Review | Written and photographed by Nathan Mattise
The only time I’d ever been to the All-Night Eggplant as an undergrad was with one of my sophomore year roommates. He was your typical college student who half-practiced the religion he was raised in, and the Eggplant became a favorite destination because of his Jewish eating restrictions. There were date nuts, fun NYC diner lingo all over the menu, Mel Brooks posters covering the walls and lox prominently featured as a breakfast sammich and omelet filling. I went back with another friend during Hanukkah 2009 and have to say it didn’t disappoint this time around either (no word on whether SU Men’s BBall folks Kris Joseph and Wesley Johnson were there eating kosher though).
The All-Night Eggplant is tucked away in a plaza at the far end of Erie Blvd. (toward DeWitt, Bridge St. area). Outside, you can’t tell the difference between that or the neighboring pizzeria/trinket stores. Inside, it’s a small homage to Mel Brooks humor. There are posters for his movies hanging around and also some of the sweetest PSA parody posters out there. They give character to an otherwise clean but plain dining room with a solid amount of seating, open kitchen and available countertop space. There are times on a weekend where you will be waiting, but never more than 10 minutes.
Service at the Eggplant comes with a smile and the waitresses are clearly vets. They don’t bat an eye when you ask how some of the more irregular ingredients (i.e. bananas and peanut butter in an omelet?) would go together. The diner is open typically from 7 a.m. until midnight (until 1 a.m. on Fri./Sat., ’til 4 p.m. on Sun.) and, on the mornings I’ve gone, waitstaff has done a very good job of accommodating individuals by keeping lines quick and honoring seat preferencing as much as possible.
The fact that PB&B omelets are a possibility at the Eggplant is a testament to one of the better menus available in Syracuse. While the food isn’t always cheap (nearly $6 for a short stack of specialty pancakes and that doesn’t include any sides or coffee), you have the freedom to truly create your own breakfast experience. Any item you can get in an omelet can be had in a sammich and pancake items go from date nuts to apple pie. Sure, precreated items exist too but it’s not often the create-your-own menu is as extensive and varied as what the Eggplant offers.
I opted for the Apple Pie pancakes and they satisfied my sweets craving. There isn’t much in terms of pie in the cakes (no graham cracker or any other type of real crust aspect) but they reminded me why baked apples should be incorporated into more breakfast items. The cakes themselves are pretty large (I took 1 of 3 home) and have a good amount of thickness to them. The homefries were standard fare, larger chunks of potato fried at varying levels. They are the kind that get the job done but can be recreated in the home kitchen. Overall it was a quietly satisfying meal: no single item really standing out but you leave with a good taste and a full stomach.
The Eggplant doesn’t get the press or recognition of some of its local peers, but I have yet to leave there feeling unsatisfied. Menu options are limitless, decor is engaging, the waitstaff treats you well and the food is filling. It’s such a strong base of diner qualities that you can look past some over pricing and claim it’s one of the most well-balanced breakfast joints around. Go for the lox just once and then plan what you’ll be having on trip two.
The Final Tab
Pros: Good staff, welcoming decor, excellent menu selection, solid food
Cons: Prices are slightly above average, minimal wait during weekend high traffic times
Four out of Five (Pancakes with sides | Some days you’ll seek it out)