Beer Belly Deli, Syracuse, N.Y.

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Syracuse goes through fits and starts for new dining experiences. Not just restaurants, but experiences. Take Italian food, for instance. I can get a bowl of pasta or eggplant parm at Angotti’s and be perfectly satisfied. It’s the ideal restaurant. Simple, good food and the opposite of pretentious. But, sometimes I want an experience. For that, I have Asti Cafe or Pastabilities.

I can go to the Coppertop Tavern anytime. But, sometimes I want more. Sometimes, I want Moro’s Table.

The In-Laws were picking up The Kid from school and keeping her through dinner (and bedtime, but they didn’t know that), so we had a little freedom with Friday evening’s meal. So, we tried one of those new experiences: The Beer Belly Deli.

2013-09-27 at 18-26-43The menu is gastropub meets beer. Everything has beer. The batter for the deep fried cheese curds and chicken tenders, the PBR cheese sauce, the tomato sauce, the ketchup… In addition to a selection of canned and bottled beers, there are six draught choices as well.

Syracuse doesn’t really do the gastropub concept. Tapas and small plates, yes, but the eclectic gastro menu has never taken flight here. Beer Belly seems to be bucking that trend. The Wife and I grabbed a table near the bar, where we were greeted by a heavily tattooed waitress and terrible music. I’m sure the music blends nicely with Westcott Nation, but it was rubbish. I’m happy to say that the screeching on the stereo speakers was the only downer.

2013-09-27 at 18-33-17The menu is dominated by the headers: starters, beef, pig and turkey. The latter is the standout here. The slow-roasted birds adorn some of the menus finer choices, including the wife’s sandwich. Glazed in red wine, the aptly named “Turkey” was served on brioche with spiced cranberry aioli and swiss cheese. The massive portion was beyond her ability to finish. Turkey also marked my starter, the BBQ waffle fries. Criss-cross fries were fried, topped with pulled turkey and gouda cheese. There had to be about a pound of turkey on these fries, making them a starter to share (though I did not).

The Wife’s pretzel was stuffed with mild cheddar cheese, sliced into strips and served warm with housemade tarragon mustard. The mustard was good enough to eat on its own.

2013-09-27 at 18-33-27A warmed shallot and bacon cream cheese spread covered the inside of the brioche that held my Cicero Beef and Bacon Dip sandwich. The beef was cooked to medium and the sandwich too large to pick up. These were definitely fork-and-knife operations.

Sandwiches are accompanied by a choice of sides, including sweet potato tots with maple aioli, waffle fries with beer ketchup.

In addition to being massive portions, the four items we ordered were quite good.

Was it an experience? Yes. Located in the heart of Syracuse’s Westcott Street neighborhood, the Beer Belly Deli is at the epicenter of the rather unique sociocultural microcosm of the city. It was hipsterific. There were a lot of piercings and tattoos. The dishes were all Syracuse China and looked as if it had been cobbled from garage sales and thrift stores. And we’ve already covered the music. In the middle were a eclectic gathering of snobbish suburbanites (like The Wife and me), college students and natives of the neighborhood. It was like the gastropub of clientele.

The Beer Belly Deli is located at 510 Westcott St. near Syracuse University. It does not take reservations. Street parking is available. 

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