Here’s the Best of our Best Of

No one asked me to come up with a personal ‘Best of Syracuse’ list. But no one stopped me either … so here it is:

Best Sandwich  As I write this, it’s Friday, and to me that means Bonzai Beef day at the Blue Tusk. I could try to analyze what makes a panini of thin-sliced pot roast, red onion, pepper rings, wasabi herb dressing and havarti and cheddar all on stretch bread so addictive, but that would be like texting your date a description of a rose instead of giving her one. I realize there’s nothing attractive about a grown man who organizes his life around a sandwich. I don’t care.

Best Under Discussed Freeway Overpass

For all the talk of bringing down I-81, have you spent time under I-690 lately? It’s not exactly a mecca of New Urbanism, either. Yet there it remains, modest and unassuming, knitting together east and west even as it divides north and south. Its low-key style offers a welcome respite from its obnoxious conjoined sibling. Thank you for being you, I-690!

Best Bartender

At his Kelley’s dominion atop Onondaga Hill, bartender Mike Ryan treats everyone with respect—until he gets to know you. Then you’re meat. Leave a credit card at the bar or spill a drink? You’ll hear about it for months, sometimes years. He’s been abusing me for a decade, and guess what? I deserve it. His endless barrage of snappy rejoinders, instant recall of drink preferences and insider knowledge of local happenings make Mike both the embodiment of what a bartender should be and one of the few media outlets in town that can’t be silenced by cost cuts.

Best Career Move

I was outraged when Doug Marrone bolted Syracuse University for the Buffalo Bills so soon after proclaiming we were his “dream job.” I’m over it. I’d have done the same thing. Good luck, Coach.Jerk.

Best Cost-Saving Measure by a Major Grocery Chain

Maybe it’s just me, but almost every time I attempt to nab a free sample at Wegmans, the sample-giver-outer is just starting to prepare a new batch, talking to other customers or futzing around with something on or under the counter. I walk away frustrated, aggrieved and hungry. Is it possible all this so-called free sampling is just an elaborate ruse by our favorite grocery chain to promote an illusion of generosity? Very clever, guys.


Best Spin Instructor

They call him. . . Chin. This ripped indoor cycling instructor of Nigerian descent has a cult-like following at the East Area Family YMCA, and for good reason. His class has the vibe of a mass suicide event. The 75-minute Saturday sessions is always grueling but never in quite the same way, from week to week, with innovative playlists designed to extract maximum suffering, and no breaks. His motivational exhortations often convey false information calculated to break the spirit. “The finish line is in sight.” “This is the last song.” Those of us who keep going back understand that our loyalty could indicate serious mental health issues on our part, perhaps stemming from insufficient parental love and approval in our formative years.


Best Beer on Tap

Not everyone wants their beer to taste like Mr. McGregor’s garden, but I enjoy a fruity quaff as long as it makes no pretense of subtlety. Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Pumking is about as subtle as getting hit in the face with a half-baked pumpkin pie. Pair with the Bonsai Beef (see above) and listen for angels. Speaking of religion, I’m no longer interested in cryopreservation as a personal choice. Just brine me in a keg of Pumking. I’ll be fine.





Best Dumb Criminal

I tend to shy away from calling criminals dumb because I suspect I wouldn’t be so great at it myself. But come on. When Arthur Brundage walked into an East Side bank last year and demanded 20K, later realized he’d only been given $1,000 and then went back to the bank for the rest, he deserved to be arrested on the spot and listed on every compilation of stupid criminals in the world.

Best Plantar Fasciitis Relief

Nothing ruins your morning like hobbling out of bed on an inflamed plantar fascia. Thus afflicted a few months back, I minced my way to Fleet Feet, the highly touted running store on Bridge Street. Although I no longer run, the store offers expertise and products to help defeat the malady.

A salesperson walked me through a few options, and then opened a small freezer and withdrew an ice-cold hard plastic mold shaped like the left footprint of an early hominid.

“Isn’t this basically just an icepack?” I asked.

“People say it gets up in there better,” she replied.

Oh. My. God. It’s called Icy Feet (patent pending). It worked so well and so quickly for me that I hardly need it anymore. No guarantees it will do the same for you, but for about $30, it’s a chance worth taking.

Best Proof You Can Take the Property Taxes Out of Syracuse But You Can’t Take Syracuse Out of the Property

There’s something quaintly Syracuse about a specialty chocolate shop at an international retail destination that sells defective chocolates. The factory seconds at the Lindt store at Destiny USA are a terrific deal if you don’t mind a little white cocoa bloom on your confections or chocolates that are not precisely the shape they were intended to be. For example, a lemon truffle meant to look like a delicate flower might instead look like a wrecked nuclear submarine. Might. A clerk assured me the imperfections do not alter the taste. Remember, nothing says “I love you” like factory seconds chocolates.

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