Review | Written and photographed by Nathan Mattise
Downtown Syracuse is your standard mid-sized city maze. If you’re not a local and you’re trying to find that place on Washington (or was it Walnut?), you’re doomed to fall victim to the labyrinth of one-ways and day-specific-left-turn only intersections. The lone upside of all the mess is that exploration leads to discovery. That’s exactly what led me to Miss Syracuse Diner.
Miss Syracuse Diner is a hidden gem in every sense of the word. If you drive by it from the East Water St. side (featured in the picture above) you could easily pass by and dismiss it as just another run down building (albeit a smaller one) among all of the abandoned multi-storied factories, offices and storefronts throughout the city. However catch it from the street perpendicular to East Washington and familiar steel roofing tells you it’s time to come in for breakfast. The locale is an extremely cool feature of the diner. It’s tucked away across from city hall among the gigantic historic looking local government offices. It then becomes a culinary oasis – providing all of the people working their time away a chance to escape for coffee, quiet and surprisingly delicious food.
The interior is clean with no frills – a couple of booths, a few tables and then a small countertop area. All together the dining area feels no bigger than an SU classroom. It forces you to focus on your fellow diners or whatever book or paper accompanies your meal. The hours are along the same lines (6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., extended until 7 p.m. on Fridays)…minimal. In a weird way I think it’s cool and certainly provides the perfect excuse to always opt for breakfast.
With so few customers to focus on at a single moment, it’s no surprise the service is excellent. The wait staff was helpful (brought my friends and I multiple drinks and always offered refills) but also added to the dining experience through personality. Our waitress was quick to help a friend decide between the breakfast platter (a mere $4.99 for toast, eggs and fries – no meat or cakes though) and chocolate chip pancakes by sharing her ironic dislike for eggs. She was also quick to point out how he must’ve been having an off day because he couldn’t make it more than half way through the third cake.
The real strength of the place seems to be the food however. It’s cheap (see the breakfast platter above or note that steak and eggs is only $7.99) and the portion size/taste really leave you feeling like you found a deal. I opted for the four-berry waffle breakfast special offered that day. The waffle was light, the fruit was fresh and flavorful, and even with a mountain of whip cream with syrup highlights no one flavor dominated any bite. Even the side of bacon managed to be remarkably smooth; low on grease and just crisp enough to be comfortable.
It’s fitting that a diner I never set out to find would yield results I never expected. Perhaps my colleague who couldn’t put down his pancakes summed it up best as we left the diner around 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday after we woke up at 10. “You know it’s a good breakfast when you’re done and then ready for a nap. I’m tired.”
The Final Tab
Pros: Cool ambiance with it’s locale and super intimate size, good food, friendly and personable waitstaff
Cons: Potential for long wait (due to small size and limited hours)
Five out of Five (Robust breakfast platter | Go early and often to the point you can say, “I’ll have the usual.”)