A Taste of Syracuse in various bites

Tim Herron plays on the main stage of Taste of Syracuse, with the National Grid building in the background.

Tim Herron plays on the main stage of Taste of Syracuse, with the National Grid building in the background.

It’s called Taste of Syracuse, and the name of this June festival could not be more appropriate.

For two days, tens of thousands of people flock to the blocks that surround Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse.

They get to sample much music.

Three stages worth, in fact.

Around noontime Friday, three Syracuse music veterans played at the same time, just two city blocks separating their songs.

Tim Herron was on the Volkswagon main stage, above, with the striking lines of the National Grid building looming behind him. Before the corporate takeover a decade ago, that artful building — with the right lighting at night, it can bring to mind “The Wizard of Oz — was owned by the pride of upstate New York, Niagara Mohawk. Herron, a guitarist and singer of note who leads his own band and plays in several projects, was mixing his originals with classics. Herron can jam and play with discipline.

Colin Aberdeen plays on one side of Clinton Square.

Colin Aberdeen plays on one side of Clinton Square.

Colin Aberdeen was on the Alex and Ani Erie Boulevard stage.

Just a month ago, I was watching him on the other side of Clinton Square, at the Crawfish Festival, with his band mates in Los Blancos. Solo, Aberdeen is a great master of the roots of guitar and vocal blues, Americana, folk, country and all that he adores.

Just Joe mixes it up next to Clinton Square.

Just Joe mixes it up next to Clinton Square.

Joe Altier, who put his voice behind his keyboard work as Just Joe, was owning the Delta Clinton Square stage.

Altier was a founding member of hard rock band Brand New Sin, which toured around the country out of Syracuse a dozen years ago. He left BNS and started another hot rock outfit, Elephant Mountain.

As Just Joe, Altier can play any genre with justifiable juice.

People and booths around Clinton Square.

People and booths abound.

Clinton Square and the surrounding blocks are lined with booths representing Syracuse restaurants and food trucks selling their best products.

Above is the parking lot that holds the main stage. It’s across the street from the Federal Building.

Below is Clinton Square, as multi-purpose as can be. It holds a skating rink in the winter, a fountain in the summer, festivals on summer weekends and a farmer’s market on Tuesdays June through October.

People around Clinton Square.

Clinton Square bustle.

Big sights around Taste of Syracuse.

Big sights around Taste of Syracuse.

This lot will be cheek to cheek today when Blues Traveler is performing on the main stage.

This lot will be cheek to cheek today when Blues Traveler is performing on the main stage.

Of course, a big draw is the food.

I met my dear wife Karen outside the office of Syracuse Media Group with the mission of finding as many sampling spots that would make us both happy as we could.

Yes, the restaurants and food trucks mentioned above all agreed to put one of their popular items on sale for the low, low, low sample price of one buck.

CC's meatball sample.

J.J.’s meatball sample.

Our first stop was J.J.’s Italian stand. Their $1 offering was a meatball sandwich.

Karen offered the good idea to me of shooting each sample food item with a sign in the background. I liked it. The sauce was tasty and the meat was not too bready.

Hot dog, with spicy mustard.

Hot dog, with spicy mustard.

Next came a not-so-small hot dog from Leigh and Steigerwalds, which I adorned with spicy mustard. It was fantastic, almost more like smoked kielbasa than a hot dog. And I love smoked kielbasa.

Pork slider, good sauce.

Pork slider, good sauce.

Karen pulled me toward the O.C.’s Poo’boy booth for a pulled pork slider.

Three-for-three because the barbecue sauce carried just the right amount of heat, and the roll was fresh, too.

Chicken spiedie in a cup.

Chicken spiedie in a cup.

Charlie’s Famous Steak Pit promised a chicken spiedie for a buck, and my hopes were high, thoughts drifting toward the deliciousness I experience when I purchase one of these Southern Tier specialties at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open at En-Joie Golf Club down Binghamton Way.

Not this time.

The crumbled chicken came in a tiny cup with a big fork and I did not like it even one little bit. A buzzer went off in my head. Karen liked it. I handed my tiny cup over to my dear wife.

Las Deliciiocis. Why yes, it is.

Las Delicias. Why, yes, it is.

I pulled Karen along to Las Delicias because I wanted wanted wanted wanted to eat an Empanadas meat pattie.

I’ve had one every year, my stomach reminds me.

I chose beef.

My stomach was right. It is still delicias, this packet of beef in a pastry.

Shrimp with fire.

Shrimp with fire.

