17 Memorable Dining Experiences in Upstate New York
Road trips are so much fun, especially when it is to somewhere new and when you are traveling with a like-minded friend. When my travel pal Howard of Backroad Planet invited me to accompany him through upstate New York, I couldn’t pass it up. We experienced some awesome meals during our two week road trip through upstate New York, visiting some towns and villages we had only read about while others we had never even heard of.
Being Southerners, the menu items were different than what we are both used to seeing; a nice change. Here are 17 memorable dining experiences in upstate New York I thought were worth sharing.
FYI: Upstate New York is the term used for anything north of the New York metropolitan area. These regions include Niagara Falls, the Catskill Mountains, Adirondacks, and Finger Lakes.
1. Oak & Vine at The Springside Inn, Auburn
Located in the Springside Inn (an 1851 property with lovely rooms) is Oak & Vine. This modern gastropub is situated on Owasco Lake, offers a tantalizing menu, and has incredible service. From the moment we walked in the door, we felt welcome and were tended to like family.
Cheese Souffle is a must at Oak & Vine–and worth the wait for the fresh preparation. We also both had French Onion Gratinee, which was perfect for a chilly New York night. It was chock full of velvety onions and swimming in a rich broth covered with melted cheese. We also had the Oysters, which were freaking epic!
Oak & Vine serves huge portions and our dinner was our favorite of the road trip. Howard and I both enjoyed juicy Filet Mignons, which were cooked to perfection and seasoned really well. Grilled asparagus and creamy, whipped mashed potatoes were served as the sides. We finished off the meal with a slice of yummy Strawberry Cheesecake. Sean and Beth, owners of the Springside Inn, have a gem on their hands with this inn and restaurant. It is located close to the popular Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn.
2. Simply Crêpes, Pittsford
Simply Crêpes is an amazing restaurant along the waterfront of the Erie Canal Park in Pittsford with a New England vibe, fun artwork, and a homey feel. The menu offers tasty crepe creations–an equal amount of savory and sweet. I ordered the Chicken Tarragon Crêpe with grilled chicken, broccoli, mushrooms in a tarragon cream sauce with aged parmesan. It was absolutely amazing and definitely making my best eats of 2018 list. I love that they left the chicken and mushrooms in bigger sizes; the cream sauce coated them perfectly and the tarragon took the dish to a new level. Howard inhaled (as he put it) the Pommes Brie Crêpe with ham, brie, bacon jam, and sliced apples. These are the foods dreams are made of my friends.
I tried a red jacket cider with my lunch. It was tasty, a bit tart, but enjoyable. Other drinks to choose from at Simply Crêpes include cold brew, coffees, teas, smoothies, mimosas, sangria, and wine, including a large selection of Finger Lakes wines.
3. Bitter Honey, Rochester
Upscale Mexican cuisine is on the menu at Rochester’s Bitter Honey, a stylish eatery with a vibrant feel. Chips with a variety of salsas (salsa flight) paired well with the creative margaritas we started with. The Guacamole and Nachos were phenomenal, so don’t skip them. Kudos to Bitter Honey using fresh cilantro, radishes, jalapeños, and flavorful beans in the tasty nacho recipe. Radishes are so underrated and add to much flavor to the dish.
For dinner, I recommend the Grilled Chicken Flautas, with crema, avocado verde, and queso fresco. The fresh ingredients came together and the flavors merried beautifully. Burritos are another smart choice. I loved Bitter Honey’s stylish decor. They were playing great music that added to the happy and energetic ambiance. Bitter Honey is a feel good restaurant you will want to visit again and again.
4. Double Top Bar & Grill, Monticello
Double Top Bar and Grill is an entertainment and sports bar located in the Catskills’ Worlds Resort. It is one of the 20+ restaurants located in the casino and hotel. Double Top Bar & Grill has a high-end offering of food and drinks, served in a casual eatery with plenty of TVs for watching your favorite sporting events and drinking craft beers. Burgers are the house specialty, but Double Top’s menu has several other American fare options to choose from such as ribs, pulled pork, salads, and lobster rolls.
Howard and I loved the Grilled Chicken Flatbread, topped with a flavorful, filling, caramelized onions, goat cheese, rosemary, and a sweet and delicious fig jam. I’m still dreaming about that fig jam months later.
