This year — not too long ago, actually — The Stoop Kitchen opened its doors at 311 W. Fayette St. in Syracuse. The eatery, which is located in Armory Square, was previously named The Stoop and closed in 2006. Owner Eric Alderman ran the notable downtown Syracuse eatery, and he opened those doors in 1995 (according to a syracuse.com article by Teri Weaver).
The date of The Stoop’s closing came up in recent conversation — I want to say friend, colleague Margaret McCormick (Syracuse New Times and Eat First) — and it was hard to believe that was eleven years ago.
In 1999, when I was 16, I thought I was lucky to be a part of the Downtown Syracuse scene. I began to volunteer and started working part-time at the Museum of Science and Technology. I drank coffee from Freedom of Espresso, caramel turtles from Nancy’s Cafe and enjoyed the nightlife of Happy Endings (which has a legacy that resonates urban reverb on S. Clinton St.). I also enjoyed lunches at Slices pizzeria and The Stoop.
Perhaps that’s why I thought the 11-year gap felt longer. Alas, the neon sign is humming and glowing again with a more vibrant red.
My first experience with The Stoop Kitchen were intertwining wafts from social media and the actual media. The second was a first taste — a loaf of bread and pastries. The third was an extended visit: The Syracuse Improv Collective held an impromptu goodbye outing for one of our own, after one of our most jam-packed shows ever. The fourth was dining in for breakfast.
Clearly I’m impressed otherwise I wouldn’t have set foot in the place, or there would be reluctance to. Frankly, the only complaint I have are the beer prices — familiar beer for a price higher than pigeons fly.
However, The Stoop Kitchen has a reputation to build. It’s still early in the game, albeit the eatery’s wings are spread and they’re flying, and the trust of the city’s residents, those nearby and across central New York, seasonal college and year-round visitors has to be met.
When taking the population of restaurants in the Syracuse city limits — there is a good number already — Alderman had to (and possibly still does — but I’m not a mind reader) think of how this is going to stand out from the rest. In the last couple years, aside the staples that are Provisions and bread savvy Pastabilities, bakeries are piping hot with new ventures The Sweet Praxis and Modern Malt Bake Shop.
The Stoop Kitchen isn’t field of dreams scenario. If you don’t call it a comeback (because the sign has always been there), it’s a welcomed return with the ovens and stoves blazing. Plus Alderman teamed up with LoFo‘s Abigail Henson. The latter local-focused eatery closed last year after a four-year stint on Walton St.
It’s obvious by looking at the diverse and delicious looking menus that the strong, local mindset is still there. It’s not an inexpensive dining experience, but moths won’t fly from wallets; this is about eating and paying for quality. The menus cater to a wide variety of consumers — carnivores to vegans, equal opportunity consumers to the gluten-free. And they have quite the reasonably priced craft cocktail list and abundance of tequila offerings.
Great food and a variety of offerings — check and check. Quality booze and cocktail lists to appeal to a classy nightlife atmosphere — check. OK, but this is is something a few places can boast about.
What truly sells is the atmosphere. It doesn’t feel like a Syracuse (upstate New York) eatery. In the Syracuse.com article by Weaver, she calls the second floor of The Stoop Kitchen very rustic. I slightly disagree. There are rustic (in the countryside sense) aspects that add to the charm, especially with handwritten or painted decor and an open kitchen with hanging pots and pans. It’s also rustic in the simplicity of the appeal. It speaks slightly differently than the first-floor, a vibrant bakery and breakfast-lunchtime eatery during the day and presents welcoming mood lighting for dinner.
Yet, the brick walls, exposed pipes and other industrial decor (essentially bones of the building) keeps the place grounded with its city foundation. It doesn’t feel mid-sized city. It feels New York City-ish.
After the improv show, although my fellow performers and our patron friends were packed into the second floor, we delighted in the hustle and bustle that is comparable to a familiar Al’s Wine & Whiskey Lounge atmosphere. To look out over W. Fayette St. felt strange — a good strange.
In order to make something work in Downtown Syracuse, it’s not about tricking the eyes or brains of residents, frequent patrons or visitors. It’s about making people look at the city from either a different angle or perspective. It’s not necessarily “new” that continues to wow, but proprietors or entrepreneurs and creative types present the familiar slightly askew.
In 1999, when I was 16, I thought I was cool to be a part of the Downtown Syracuse scene. I worked at a science museum and the majority of people worked at a notable grocery chain. I bought CDs at The Sound Garden when other people thought the mall was the best. Getting a taste of the nightlife through a coffee shop made me want more.
Now, The Stoop’s red neon light is back on, adding to a cityscape most of us see from a distance and making it glow brighter.
Bakery Café: Wednesday – Friday 6:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m.- 2p.m.
Dinner: Wednesday – Saturday 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Sun 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Bar Food: Wednesday – Saturday 4 p.m. – close
Brunch: Sundays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.