Tag Archives: New York

Our Southern Vacation: Syracuse

5 Nov

It’s been a pretty wild month around the Bacon household. Between travel, work and house guests it kind of felt like Mr. Bacon and I hadn’t spent any quality time together in weeks so like all good husbands he volunteered to whisk me away on a southern vacation. To Syracuse, NY.

OK, maybe it’s not Mexico, but for folks in the eastern part of Ontario, Syracuse is a quick and close weekend getaway that promises lots of shopping and delicious, fatty American foodstuffs. I hear they have other stuff, like a zoo, but we’ve always been too busy shopping and eating to go.

Turf & Turf for Lunch
On our way down, we stopped in Watertown, NY for lunch. Since breakfast had consisted of whatever we could grab on our way out the door to drop the dog off at the kennel, we were both ravenous. And since Mr. Bacon hadn’t experienced the joys that the Texas Roadhouse can provide, I suggested we go there.

For those of you who are also not in the know, Texas Roadhouse is what Montana’s and the like SHOULD be. It’s a steakhouse type chain restaurant with the expected cheezy decor (armadillo – check, deer head – check) but these guys don’t mess around with their steaks – they display them in a meat case as you walk in.

They also provide fresh roasted peanuts in a bucket to much on at your table in addition to some seriously wicked sweet rolls with cinnamon honey butter. If you’re a Pinterest-a-holic like I am, you’ve probably seen the copycat recipe floating around.

We started with an appetizer of deep fried pickles. These are the kind of fried pickles I like – thin cut wavy chips, lightly battered and fried till crisp… Not the pickle spears you often see in Ottawa which I find have a pickle to batter ratio that’s just too high. They came with a side of cajun horseradish and ranch dipping sauces. The cajun horseradish was tasty but I thought it overpowered the pickle flavour. The ranch though… Wow. Seriously, why does ranch dressing taste so much better in the US? What do they do to it??? While delicious, in hindsight, ordering an appetizer at Texas Roadhouse was ill advised. Just too much food!

Mr. Bacon’s not a big steak guy (weirdo, I know) so he had a bacon cheeseburger and got sweet talked by the server into ‘loading’ his fries with cheese & bacon. Oh well, when in Rome…. The burger got a big thumbs up from Mr. Bacon. He said it was ALMOST as good as the Carleton Place truck stop burger he thinks is the epitome of burgerdom so that’s saying a lot.

I had the smallest steak they have – a 6 oz. sirloin – which as usual was buttery tender, perfectly seasoned and cooked to a spot on medium rare. With it, my nod to excess, the ‘loaded’ sweet potato which is cinnamon honey butter, caramel sauce and mini marshmallows. Trust me, don’t knock it till you try it. There’s a reason I keep mini marshmallows and caramel sauce in my pantry now and this is it. My meal also came with a huge salad as a starter.

The price on my massive steak meal? $10.99. If you opt to go before 6 p.m. Monday – Thursday (and don’t get the loaded version of your potato), you can get the meal for $8.99. You can barely get a footlong steak sandwich at Subway for that in Canada so I consider it a colossal deal.

Mr. Bacon’s cheeseburger was $9.49 – within spitting distance of the total of my usual Wendy’s order.

This was my third time at Texas Roadhouse and I’ve always had a great (and incredibly filling) meal. There’s one in Syracuse as well so next time you’re down, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

If you’re the kind that prefers local, non-chain restaurants, you can also get a great steak at Hafner’s. Nice place to catch a game as well!

The Shopping Mecca
After lunch we waddled around some of the big box stores in Clay, NY trolling for a new wardrobe for Mr. Bacon. As usual, we had great luck at Kohl’s – the quality and prices there are excellent and they have a good selection of specialty sizes. I also found a bacon t-shirt at Target that I couldn’t pass up. It’s awesome.

Destiny USA mall

However, the real reason most people make the trek to Syracuse is for what used to be called the Carousel Center, now renamed DESTINY USA. (Please read that in a booming ‘movie trailer guy’ voice.)

The renamed mall seems to have been doubled in size. It’s so massive that you could (and we did for a time) get lost in it. The thing has it’s own indoor F1 go-kart track now. And a microbrewery. A good portion of the new stores and restaurants haven’t opened yet but will be soon and seemed to lean towards the expensive name brand label type. The Michael Kors store seemed to be doing a booming business.

Abandoned warehouse in downtown Syracuse.

This cathedral to capitalism is in stark contrast to the blocks just east of the mall in the downtown core. There are acres of abandoned lots, warehouses and ports which were once part of Syracuse’s manufacturing industry in the 19th and 20th centuries. Maybe one day they can revive this area like Toronto has done with their warehouse district, but for now it’s just a good gut check on the reality that not everyone’s lining up for a $600 purse in America.

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Food Finds: Trip to Ogdensburg

10 Sep

I made another pilgrimage to the USA over the weekend. A friend and I made the short jaunt down the 416 to Ogdensburg which is just on the other side of Prescott, ON. If you haven’t made it down yet, the savings in groceries, gas and online shopping shipping costs is well worth the drive. Plus, every time I’m down I find a few foodie things to share.

Getting Lunch in the ‘Burg
On a random message board I had seen a recommendation for a Chinese food restaurant called A1 Buffet King which is located in strip mall on Canton Street. I had seen it on my last trip but didn’t look too closely because I needed to save room for the bacon sundae from Burger King. Given that fast food is basically the only option around, even a ‘so so’ Chinese buffet sounded better, especially since the random message board guy had declared it ‘a great deal’. Wow, was he ever right!

On a Saturday just after noon, there were only a handful of tables full but everything on the buffet was hot and fresh. We soon found out why – they also do a brisk business in take out as well.

A-1 has the usual suspects – General Tso’s (nice balance of sweet and hot), chicken balls with sweet & sour sauce (fresh not frozen) and stir fried veggies – as well as some different stuff like chicken in a Thai peanut sauce. The shrimp in butter sauce was beautiful – big juicy shrimp and perfectly cooked. They also had the staple of American Chinese buffets – ‘biscuit donuts’ – basically Pillsbury biscuit dough deep fried and coated in butter and white sugar. They sound terrible but wow they’re good. And to top it all off – they had a soft serve ice cream machine. With sprinkles!

When your bill for two people looks like this at the end, especially when you’re so full you’re considering a nap in the car after, you really can’t go wrong. Yep, it’s $6.99 per person for lunch, Monday-Saturday. I defy you to find anything like that in Ottawa.

Is a Pepsi By Any Other Name, Just as Sweet?
Price Chopper had Pepsi products on sale 4 cases of 12 for $10 so I stocked up. I took a risk and tried a case of a new Pepsi iteration – Pepsi Next. Intended to be a happy middle ground between full-sugar regular Pepsi and Diet Pepsi, it has a blend of corn syrup and faux sweeteners and clocks in at half the calories of a can of ‘high test’ Pepsi.

What did it taste like? Well, it tasted like half a regular Pepsi and half of a diet Pepsi in a single can. For those that are trying to cut calories but just can’t stomach diet pop it’s a decent option. Unfortunately, it still had a hint of that gross chemical aftertaste you get with calorie free pop. Nice try Pepsi, but you haven’t found the holy grail here.

Are You Friggin’ Kidding Me?
If you think that Canadian dollar stores have some odd things in the food aisles, check out what we found at the Dollar Tree. Yes, that’s off-brand Hamburger Helper endorsed by ‘comedian’ Larry The Cable Guy. I had to buy it for its novelty alone because I don’t think I could ever bring myself to actually consume it. Sorry Larry, I don’t ‘gotta try it’.