The All-American Burger was my dinner choice, featuring a juicy, full-flavor burger with a small Caesar salad on the side. While the menu offers several more exotic burger combinations, this one was all I could have asked for and then some. Howard enjoyed a salad with chicken that he ate every bite of.
5. New York Kitchen, Canandaigua
Canandaigua is in the heart of the Finger Lakes and home to a cool institution, New York Kitchen, which is part restaurant and part cooking school/culinary class. There is no better place to sample New York’s craft beer, wine, and local ingredients than right here in this facility. To me, it looked like a giant version of Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Tree Tavern, with a stylish flair and New England feel. Howard and I, along with several other travel writer friends, had a very memorable dining experience here.
Rob’s Meatballs are the stars of New York Kitchen’s appetizer menu, with fresh marinara and garlicky toast points. It was a fabulous dish! The Raclette Chips were another tasty appetizer, with thyme and smoked Seneca salt, topped with three cheeses. I will be thinking about these phenomenal appetizers for quite some time.
My lunch dish was the NYK Mac ‘n Cheese, where the truffle oil drizzle sent the dish to a new dimesion. My favorite item was a friend’s Chicken Riggies, rigatoni with chicken, caramelized onions, and cherry peppers. Oh, my!
6. Forte, Jamestown
While in Jamestown, Howard and I had dinner at Forte, a sexy dimly-lit restaurant with killer food, commendable service, and a special allure that you won’t find just anywhere.
Since the restaurant was super busy, we dined at the bar, where we received spectacular service. It was a great place to watch the bartenders slinging cool drinks for the restaurant patrons. Of all the meals we ate on our trip, Forte was the most memorable dining experience in upstate New York as far as the coolness factor of the restaurant goes.
Forte claims to offer eclectic fine-dining with global dishes from poutine to sushi, but we opted for salad and a ramen bowl. My Caesar wedge was off-the-charts, topped with a balsamic drizzle, an Asiago cheese crisp, and Roma tomatoes. I’d never had a mix of the two salads, which both happen to be my favorites, so this was a fantastic dish for me. Howard had the Shrimp & Scallop Thai Peanut Lo Mein and nearly licked the bowl!
7. Tusten Cup, Narrowsburg
In the village of Narrowsburg, in the Catskills, is Tusten Cup, an adorable cafe that feeds everyone in town and provides killer coffees and Harney & Sons fine teas. You’ll find an arsenal of homemade pastries, muffins, cookies, as well as lunch, snacks, and breakfast items.
Menu options change daily or weekly, but after sampling two of the honkin’ big sandwiches on artisan bread (turkey and chicken salad), I’m willing to bet they are all fantastic. I loved that my sandwich came with a zesty herb mayonnaise and with freshly baked bread. It is hard to make an exceptional sandwich but I feel that Tusten Cup did just that.
Even better than the herb mayo was the amazing pasta salad, which came as a side dish to the sandwiches. The fava beans, combined with fresh tomatoes, kidney beans, and garbanzos was fantastic. I would love to have the recipe! Grab an iced chocolate mocha (freaking nom!) to wash it down with or a craft bottled beverage. I appreciated that the mocha at Tusten Cup was made with premium cocoa powder, not a syrup.
8. Embark Craft Ciderworks, Williamson
Not only can you have a delicious cider beverage at Embark Craft Ciderworks, but you can enjoy a fantastic meal as well. On the menu is a very memorable appetizer known as The Monster Marauder Pretzel. It is truly bigger than your head and is a must to order! The pretzel comes with a side of cider cheese (be still my beating heart!) and house-made honey mustard.
Other tasty options to order include Beef on Weck Sliders, Buffalo Chicken Flatbread, and Turkey/Bacon/Apple Panini. If you are not familiar, Beef on Weck is an upstate New York regional favorite. Thinly sliced roasted beef piled high on kummelweck bread and served with an au jus sauce and horseradish sauce. It is superb. Sandwiches came with tri-colored tortilla chips and a small side of black bean salsa.
Beer and cider are the stars of the show at Embark Craft Ciderworks. My faves were the blueberry peach cider and Dreamsicle: The Tropics. Try a flight to see which ones you like. I tried to drink as much cider as I could in the region since that is what they are known for.
