While planning a recent long weekend jaunt, George asked me if I minded that we add an extra day to our trek northwards to Vermont and side-jog over to Syracuse. His friend’s band is playing in a bar, he said. I just want to surprise him, he said, and we’ll get a room in a nice B&B, spend the night and move on.
Now, this isn’t going to be one of those wacky-misadventures, 48 hours later we finally got in touch with the American Consulate who could help us get back into the US after finding ourselves naked and penniless, on a train bound for Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. No, no. We had no need for authorities to assist us, we had fun, didn’t get arrested, and I got to meet some really nice people.
But we had some interesting moments, for sure.
I grew up in New Jersey and spent a lot of my time in Manhattan, so I often forget that New York State and New York City are…well…one of these things? Is not like the other. NYC is a concrete behemoth. NY State, for the most part, is largely rural, so the bonus is I am always pleasantly surprised by NY State once I’m in the middle of it. And Syracuse is certainly in the middle of it. I mean, Syracuse is practically in Canada, if it weren’t for a pesky Great Lake getting in the way.
It’s pretty far upstate. And there’s still another third of the state to go. Crazy northern tier.
It’s a college town, so there are hundreds of restaurants with varying ethnic origins, though I don’t know why I expect that from college towns because I live in a college town and…we have like ten restaurants. Maybe twelve, I don’t know. I haven’t counted.
OK, Trip Advisor says my town has 54 restaurants but I call shenanigans. I know people eat things purchased there but can one really count the local ice cream parlors as restaurants? The restaurant that has a pub side and a restaurant side gets counted twice? The place that closed six months ago is on there? Really? Pfft.
Of those 54 supposed restaurants, only one sells falafel, and that place isn’t open past 3 in the afternoon. And I love falafel. I generally make a pretty good home version (that’s a blog for another day), but it’s kind of time-consuming and I don’t like to deep-fry. Not that I don’t enjoy fried food. It’s just messy to make. As I am a total tart for a good felafel we decided to look for a Lebanese restaurant. Instead of doing some general searches for restaurants–what we usually do–we relied on Yelp! to point us in the right direction. And by “we” I mean me, because George told me to pick the place.
I’m usually not a Yelp!er. Now I know why.
We went to a place called Byblos. I was seduced by the reviews, the abundance of 4/5 star ratings. I didn’t look much further, and…OK, OK, the food was, for the most part, good. BUT.
The restaurant was the size of a thimble and should have been earmarked as takeout only. I’m not a terrible stickler for atmosphere but this was like eating inside a shoe box with eight other people you didn’t know and were sure you wouldn’t like. There was some sort of desperate short-handedness happening in the kitchen so the food took F-O-R-E-V-E-R, one of the guys they had waiting tables had no idea what was offered on a vegetarian sampler platter, and we ended up not getting two of the things we were supposed to get. We had to tell them to tell us they didn’t have vegetarian grape leaves.
I was snarkily amused by the completely empty napkin holder, prominent on the counter. Then I noticed the note about grape leaves, just behind it. First world problem, maybe, but still a disappointment.
And they almost forgot to give us dessert.
Not what I was expecting.
We moved on from there to Shifty’s, a lovable dive. Shifty’s ruled. Did you ever walk into a small place and think, if I was a local, I’d hang here. It’s a special bar that can generate that sort of cosmic good will (fans of The Waiting Room, you know from whence I speak). Friendly people, band posters, not a fern in sight and a wide beer selection? Go, Shifty’s!
Regarding the beer, they had one that will dominate the geek cred, perhaps for a long time to come.
That’s right. It’s Game of Thrones beer. And it was goooood.
As for the band we went there to see, they’re called Two Hour Delay. Good old rock & roll, some originals, and covers that ranged from Steve Earle’s Galway Girl to the theme song from the TV show Secret Agent Man. Here’s 2HD (see what I did there?) rocking out an original.
You can check out some more pictures of the band here. Knowing my penchant for picture taking, theoretically I should have more pics of them, but I was busy dancing and enjoying the aforementioned beer and meeting new friends to embrace my usual camera-berserker mentality.
The band was great, the food was if nothing else amusing but, for me, the cultural cherry on this Syracuse sundae was our B&B. We stayed at the Barrington Manor, and let me preface all of this by saying we thought it was lovely, the food was delicious, and we would certainly stay there again. Though, if your intentions are romantic ones, do everything possible to not to stay in the first floor room. It’s right off the living room, and the walls are not that thick. Fact: if you can hear everyone, everyone can hear you, so unless you’re looking to broadcast that you’re having sexytime with your traveling partner, keep your business under wraps until you get to your next destination.
Barrington Manor is run by two former southerners who have the accents to prove it, and they were gracious and generous and a little bit wacky (within the first two minutes–possibly three–of being there, Mr. Barrington had launched into a discussion of the best places to eat in Manhattan as determined by their margaritas). And God help me, they reminded me of Minnie and Roman Castevet from Rosemary’s Baby.
Hey there, Roman and Minnie!*
Not in a bad way, mind you. But still. The Barringtons (on the left, for the Rosemary’s Baby uninitiated) were pretty squirrelly and wouldn’t stand still long enough for me to get a clear photo of them, so this is the best I’ve got. Just insert Ruth Gordon‘s and Sidney Blackmer‘s faces into the background. Look! The men are even wearing the same colored shirt! I love it when I win at internetting. Or did I just blow your mind? I’m not saying they would coerce me into giving birth to Hellspawn; they were far too nice for that. I’m just saying I’d be reluctant to do laundry in the basement or accept filigreed necklaces from them.
Let me reiterate: HELL YEAH I’d stay there again. But, you know. I’d be wary of special herbal drinks bearing tannis root.
And–I am not making this us–the next night, in our hotel in Vermont, whilst channel surfing we came across a broadcast of Rosemary’s Baby. Dubbed in French. DUBBED. Picture this, only in reverse.
Couldn’t find a French dub. Sorry. Though if anyone has one, I’m perfectly happy to repost… 🙂
So thanks, Syracuse, for a fun evening! We’ll be back!
*movie still of Roman and Minnie taken from www.eldiario.es