It’s said that Syracuse’s dining scene is undergoing a revival, and with award-winning Thai restaurant Lemon Grass and much-loved Pastabilities sitting comfortably alongside new additions like Modern Malt and Small Plates, that certainly seems to be the case. We present our guide to Syracuse’s best restaurants, both old and new, to help you discover your next local favorite.
Tomato Salad Image Courtesy of Lemon Grass
Restaurant, Thai, $$$
Serving local diners delicious, authentic Pacific Rim and Thai cuisine for 25 years, Lemon Grass originally opened in 1990 and has resided in its historic downtown Syracuse location at Armory Square ever since. Lemon Grass is known throughout the city for its chic interior, upscale ambience and exquisite menu.
The 317 is a modern American fusion restaurant offering upscale dining in a gorgeous space featuring exposed red brick walls, original tin ceilings and a classically chic design throughout. The 317 serves a variety of salads and sandwiches during lunch alongside daily specials and homemade soups. The restaurant’s dinner menu features chef specials built around both classic and contemporary American flavors.
Also located in downtown Syracuse’s historic Armory Square is Modern Malt, a modern take on the classic local American diner that serves contemporary, upscale comfort food, milkshakes, smoothies and handcrafted cocktails. Modern Malt has a retro-chic space with unique touches such as a vintage cigarette machine modeled into a hostess stand and a large, curved quartz counter top. The diner also offers unique food like the Canadian favorite, poutine, alongside hearty burgers and sandwiches.
Something of a local dining institution, Pastabilities first opened its doors in downtown Syracuse over 30 years ago and has been delighting generations of diners ever since with much-loved Italian fusion food. Notable dishes include its Italian stretch bread, homemade cheeses and, of course, pasta. Boasting a chic Manhattan-style ambiance, it is available to purchase bread and baked goods at Pastabilities’ very own bakery across the street.
Beer fans will love the pairing of handcrafted ales and lagers with eclectic, locally-sourced food on offer at Empire Brewing Company, an award-winning brewpub bestowed with multiple accolades. Inside Empire Brewing Company, guests can relax in an industrial-chic space with an onsite brewery that’s partly visible from the restaurant and bar.
The Mission is a popular restaurant serving authentic Pan-American cuisine in a cozy, vibrant space. True to its location and cuisine, The Mission’s interior features beautiful original stained glass windows and Latin American artworks while its menu is full of flavors from Mexico, the American Southwest and South America.
Sakana-Ya, Syracuse | Image Courtesy of Prime Steakhouse
As the only local kaiten sushi bar where guests can pick their sushi from a rotating conveyor belt, Sakana-Ya is a novel addition to Syracuse’s dining scene. This family-owned restaurant is located in historic Armory Square, and its thoroughly modern interior is evocative of a contemporary Japanese sushi bars. Master chefs craft exquisite sushi dishes served alongside imported Japanese sakes and beers.
Prime Steakhouse is the local go-to for succulent steaks and delicious seafood dishes. Located in the historic, 19th century Gridley Building in Hanover Square, this restaurant exudes a refined steakhouse atmosphere with exposed redbrick walls, heavy wood furnishings and low-lit ambience. Prime Steakhouse also has a separate, more relaxed bar, ideal for drinks and snack food.
With its lively atmosphere and menu full of globally-inspired small plates, Laci’s Tapas Bar is bound to have something for every palate. It isn’t surprising that the bar is regarded by local diners as one of best in the city. Go with a group of friends or family and order several plates for a little taste of everything.
Originating in Detroit, Michigan following the success of the first Small Plates, its owners opened another branch in downtown Syracuse in 2013. As its name would suggest, the restaurant specializes in small plates, an American take on communal dining experiences like tapas, mezze and antipasti, and is perfect for sampling a smorgasbord of flavors in dishes like crispy fried chicken with buttermilk waffles and sautéed crab cakes with Dijon mustard and stout beer aioli.