9. New Hope Mills, Auburn
New Hope Mills is a third generation food store that’s been serving upstate New York for almost 200 years. Known for their yummy pancakes, with dozens of varieties (like birthday cake or gingerbread) and toppings, the restaurant is located in an 1823 water-powered flour mill. The mill is no longer operational, but is on the National Register of Historic Places.
New Hope Mills’ pancakes were light and fluffy, and the waffle (we added chopped bacon to ours) was a bit crispy around the edges and soft in the middle. They were scrumptious topped with some real butter and drizzled with maple syrup. I can see what the rage is all about, but Howard and I went for more hearty breakfast dishes with the Breakfast Jalapeño Corn Tacos and Biscuit with Maple Sausage Gravy. Wow, this biscuit & gravy gal highly approves of this tasty number.
New Hope Mills is part of the Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail. Besides food, enjoy the huge selection of coffee, smoothies, shakes, cider, tea, lemonade, and speciality drinks. We both had hot chocolate, served in these heavy stoneware mugs, that was decadent and rich.
10. Glen Iris Inn, Castile
A delicious must-visit restaurant, found at Letchworth State Park, is the stunning country estate now referred to as Glen Iris Inn. Overlooking the Middle Falls of the Genesee River, the inn is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and serves up a most-memorable meal, mostly American classics.
Howard and I actually joined other friends at the Glen Iris Inn and got to sample several dishes, all which were fantastic. I started with traditional French Onion Soup, rich and creamy. My main course was Angel in Heaven, an angel hair pasta dish with proscuitto, spinach, pine nuts, and sundried tomatoes. Talk about fabulous, it was an amazing dish! The ingredients worked so well together. I loved the crunch of the pine nuts against the soft pasta and spinach. My friends raved about the Beef on Weck, slow-cooked Pot Roast, and the Monte Cristo Sandwich with raspberry preserves.
The Glen Iris Inn is a classy place to dine that is the epitome of comfort, service, and quality ingredients. Anything you eat there will most likely be memorable, as will the experience.
11. North Branch Inn, North Branch
Located, coincidentally, in the North Branch Inn, the restaurant of the same name is known for amazing cuisine in the Sullivan Catskills. Using simple ingredients and a well-versed chef, North Branch Inn creates amazing culinary delights and desserts.
Communal dining is popular here at this farm-to-table establishment. The cocktail menu was highly impressive and our drinks helped us wash down two delicious appetizers; Freekah (zucchini, mushroom, sunny-side-up egg, and cider reduction) and Smoked Trout Dip. Howard and I both raved about how interesting, healthy, and tasty the Freekah was. We had never tried anything like it before.
For dinner, Howard and I had the Dry Aged Ribeye (duck-fat potato and haricotverts), and the Ravioli. My ravioli was stuffed with goat cheese, zucchini, and herbs; it was delectable! This is a chic restaurant with a most-established culinary team that is sure to please any palate.
12. Prison City Pub & Brewery, Auburn
This fun-filled restaurant in downtown Auburn is inside of the historic Armory Building. Prison City Pub & Brewery produces and serves award-winning craft beer, which pairs perfectly with the pub grub on the menu.
Our starter dish, Poutine (with Yancey’s Fancy cheese curds), was one of the best I’ve ever had and we immediately wished we had ordered two. After hours of driving, the creamy cheese curds and the decadent gravy had me in a state of comfort immediately.
For my lunch dish, I had the popular Abundance Bowl, with roasted veggies, quinoa, goat cheese, and sunflower seeds. The salad bowl came with a freaking nom maple ginger vinaigrette. I truly felt so good after eating this tasty, yet healthy dish…adulting, my friend.
13. Big Tree Inn, Geneseo
Located in a haunted, historic inn, Big Tree Inn’s onsite restaurant is available for outside patrons as well as hotel guests. Though the inn was built in 1833, Big Tree Inn’s menu is anything but dated.
Howard and I started our meal off with a flatbread (really great option!) and Julia’s French Onion Soup. I ate a lot of French Onion soups on my New York road trip and this was the best one.
For dinner, I chose the Shrimp Mac & Cheese, hearty and comforting, and a really big dish full of interesting shaped pasta, and Howard opted for the Farmhouse Chicken Pot Pie. He and I finished the meal with a slice of Turtle Pecan Cheesecake. We really enjoyed the ambiance and friendly server at the Big Tree Inn.
