New York

Where to Eat and Drink in Downtown Syracuse

by Michael C. Upton  |  Published March 8, 2024

Syracuse is a well-loved city, and both locals and visitors make their way to seasoned establishments throughout downtown in search of hip libations and trending eats.

A downtown mural depicts a lively culinary scene in Syracuse (Photo: Michael C. Upton for TravelMag)

Forever a city at the crossroads, whether by boat, train, or automobile, Syracuse is a hub of activity for both residents and travelers. Tourists who are attracted to the area’s scenic outdoors discover a vibrant food scene, lively arts and culture, and year-round festivals when in New York’s fifth largest city. The nationally renowned Syracuse University not only brings a youthful spirit to the city, it is also one of the area’s largest employers. The city’s public transportation system, Centro, serves surrounding suburbs by bus. In 2023, the state funded $9.7 million in downtown projects to improve the community’s walkability, restore historic structures, and create new business opportunities.

There are hundreds of dining and drinking options throughout the city. Here is a curated selection of spots to eat and drink, highlighting the wide range of flavors and inspiration in Downtown Syracuse.

Three Lives

It is game on at Three Lives, and arcade inspired eatery and bar (Photo: Michael C. Upton for TravelMag)

Gamers unite! Three Lives—as its name implies—is a video game inspired bar and eatery in the heart of Downtown Syracuse. The Multiplayer section of the menu is made up of shareable plates like their popular Super (chicken) Nintendies. There are also Super Smashburgers and a Grass-Type menu. Kids are welcome, especially on Saturdays during Family Free Play. The adult-only drink list has creative “potions, poisons, and elixirs.” This place gets packed quickly on weekends. A nighttime crowd of gamers, geeks, and creative spirits makes this place fun and exciting. Get a high score on an arcade game and watch the place erupt.

316 S Clinton St

The Hops Spot

Syracuse caters to game lovers. Another example is The Hops Spot, with its game room of darts, bocce, and Texas horseshoes (Washers). There are plenty of board and arcade games to choose from, too. And even though gamers are welcome, the big draw to the diner décor of The Hop Spot is the extensive beer list. A tap list of more than 30 beers features everything from rare Belgians to local IPAs. Burgers and poutine are the food focus alongside creative starters. Vegan and Gluten free menus are available as well as a curated zero-proof cocktail list.

116 Walton Street

Salt City Market

The Salt City Market houses a dozen eateries, a bar, and a coffee shop (Photo: Michael C. Upton for TravelMag)

The downtown food hall Salt City Market works as a restaurant incubator for regional and international cuisine. Big in Burma (Burmese), Erma’s Island (Jamaican), and Habiba’s Kitchen (Ethiopian) represent a few of the cultures present at this bustling lunch and early dinner spot. Some restaurants serve breakfast, like Salt City Coffee, which is known for extravagant espresso offerings. The Salt City Bar serves creative concoctions until midnight. In total there are 15 vendors in the Market, including a cooperative grocery store and an artisan gift shop. Salt City Market is a community partnership between local and state agencies and private benefactors and volunteers.

484 S Salina St

Noble Cellar

Dark and reclusive, Noble Cellar beckons to those who treat dining like artistic expression. Housed in a circa-1840s church with historic ties to the Underground Railroad, Noble Cellar comes to Syracuse via the imaginations of Sarah Pelligrini and Robert Zaccaria. The restaurant thrives on a mysterious vibe, with a placeholder website, cryptic social media presence, and subtle outdoor signage. Look for the rabbit. The menu is a sophisticated expression of culinary adventure featuring seldom seen proteins like duck, lamb, and Arctic Char.

304 E Onondaga Street

Funk ‘n Waffles

Music is the theme and waffles are the sustenance at Funk ‘n Waffles (Photo: Michael C. Upton for TravelMag)

Part live music venue and part specialty waffle shop, Funk ‘n Waffles vibes from morning till midnight. There is live music all week except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Waffles come in sweet or savory. The most popular waffle is the Star Child, a buttermilk base topped with strawberries and whipped cream. Popular savory dishes include the Chicken & Waffles, Jive Turkey, and Chicken Parm Waffle. Funk ‘n Waffles is locally famous for their milkshakes, too. Adults can order a boozy dessert, the Bacon Bourbon Milkshake. The welcoming eatery offers vegan options and a gluten-free batter.

307-313 S Clinton Street

The Tasting Room

From Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey to Oban Scotch, The Tasting Room appeals to sophisticated spirits lovers. The extensive whiskey collection features distillations from all over the world, including some regional creations. Old Fashioned to Martini, all cocktails have a set price. The Tasting Room offers wine and whiskey flights. Tasting menu dining of 3, 5, or 7 courses takes place on Thursday evenings; selections include herb crusted rack of lamb, pork loin sous vide, and seared scallops. The everyday menu leans on sharing-sized and small plates with a few chef’s specials.

330 S Salina Street


Pastabilities is a two front food wonder in Syracuse (Photo: Michael C. Upton for TravelMag)

The line at Pasta’s Daily Bread forms early in the morning. Shoppers queue for Everything Stretch Bread, fresh Focaccia, and cheddar rolls. Across the street, the breads are a staple at Pastabilities restaurant. Reservations are often necessary, but not required for dinner. The pasta menu is create-your-own with a choice of linguine, fettucine (whole wheat available), pappardelle, fettuccine, angel hair, ravioli, and gnocchi served in 19 finished varieties from Bolognese to Wicky-Wicky Chicken Riggies (meatballs). Lunch is a fast-casual atmosphere with a busy take-away service. Pastabilities has entered the commercial market by selling 15 oz. tubs of its Spicy Hot Tomato Oil.

308 and 311 S. Franklin Street