Township 5 brought the Syracuse-area its first Costco, but little else until the snow melted this past spring. Since then, it’s been a series of small store openings and musical chairs. Sure, there’s a Buffalo Wild Wings and Longhorn Steakhouse, but it appears the promised Olive Garden is off the table (Al Dente cheers this news). Locally-owned Chipotle knockoff Mesa Grade Taqueria opened, followed by a Hoopla frozen yogurt location. Red Robin is on pace for an autumn debut, while Rochester-based Papaya Asian Grill has given way for the Mohawk Valley’s sushi bar/hibachi chain Mitsuba. The much ballyhooed movie theatre/restaurant has changed owners, though we are still assured the freedom to drink alcohol at the cinema.
And, don’t forget the requisite ubiquity of cell phone and mattress stores, GNC Fitness, and a Subway.
But, tucked into the backside of the block anchored by Buffalo Wild Wings is the lone locally-owned and operated restaurant in the development. The Brasserie is a family-owned bar and restaurant, helmed by a mother-daughter duo that has been around the Syracuse dining sphere for quite a while. Nora Roesch runs the bar and restaurant at nearby Tuscarora Country Club, while daughter Michele is fresh out of the College of Saint Rose. Their husband/father Jerry Roesch owns Tipp Hill bar George O’Deas. Rookies they are not.
Bright white walls and contrasting dark furniture punctuate the dining and bar areas, and are among the first thing you notice when entering the establishment. Our trip on a recent Saturday evening came around 6 p.m., but seating was available for our group of three (The Wife, The Kid and me). A black bench runs the length of the left wall on the dining side with pillows available for decoration and/or back (or rear end) support. Two- and four-seat tables line this side, followed by an aisle and another group of two and four tops. A half-wall separates this space from an aisle of high-top tables and the remaining bar area.
There’s no wine or beer list at the table, with diners directed to two large chalkboards behind the bar for the house reds, whites and bottled beers. The Brasserie has a solid selection of local, regional and mainstream craft beers, and big name domestics and imports. The bar also has 16 beers on tap, however those are listed nowhere. Our waitress seemed confused by the difference between bottled and draught beer, so I wound up walking to the bar to get the lay of the land. It was a nice mix of Belgians, local offerings from Empire and Saranac, and Guinness.
The menu is refreshingly simple for bar food. Rather than trying to reach and do too much or go gastropub crazy, The Brasserie focuses on apps, sandwiches, salads, paninis and a few specialty items, such as a traditional brasserie (lowercase b intended) dish like steak frites.
The Wife and I were looking for a small dinner, as we had a larger than normal lunch, but more than what a handful of unpredictably-sized small plates may have delivered. The Wife went for the turkey pesto panini, while I opted for the Italian pork sandwich.
Her panini was larger than your standard-issue restaurant panini. A large portion of turkey was joined by provolone, tomato and spinach, with a thin layer of pesto spread on the bread. The Wife appreciated the moderation in the use of pesto. Paninis are often plagued by sauces and spreads that are layered on too thick, creating a molten pocket of food lava waiting to scorch the soft tissue on your palette, cheek or tongue. She said that her panini was well-balanced in flavor and was just the right size for what she wanted at that time of day.
The Signature Italian pork sandwich is one of the house specialties and clearly inspired by the other famous Philadelphia meat sandwich. Pork loin is shredded, and served on a roll au jus with hot pepper relish, onions, garlic, escarole (instead of rappi) and provolone. I’m not ready to crown this the best sandwich in Syracuse, but it is probably in the top ten:
AL DENTE’S TEN BEST SYRACUSE SANDWICHES* IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
- The Brasserie’s Signature Italian Pork
- Dinosaur Barbque Porksket
- Darwin’s Three Little Pigs variation
- Ky Duyen’s Banh Mi
- Roast pork on rye with mayo and onions from Brooklyn Pickle
- Traditional chicken finger sub from Wegmans (Oh, get off it. This is life sustaining.)
- Pastabilities meatball sub (I usually go house tomato sauce, but the 50/50 is nice too)
- Either Athena or Zeus from Dorian’s
- Modern Malt’s Breakfast Piggy
- The Blue Tusk’s Bonzai Beef
*The roast beef at Clark’s Ale House transcends mere lists.
I was concerned that the juice dripping from my sandwich would get all over my shirt, but only because it would be sweet, sweet pork juice that I could not ingest. It was a superbly-balanced combination of savory, spicy, and earthy.
Sandwiches come with a choice from a list of seven sides. The Wife mentioned that her black beans and brown rice tasted like steamed rice and little else. My house salad was perfectly ordinary and fine. We both skipped the housemade fries and frips as our waitress informed us that all of their fried foods are cooked in the same fryer, thus prohibiting The Kid and her Celiac disease from getting into the mix.
We skipped dessert in lieu of a promised trip (for The Kid) to the frozen yogurt stand across the parking lot.
The Brasserie’s service was spotty for a moderately busy Saturday evening with plenty of staff. Our beers regularly went dry without refills, and the table next to us stayed dirty from the moment we sat down until about 10 minutes before we left. The kitchen also seemed to struggle to keep up with the crowd, as it took nearly 40 minutes to produce our meals with about 75 percent of the restaurant full.
The menu of food and drinks was spot on and a nice addition to the area. With a little more time and seasoning for the staff, The Brasserie should be a first-rate operation in Township 5’s forest of chains.
The Brasserie (WWW | Facebook | Twitter) is located at 200 Township Blvd. Suite 200 in Camillus, N.Y.’s Township 5 development. It is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner with extended hours on the weekend. Dinner for two with drinks was $33.21 before tip.