Tag Archives: Watertown

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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Making a Run for the Border – Part 2

23 Jun

In part one, I talked a bit about American treats that I get nostalgic about as well as some American-only pantry staples. Today I’m going to talk a bit about US shopping options close to Ottawa and why it’s often worth the price of gas and bridge fair to get there.

Image courtesy of ashphaltplanet.ca.

For those of us who live in eastern Ontario, there are a few options within a short drive:

  • Ogdensburg, NY – A short 1 hour drive down the 416 and over the bridge from Prescott, Ogdensburg is a smallish border town but it has a Lowes’, a Walmart, several options for groceries and pharmacy products and a couple of women’s clothing stores.
  • Watertown, NY – About 2.5 hours from downtown Ottawa and across the Thousand Islands Bridge between Brockville and Gananoque, Watertown has a lot more to offer with a small mall, perennial favourite Target and my personal favourite – Kohl’s. Kohl’s is a department store with great quality and on-trend clothing and home products at excellent prices. If you go, check out  the Texas Roadhouse for lunch. They make a mean steak and will stuff you until you’re about to burst.
  • Massena, NY –  Massena is 2 hours from Ottawa but a quick 20 minute trip from Cornwall. Similar to Watertown, it has a small mall but lacks some of the big box options like Target and Kohl’s. It does have a Home Depot though as well as several grocery stores and pharmacies.
  • Syracuse, NY – Syracuse is the big daddy of shopping options in the area but it’s also the furthest away – a 3 hour jaunt. It is doable as a day trip, but I like to turn it into an overnighter. They have a large mall, and just about any big box store you could want in nearby Clay, NY.

Why Make the Trip?
Invariably when I tell some folks I’m planning to make a trip down, they ask me why I’d waste my gas to go down there when Ottawa has a pretty good shopping selection. Two reasons: variety and price. Even with gas and bridge fare, the new personal daily exemption of $200 means I can get a lot of deals without having to pay any duty. Even when you do get dinged for duty because you’ve crammed your car full of ‘deals’, it’s STILL worth it.

Here’s just a few examples of why it pays to go:

  • Pop – The pop deal in Canadian flyers lately has been two 12 can cases for $10 – that’s .41 cents/can. At Price Chopper last week I picked up two 24 can cases for $12 – that’s .25 cents/can. This week they’ve got four 12 can cases for $9 – that’s even cheaper!
  • Eggs – Much like milk whose price is regulated in Ontario, eggs are a better deal south of the border. I saw a flyer that was advertising a dozen large eggs for .99 cents and turkey bacon at the same price. You’d be hard pressed to make a $2 breakfast for a large family in Canada unless you served oatmeal.
  • Cool Whip – In my local Independent Grocer, Cool Whip is around $4 Canadian. It’s on sale for $1/tub this week.
  • Yogurt – Single serving greek yogurts are prohibitively expensive here running around $1.70/serving but are usually on 10/$10. You’d save $7 just going for yogurt alone.
  • Old Bay seasoning – A hard to find item in Ottawa (only Sobey’s seems to carry it), a 74 g tin is around $4.70. I picked up a 170 g tin for $4.24. That’s more than double the amount for less money.
  • I also got deals on fresh chicken, jambalaya mix, brownie mix, clothes, toothpaste, makeup and even a bike!

Despite the deals, there are some items that are either priced the same in Canada, or are even more expensive in the US. Before you leave, check the flyers (they’re all available online), know your prices for your usual items and know the rules about what you can and cannot bring back.

Happy shopping!