Address: 253 E Water St, Syracuse, NY
Phone: (315) 399-5533
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: Bar Food, Sandwiches, Burgers
Bar Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 AM to 2 AM, Sunday 12 PM to 11 PM
Alcohol: Beer with limited liquor selection
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Takes Reservations: Yes
Waiter Service: Yes
In a spot that was once the former MacGregor's and Kelly Cole's, J Ryan's continues the tradition of Downtown beer bar in its own unique way. Although not technically within the confines of Hanover Square, it's a very short walk from there or Clinton Square and one of the few thriving businesses located on the desolate border between Downtown and the Northside.
It's a cozy place with black and white checkered flooring, neon signs in the windows, a low ceiling, and with plenty of seating at small tables, at the bar, or outside (when weather permits). Pretty much every spot in the place is utilized in some way by a zigzagged style bar with tons of beer on tap, a pool table, a jukebox (with a good selection of music that's never played too loudly), electronic darts, an ATM, and Big Buck Hunter. And with plenty of flat screen TVs scattered about at all corners and walls, there's definitely not a bad spot in the place to watch a game.
J Ryan's claim to fame? 69 beers on tap. Yes, 69. Kind of hard to believe that there can be this many affordable beers and such a huge variety in a generally small establishment, but they're able to fit them all in here. Everything from stouts, IPAs, local microbrews, and selections from Bear Republic, Horseheads, Troeg's, Rooster Fish, and Sly Fox to name just a few from the large selection. For lack of a better word, it's a supurb listing and probably the best in Central New York. If you can't make up your mind on what to order by the taps lining the bar, there's a beer menu as well as a huge, easy-to-read chalkboard listing every beer option available. The staff and bartenders are also extremely friendly and welcome any questions, so don't hesitate to ask if you're undecided.
Other beer notes...
- Every night there's a "$2 Holla Special" which features 2 selected beers on tap for $2 (served in an 11-ounce glass) or for $9 a pitcher.
- There's a storage cooler as you walk through the E Water St entrance with large glass bottles of beer for sale.
- Growlers are available for $5, which makes them one of the few bars in Syracuse to do so.
J Ryan's menu features your standard pub fare like wings, fried foods, soups, salads, sandwiches (like the beef on weck), wraps, and angus burgers. Choice-wise, I'd say it's right in the middle between traditional and slightly upscale bar food. And if one of the 70-ish varieties of beer does not entice you, there's non-alcoholic drinks available like sodas, juices, milk, hot chocolate, pink lemonade, and fresh-brewed iced tea.
Onion Rings: $5
Bubba Plate: $8.95
Great White Wit (not pictured): $4
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip (approx): $22
Pictured above are J Ryan's beer-battered onion rings.
Not too bad. I really liked the flavor of the batter (beer-battered, which I believe was black and tan based). Excellent crunchiness and perfectly cooked onions (biting right into the ring didn't result in the onion strand coming out). Personally, I wasn't really a fan of the texture. I prefer onion rings with a flakier batter, not something so rigid, but these were still good none the less. No dipping sauce, which was kind of a let-down. A mustard-horseradish-style dip would've fit nicely.
The Bubba Plate, J Ryan's personal take on the traditional Garbage Plate, consists of mac salad, fries, 2 cheeseburgers, meat sauce, and onions. All and all, I was impressed by this. Mainly because I expected not to be blown away (we're in Syracuse, not Rochester). The plate featured crunchy fries with the skins on, freshly chopped onions that weren't too overwhelming, thick and juicy ground angus beef that was cooked very well, and topped with a spicy meat sauce that blended everything on the plate together nicely. Though within the style of a true garbage plate, I would've liked to see a bit more grease at the bottom of the plate. Though not unwelcome, this was more like a "clean" version. It's a huge portion and I barely finished it, so you certainly get your money's worth. The only thing I wasn't too keen on was the mac salad, which I thought was a bit flavorless and overly gooey. Overall though, thumbs up. I'd order it again. My one major regret from living in The Rock briefly was never going to Nick Tahou's for late night, so it's nice to know that there's a decent option right here in 'cuse.
J Ryan's is slowly moving up on my list of favorite Syracuse bars. And with the recent closure of Clark's Ale House, it's only moved up further. It's a great place to drink, comfortably socialize, watch a game, and enjoy some decent bar food. If you love beer, you will love J Ryan's. 5 stars for beer, 3.5 for food.
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