Hidden Restaurants

Dishing out the history of the most interesting Syracuse restaurants

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Coleman’s

In 1933, just after the end of Prohibition, Peter Coleman opened a saloon in Tipperary Hill, a largely Irish neighborhood on Syracuse’s Westside, called Coleman’s. The saloon was small, with a tin ceiling and apartments above that served traditional pub food. In the late 1950s, Peter Coleman passed the restaurant onto his son, another Peter Coleman.  As the years went on and Coleman’s grew in popularity, it also grew in size.  The main dining and bar room still contains the original tin ceiling, leaving a footprint of the original restaurant. But now, Coleman’s also includes upstairs’ former apartments and add-ons to both the back and sides, including an outdoor patio space.  During renovations in the 1980s, an architect traveled to Dublin and designed a bar for Coleman’s modeled after one in Dublin.  The designs were brought back to a cabinet-maker in Auburn and the bar he built has stood in Coleman’s ever since.  When you go to Coleman’s, you can expect over 40 beers on tap, and a menu with everything from vegetarian flatbread to “Mile High Meatloaf.”

Founded: 1933

Address: 100 South Lowell Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13204

Fun Fact:  Every year on the last Sunday in February, Coleman’s hosts a small parade known as Green Beer Sunday. The event has been going since the 1960s as a kickoff to the St. Patrick’s Day season and each year a commemorative button is issued.  

Make sure to: Check out the leprechaun door.

Riley’s

The Haberle Brewery, founded in 1897, was one of 21 breweries in the area and best known for its Congress beer.  By the time it closed in 1962, Haberle was the last of the remaining breweries.  In 1979, Terry Riley discovered the saloon, located at 312 Park Street, and bought it.  It then became Riley’s, a full restaurant and catering service. Serving a variety of American fare with a menu that changes twice daily, Riley’s still operates in the same saloon on Park Street.  On the walls hang photos from World War I and World War II and the ceiling and walls are lined with tin.

Founded: 1979

Address: 312 Park Street Syracuse, New York 13203

Fun Fact: Brunswick, a company that builds bowling alleys and pool tables, made the bar for the original brewery, which still stands.

Make sure to: Try Brian’s desserts.

 

Asti

As a teenager, Richard Tumino worked for his family’s pizzeria on North Salina Street. Tumino’s Pizzeria, was opened by Richard’s parents, Salvatore and Cristina Tumino, in 1987 and remained in business until 1995 when it was sold to new owners.  When the city of Syracuse began a Little Italy revitalization in 2001, Richard and his brothers saw an opportunity to take the empty building where Tumino’s once was and start something new. The new restaurant, opened in 2002, became Asti, a project the whole family had a hand in. Asti expanded quickly; a new building was added on next door and the upstairs was converted into another dining room. In 2009, Richard’s brother, John, left Asti to start “In My Father’s Kitchen,” a faith based, “non-denominational and non-discriminatory” organization that provides “assistance to homeless people through direct street outreach,” according to the website.  In April of 2010, Asti caught on fire and was closed six weeks for renovation. Since then, Asti has recovered and continues to succeed as it completes its 15th year.

Founded: 2002

Address: 411 North Salina Street Syracuse, NY 13203

Fun Fact: Since the 1930’s the lower level of Asti has been a restaurant, but the upstairs level was once a Republican men’s club.

Make sure to: Look at the signatures on the mural. They include Bob Costa, the Baldwin Brothers, Buddy Valastro and other famous customers of Asti.

 

Mother’s Cupboard Diner and Fish Fry

In 1956, in a small house that is rumored to have been the neighboring cemetery’s caretaker’s house in the 1800s, two sisters-in-law opened Mother’s Cupboard Diner and Fish Fry.  They had a small menu that most notably included homemade donuts, the crowd favorite. Since its opening, Mother’s Cupboard has passed through many hands. Five different owners have called Mother’s Cupboard theirs, but the doors have never shut. Fourteen years ago, on April 11, the current owner, Amy Easton, and her partner, Pete Greene, purchased the restaurant.  Since then, they have become even more popular, partly with the help of national television. In 2010, they were featured on The Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food. Adam Richman, then host of the show, completed Mother’s Cupboard’s 6-pound frittata challenge, finishing it in 55 minutes.  Any customer that completes the challenge receives a free t-shirt and their photo on the wall. If you aren’t in the mood for a 6-pound frittata, Mother’s Cupboard serves a variety of other options, including foot-wide pancakes and specialty omelets, and, true to their name, Fridays are fish fry day.

Founded: 1956

Address: 3709 E James St Syracuse, NY 13206

Fun Fact: A former owner of Mother’s Cupboard used to cook in a three-piece suit.

Make sure to: Be prepared to wait for a seat at the breakfast bar, where you can sit and watch orders being made on the grill.