Thursday, April 8, 2010

Top 5 Places for Eats in the Near Northeast Neighborhood

It's a neighborhood that many people don't even know exists. Overshadowed by both the general "Northside" designation and the recently proclaimed Little Italy district, the Near Northeast is a tucked-away and much overlooked enclave in the northeastern corner of 690 and I-81 and incorporates the southern section of Little Italy, a portion James and Park Streets, and the entire Hawley-Green district. I can only attest to living in a few neighborhoods thus far in my life, but the Near Northeast had some of the friendliest shop owners that I've ever met and it's one of my favorites for food (I'm not really sure if anything can surpass Boston's North End). While there are many good places for dining (Sparkytown, Ilario's Trattoria, Freedom of Espresso), for pizza (Italian Chef, Pavone's) and for shopping (Vino Mania, Lombardi's Imports, Thanos Imported Grocery, Donze Meats), the following are my top 5 places for eats in Syracuse's Near Northeast neighborhood.

Italian bread from Columbus Baking Co.

1) Columbus Baking Co: 502 Pearl St, Syracuse, NY
The two best smells in the neighborhood when the wind is just right: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and this small, old world bakery on Pearl Street. Serving some of the best bread in the city from of a bakery location that is over 118 years old, it's hard not to put Columbus Baking Co as #1 on this list. Using the same brick oven that's been in use for generations, a loaf of freshly baked Italian style bread really doesn't get any better than it does here. In 2008, Columbus Meats and Cheeses opened up right next door serving sliced-to-order Boar's Head meats like sopressotta, salami, proscuitto, and capicola, cheeses like locatelli, mozzarella, and asiago, and offering six different varieties of olives. They're great toppings to go with their already amazing breads. Pizza dough should also not go unnoticed. Between the bakery and deli, you can make an excellent pie for under $10 - all rung up its still in operation, 50-year-old cash register.
[link] [map]

2) Asti Caffe: 411 N Salina St, Syracuse, NY
While going through several incarnations prior, Asti Caffe officially opened its doors in 2001 in the southern-most section of Syracuse's Little Italy and has been serving up excellent Italian food for almost a decade now. Enjoy traditional dishes like linguini alfredo and homemade lasagna as well as specialties like calamari frito and Asti-style Utica greens. The interior is great for formal and intimate dining and is complete with a wood burning fireplace in their recently expanded upper room. They do take walk-ins, but I'd highly recommend making a reservation beforehand as it can fill up quickly on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Note: as of 4/1/10 Asti Caffe closed temporarily due to small fire damage. It should reopen soon, so check their official website for details.
[link] [map]

3) Riley's: 312 Park St, Syracuse, NY
What opened as a saloon in 1897, has become a local neighborhood bar and restaurant destination since 1979. Tied right into the neighborhood and tucked away on the corner of Park St and Whitwell Dr, Riley's is an excellent spot for traditional American cuisine and upscale bar food all in a fun and comfortable atmosphere. Incorporating local food like breads and sausage into their dishes, and with a large portion of a menu that changes daily, excellent options include Riley's 7-ounce burgers, deserts like blueberry pie and raspberry cheesecake, and unique-to-the-area specials like fried Ipswich clams and lobster rolls. Don't be surprised if you hear some music on the upright piano. Every Saturday night the owner, Terry Riley, entertains the patrons with few tunes.
[link] [map]

4) Sugar Pearl Cafe: 600 Burnet Ave, Syracuse, NY
Although it might not look like much from the outside, inside you'll find a totally different environment: chic design, funky furnishings, and a completely unique interior for a coffee house. Sugar Pearl contains a full-service espresso bar (boasting the best French press in town) as well as a sit-down restaurant with a stage for live music and poetry readings. It's a predominantly vegan-focused menu that consists of vegan wraps (like the Chinese black bean wrap with gingered black beans, guacamole, corn, and roasted red peppers), vegan Philly "cheese" steaks, pizzas, and vegan burgers. Breakfast is served all day here as well and also features tasty options for non-vegans.
[link] [map]

5) Gentile's Restaurant: 305 Burnet Ave, Syracuse, NY
Enjoy eclectic and romantic dining at Gentile's on Burnett Ave. An intimate atmosphere (with dim lighting and exposed brick walls) and exceptionally creative Italian cuisine with appetizers (like glumkis: Napa cabbage filled with ground lamb, pine nut, feta risotto, in a minty and smoked tomato cream), salads (like the Belgium Caesar: endive paired with hard-boiled egg, anchovy, capers, tomato salsa, pepperoncini and homemade crouton finish with garlic oil), unique pastas and risottos, and contemporary entrees like eggplant roulad and quail and filet.
[link] [map]

Honorable Mention
Mai Lan Restaurant: 505 N State St, Syracuse, NY
Located across the street from St. Joseph's Hospital, Mai Lan is an excellent place for Vietnamese cuisine. Friendly services greets you in small and cozy interior (complete with travel guides to Vietnam along the wall). Notable menu items include spring rolls with roasted peanut sauce, beef pho, and deserts like jackroot ice cream. Meals are made from scratch here so call ahead for take-out.
[link] [map]


Jim Johnson said...

When I was a kid, my dad took me around to the different places to get different things. He took me to the Columbus St. Bakery for bread, Leihs & Steigerwald for meats and Lombardi's for cheeses. Lesson well-learned.

And man, Gentile's is my favorite restaurant in Syracuse and deservedly so.

Elizabeth said...

My husband and I moved to Hawley-Green this past fall and I was so thrilled to see this post! You hit on my favorites in the neighborhood and added a few to our list of "must try"s. One more thing about Gentile's- they welcome off-menu ordering. We went there for Valentine's Day and they made the most phenomenal lobster risotto for me when I asked for "something creamy, with seafood".

Bob and Tia said...

Love Vinomania. Wife and I want to take the train over sometime this summer and pick up some Grooner!