Diner Critique: Cosmo’s Pizza & Grill (Syracuse, N.Y.)

Review | Written and photographed by Nathan Mattise

Directions | Web site | Overall Rating: 4

It’s hard to figure out what defines an establishment as a “diner.” The Wiki entry suggests diners are those prefabricated establishments that serve regional American cuisine, offer breakfast all day long and have cheap, affordable prices (places that serve similar cuisines count too). So despite the misleading names some diners show to the world (a fish fry?), you have to sit down and check out a menu to be sure. Cosmo’s Pizza & Grill challenges would-be diner seekers in this very way.

SU students know what to expect once inside but visitors to Syracuse are treated to a surprising combo of pizzeria and diner within Cosmo’s. The front end of the place is a narrow walkway for customers with diner booths on your right and the pizza oven to your left. Continue forward and you pass the traditional diner counter top and move towards the grill and cozy back corners greeting you. There’s an overall classic hole-in-the-wall / greasy backroom charm to the place that has 1) made it my mother’s go to near-campus joint and 2) causes her to always compare it to the Bill Murray-John Belushi place from SNLs of old. Add to this great hours (opens as 7 am M-F and 8 am on weekends | Closes at 1 am Sun-Tues and 2 am Thur-Sat), and Cosmo’s becomes a convenient staple for locals.

The food and waitstaff merit return visits too. The morning crew is cute and quick to adapt to your needs – friendly and talkative if you’re awake and hoping for interaction, quiet and accommodating if you’re among friends or just looking to have personal time. I can’t recall how many quick conversations I’ve had with the afternoon cash register worker about XBox games or SU hoops. The night crew is a little less enthused, but that comes with the territory (and the service is still, well, serviceable).

Despite pizza being the title dish, breakfast is still the way to go. They have a wide variety of omelets (including a pizza omelet and Spanish omelet) but they run the gamut from merely $3 and change to nearly $7. The breakfast special is called the Triple Double (two eggs, meat, pancakes and homefries) and it goes for an average $5.99. The real dish to adopt as your “usual” is The Breakfast Sub. It’s your choice of breakfast meat with eggs and cheese on a hoagie roll. Simple (though I jazz it up by throwing my cheesy homefries on top) and efficient at just $4.69. It’s a hardy meal if you pair it with a side and the sub is great, just the right amount of grease and filling-to-bread ratio.

Amidst the chain places (cgh..cgh.. Bruegger’s) and sandwich only shops around Marshall St., I think locals tend to overlook the subtle gem Cosmo’s turns out to be upon reflection. An average priced but largely varied menu, great atmosphere and reliable flavor make it a place you always seem to end up at but never truly appreciate. Just know that if it’s your first time around SU, you’d be hard pressed to find a better local experience.

The Final Tab

Pros: Great atmosphere, solid waitstaff, good hours, big menu with quality flavor

Cons: Prices are average overall (but cheap for Marshall St.), night experience doesn’t compare with the day

Overall: 4-homefries3

Four out of Five (Pancakes with sides | Some days you’ll seek it out)

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