144 Second Avenue
(at 9th Street)
New York, NY 10003
526 Wescott Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
THIS CRAZY IDEA was dreamed up two days ago. For whatever reason, I decided that it would be a good idea, since I was trying to figure out how to get back to Ohio anyway, to just meet my mother in Syracuse. Since Georgetown was playing at the Carrier Dome tonight, we could both drive out for the game and head back for Ohio together the next day. Pure brilliance.
Sort of. After four years spent there, you'd think I would remember the one thing everyone knows about Syracuse: snow. Lots of it. The drive might have been the five hours I expected had I remembered to expect a blizzard upon arriving upstate.
But this is getting ahead of the story. It starts in the East Village earlier this morning at one of my all-time favorite spots in the City--Veselka. Mint, who was working in Manhattan today, wanted to take me out for my actual birthday. A reasonable request. One I am not likely to turn down.
Veselka is Ukrainian food. That's a lot like Polish food, which is mostly similar to Russian food, which is very much like Czech food. You get the idea. But I like to think of all as Ukrainian food. I don't know why, but I have a soft spot for the Ukrainians. It might be because their shining political star Yulia Timoshenko is both presidential material and a total babe, but mostly its a mystery.
Part of Veselka's charm is the simple fact that it is open 24-hours a day. It serves a rather traditional American diner menu in addition to its stunningly awesome traditional Ukrainian menu. We can delve into the finer points of this another time, but for this morning it will suffice to say that the challah bread French toast and potato pancakes were awesome. Thank you, Mint.
After this, I packed up and climbed into my rental car (no thanks to Hertz for screwing up my reservation, but many thanks to National for bailing me out) and headed west out I-80, north up I-81, and promptly hit a wall of snow somewhere about Scranton. I made it in time for the second half of the game, and my ma made it in time for the final three minutes. Syracuse won, the court was stormed, all was right with the world.
Alto Cinco was always a favorite of mine back in the day, though it's been several years now since I've been back. Thankfully, everything was as I remembered it. My mother enjoyed a big bowl of veggie chili, while I would not have had anything but the Chile Relleno Burrito ($6.75)--an entire cheese-stuffed chile wrapped up in a mammoth tortilla with rice, beans and red salsa. Absolutely a must-have if you're in Syracuse.
From there, we hit the road with two cups of extremely spicy Mexican hot chocolate. Necessary for the snow, the cold, and not least of all a two-hour drive east.
MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: On both counts, yes. And you should too. Also, check out Alto Cinco's website before you go, or call ahead. Hours for dining and delivery can be tricky.