandwich and panini options, made-to-order smoothies, Purity Ice cream direct from Ithaca, NY, and fresh tea and coffee (more info on their coffee is available here). But let's not forget the waffles. Creative combinations of savory and sweet waffles include the Pulled Pork Waffle (with pulled pork and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce), the Brownie Waffle Sunday (brownie topped with two scoops of fresh whip cream), and for the vegans, the Aunt Miriam's Vegan Waffle (a secret family recipe and free of any animal products). And if you can't make up your mind about which type of waffle to get, just create your own. A few of the waffle topping options include strawberries, spinach, feta, walnuts, ice cream, fried chicken, and Nutella.

The order...

Pineapple Smoothie: $5
Buttermilk Waffle with Bananas and Blueberries: $5.50
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $10.50

Just a really great smoothie. Real fruit, no sugar, and the pineapple tasted incredibly fresh. I honestly do not order smoothies that often, but this was really tasty.

If that couldn't be topped, the waffle was amazing. A perfectly cooked buttermilk waffle. Nice and crispy on the outer edges and topped with powdered sugar. And even though I didn't ask for them, the blueberries on the inside of the waffle were a really nice surprise. I also couldn't get over how fresh the bananas and blueberries tasted. So flavorful. These were the best blueberries that I can ever remember having in winter. Fresh ingredients, especially fruits, are so critical if you want to put out good food and it's refreshing that Funk 'N Waffles knows this.

The table syrup was good too. Word on the street is that the syrup here is "vegan friendly". I'm not really sure what that entails exactly, but it was really good none the less. If this wasn't real maple syrup, then you could have fooled me because this is about as close as you can get to it without being the real thing. Though it didn't have that overly distinctive maple flavor, it had a really nice, light nutty flavor. And yes, I coated most of my waffle with it.

However, looking around I couldn't get past the incredibly poor and obvious interior design flaws: inadequate lighting, exposed wires, the cheap painting job, dingy tables and chairs, uncoordinated and chipped plates...

It begs the question: does it really matter if restaurant decor is incoherent? Hypothetically, the best Vietnamese food that you've ever had could be located in some dank, hole-in-the-wall. Wouldn't that great meal still warrant a 5-star rating despite its shoddy interior? Then again, you almost expect and prepare yourself for a rough aesthetic experience if you're eating a rustic cuisine - not when consuming smoothies and waffles. I think that I'm going to go with my gut on this one and dock Funk 'N Waffles a half a star because of chairs and tables that look like they were brought over from the local Salvation Army. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, the place was not clean. Dirty floors and syrupy tables. If that kind of stuff doesn't bother you then take it with a grain of salt. For me, the uncleanliness combined with the shanty feel of the surroundings made it a little confusing and maybe even disappointing - mainly because it's really cool in there (great location, great food, great vibe), but they could easily make it a flawless place instead of what looks like a poorly managed, run-down cafe. Though, my nitpicking didn't distract me from having a really great meal. I'll be going back again - maybe even to check out some live music too. All they really have to do is fix the interior up a bit.

So close, Funk 'N Waffles. So close.

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