Our last stop before Karen’s lunch hour timed out was the Bonefish Grill stand, where the line wound Disney style for the sample of Bang Bang Shrimp.

It’s got zing. Pop goes the shellfish. The heat is on. Word is out.

Karen wanted two samples. I stuck to the one you see above, which held two bang-banged shrimp.

Oh, my, it was good.

Walking my dear wife back to SMG, we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts for a couple large iced teas. The nice woman behind the counter handed us a bag with two free donuts. We were full, and I don’t eat donuts besides. I handed them to a gentleman and his son walking past on the street. They looked mighty appreciative.

Taste of Syracuse continues with food, music and crowds of people today.

What’s the best bit of food you’ve ever gotten for a buck? What’s your favorite architecture downtown building? Would you eat a free donut or give it away? Would you brave thousands of people in a parking lot to see Blues Traveler for free?

52 thoughts on “A Taste of Syracuse in various bites

  1. While my ears enjoyed I have to say I will start with a meatball sandwich and why not throw in a side of pulled pork bbq sandwich to top it off? And a Diet Coke, watching my calories you know.


  2. This looks like an excellent way to spend time, music, food and people surrounding you with energy and enthusiasm! Quite a fun time was had by all and wish I could have been there! Smiles, Robin


      • For a buck, I like to buy a sweet roll or donut. Hamburger Inn, downtown Delaware’s ‘diner’ style restaurant has been making their cinnamon rolls for years, with a delicious maple frosting… So, I definitely would take a free donut, Mark! I think that (despite all critics of McD’s) that I like their dollar salad and I add the McChicken taken off its bun, to make it a pretty decent meal! I like that Paul Newman’s dressing is so delicious. Over at Wendy’s the dollar chicken sandwich is also good, but their salads are more than a dollar now. Safe travels and have fun! Smiles, Robin


      • I think the dollar menu stuff at Mickey D’s, chicken and McDouble burger, are both OK with me, Robin. I can’t eat the donuts, but your maple frosted version sounds tempting.


  3. The Greek Festival and The Indian Festival always give us a huge variety of food for minimal cost. I think our favorite one is the Vegetarian Festival for the different ethnic foods available on one site (Indian, Ethiopian, Thai, etc)


    • That is a good idea, the Vegetarian Festival, Jeanette, for the diversity to a growing market of eaters that seeks just that in their food choices.

      I would spend a lot of time wandering the booths looking for something that would satisfy somebody that still chooses meat protein but does have an open mind.


  4. Wow this looks like fun! I’m glad La Delicias did not disappoint. Nice staging tip from Dear Karen! I will have to snap a pic of the crest theater downtown sacramento. The inside is gorgeous, ornate, original. Try google images if you’re curious. Have a great weekend Gomez (aka: Jorge) πŸ˜‰


  5. Bang Bang shrimp! We love that – I wish the Bonefish Grill wasn’t a 2 hour wait everytime we try to go there.

    This looks amazing. Live music, outdoors. What could be better? Crowds are just part of the experience. Did anyone complain at Woodstock? (if they did, everyone was too high to care)


    • What I think, Samara, is that complaining wasn’t invented until way after Woodstock.

      Everything then was still too brand new and fresh to complain about. What’s this? A million young people hanging out together and getting wasted in the mud? Wild!

      People complain because even big events are old hat.

      What do you think of my theory?


      • It might be that people are jaded.

        I also think that there is a much more pervasive sense of entitlement these days. Not just among young people, but in anyone younger than say, 60.

        With entitlement comes a LOT of complaining.

        What do you think of MY theory? I think we’re both right.


  6. Those $! samples are an excellent idea. I’m always torn between too many delicious choices at any festival with food – that seems like the perfect solution. . What an awesome way to spend a lunch hour Mark. Makes my mouth water. Thanks for the tour.


  7. this looks great and is right up my alley. highlights for me are ‘just joe’ (love the name), the food cart dollar prices, and the mix of people, food, music, and adventure of course ) and now i am hungry.


      • that’s true mark, i see a pattern and any poundage i gain, i will happily blame on you) yes, just joe would be a wonderful name for everyday life too –


      • The Joe family would have to name their kid Justin. Or Justine. Just tinkering around with your everyday life notion, Beth.

        OK, I am now the scapegoat for your WP weight gain. Too many fatty sentences. Mea culpa. πŸ™‚


      • or if she worked in a newsroom and there was a breaking story, they would say, ‘and this just-ine…….’ ok, ok and i won’t blame you for any future gains, i’ll take all the weight on my shoulders…..)


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