14. XIX Cafe, Seneca Falls
This modern and stylish restaurant in Seneca Falls follows the women’s movement in its theme with Warhol style, cool framed artwork, showcasing great female leaders. The bright and cheery atmosphere at XIX Cafe is a great place to enjoy a cup of coffee, a meal, or catch up on your social media over breakfast or lunch.
XIX Cafe (Cafe 19) serves sandwiches, soups, and salads, bursting with fresh ingredients, with local coffees. You will find vegan and gluten-free options on the menu daily. The Chicken Fajita Salad was a 10/10 and I definitely recommend it. The soup/sandwich (soup of the day and Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad for me) combo is a nice choice, as well. The chicken was succulent and mixed with a perfect amount of dressing, nuts, and cranberries. I’ve eaten a lot of chicken salads in my life and this one was up there with some of the best.
XIX Cafe’s careful approach to quality ingredients and tasty spins on every day items was much appreciated. Wait till you get a load of the pastries, desserts, and cookies offered at XIX Cafe! Your eyes may pop out of your head!
15. Bully Hill Vineyards Restaurant, Hammondsport
Bully Hill is one of the most eclectic wineries in the Finger Lakes region, with a great restaurant overlooking Keuka Lake and the beautify countryside. The Bully Hill Vineyards Restaurant is tastefully decorated and the menu, enticing. You order from a counter and the food is delivered to your table.
Howard and I found the menu to have plenty of choices, ranging from casual handhelds to more intricate hot meals. Howard jazzed up the Bully Hill Salad with a piece of grilled chicken and had a tasty cup of Corn Chowder. I chose a burger, which was cooked to perfection, and raved about by everyone in our party. The burgers were so huge that they quickly became knife and fork eats due to the sheer size of them. Note: the cheese was melted so beautifully on the burger that each dish was Instagram picture perfect.
Enjoy your lunch with a glass of Bully Hill wines such as Love My Goat, Chardonnay Elise, or Sweet Walter Pineapple. Bully Hill offers one of the best views we had on our entire trip and was definitely worth a visit.
16. The Stockton Hotel, Stockton
Stockton is a small town in upstate New York. A 1812 log tavern known for its haunted history, The Stockton Hotel, hotel turned modern restaurant, is definitely worth a stop. While there, grab lunch from the restaurant and bar that casually serves fish & chips, sandwiches, burgers, salads, and other pub fare.
I was not expecting these enormous gourmet sandwiches from the looks of the historic restaurant’s bar (the only part of the restaurant that was open during our visit), but was pleasantly surprised. They were really great and the hand-cut fries were a great addition. I’m not typically a fry girl but these were so freaking good. I had a side of zesty blue cheese dressing for dipping and it was heavenly.
The Stockton Hotel is a nice place for watching sports, chatting with the guests at the bar, and having a good meal for an affordable price.
17. Yanni’s Gyro Express Cafe, Monticello
Looking for amazing Greek eats? We discovered a fantastic option in Monticello. At Yanni’s Gyro Express Cafe, you’ll be greeted by the friendliest staff and a welcoming sit-down restaurant.
Howard and I were not hungry enough for starters and a meal, but it sure was hard to pass up the chipotle red pepper hummus and baba ghanoush. Yanni’s had my favorite Greek dish, Moussaka, with a Mediterranean herb-seasoned meat, and the taste delivered a powerful punch. It was so flipping good. My dish came with a small Greek salad tossed with a zesty homemade dressing.
We really enjoyed our meal at Yanni’s Gyro Express Cafe and the curb appeal is remarkable.
Decadent Dining Travels
Our memorable dining experiences in upstate New York covered a wide range of foods, restaurants, and tastes. This was one of the best parts of our trip as we tasted regional specialities and met local people.
I highly suggest stepping out of your comfort zone when visiting a new area to gage a bit about the geographic location through the tastes of the food grown and sourced there. New York did a great job of using local products when necessary; a big draw for foodies.
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Check out our other posts around the area:
Our meals were hosted by several tourism boards during our travels including Sullivan Catskills, the Finger Lakes, Rochester, and Haunted New York. As always, opinions and reviews were 100% mine and unbiased.