I often rag on my hometown of Syracuse for not having a particularly creative restaurant scene. A city with largely Italian and Irish populations has, surprisingly, yielded a lot of forgettable Italian family restaurants and Irish pubs that all kind of blur together. Admittedly, I’m also a bit of a shut-in (especially with the pandemic), so I won’t claim to know all the ins-and-outs of some of the more “underground” restaurants. So when I first heard about the Salt City Market, a collective of vendors selling foods from a wide variety of ethnicities, I was excited to hear about something new coming to that seeming-abandoned lot downtown. They’ve had plenty of setbacks (most, obviously, pandemic-related), but now they’re finally open for our dining pleasure.
This project has been almost a year in the making, so it’s no surprise that, on the day of the grand opening, people were so excited that everyone ended up running out of food. Being the fool that I am, I assumed that going at 4:00 on the second day would be less busy. We ended up waiting in line for about 10 minutes, as they were being very diligent about enforcing occupancy limits and getting people in and out as safely as possible. Even though it was about 15°F out, I would say the overall experience was well worth the wait.
I honestly was too busy trying to figure out what to get and also staying 6 feet away from everyone else that I didn’t pay much mind to the decor within the space. I didn’t even notice music was playing until one of my friends pointed out they were playing a song she liked (I know I’ve heard this song dozens of times, I could have sworn it was Animal Collective but after scouring their discography I guess it isn’t). It had that kind of hip, start-up-y vibe that, when juxtaposed with the run-down apartment building across the street, would have raised questions about gentrification if it weren’t for the sheer number of POC chefs and entrepreneurs involved.
So, without further ado, let’s talk about the food. When I say I’m trying “one of everything,” I guess I actually mean “one thing from each vendor (or, rather, for this week, half of them),” which may be a little misleading, but let’s be real, I can’t afford one of everything. (I briefly considered emailing them to see if I could get some sort of “Media Pass,” but I figured even if they did things like that it would require me to actually have readers lmao) Also, some places had also started to run out of things again, but I will do my best to review what they were able to give me without a sense of “ugh, this isn’t what I wanted.” And obviously, since we got takeout and drove like 20 minutes to get the food back home, I’m not going to be judging the food in terms of things like “it was cold,” or “the breading got soggy from the condensing steam in the package.”
BIG IN BURMA- Samosas- $5
2 disclaimers- 1.) Of all the ethnicities represented at the market, I have the least knowledge and/or exposure to Burmese cuisine. Judging by the menu and my basic understanding of geography, I’d say the simplest (and thus probably not super accurate) way to describe it is a cross between Indian and Thai food. 2.) I used to work with the dad of the owner, so I felt like trying Big In Burma first was a priority.
While I initially wanted to try the Nan Gyi Thoke, they were out of noodles so I eventually settled on an order of samosas. I say “settled,” but really, is there really anything better than a dumpling?
The dough was flaky and crisp, almost like phyllo dough. The potato and onion filling was simple (and in my opinion could have used a little more of the curry spice blend they used), but tasty. The sauce that accompanied them isn’t described anywhere on their menu, but tastes a lot like Frank’s Red Hot but with a little more of a vinegary tang to it. All in all, a great little snack that, despite being a fried dumpling, didn’t get too heavy, which was good because I had a lot more food to eat.
FIRECRACKER THAI KITCHEN- Spicy Basil Chicken- $13.50
My first thought upon tasting the chicken by itself was “Hey, that’s way too much fish sauce, I’m probably not gonna eat this whole thing.” However, once you mix the chicken and the rice together, the flavors become much more well balanced, and I did end up eating the whole thing, thank you very much. My biggest gripe, however, was that this “Spicy Basil” Chicken didn’t deliver very strongly on the “Spicy” or the “Basil,” two things I love in Thai food but found myself wanting more of. The fried egg was good, though. I’m always a sucker for a fried egg.
It might also be worth mentioning that one of my friends got the “Street Style Eggs Over Rice,” which, despite the menu description including other things, was just a fried egg over a pile of rice and a cup of sauce.
MISS PRISSY’S- Fried Chicken Wings- $12.50
(I hope I’m remembering that price right, the online version of their menu seems incomplete.)
Miss Prissy’s seems to be one of the busier stands, given they were probably the hardest hit of the ones I went to when it came to shortages. They were out of the braised oxtail and pepper steak that were my first and second choices, so I “settled” on the wings. Once again, that’s not a bad thing.
The breading on the wings was just the right thickness, and was somehow still crispy after traveling. They were also a very good size, too. The only negative thing I could say about the wings was that it seemed like they were seasoned after cooking, instead of seasoning the breading, which lead to some pieces being more well seasoned than others. (I’m noticing a trend of me thinking everything was underseasoned… did I catch the ‘rona without noticing or something…)
The mac & cheese may look like my mom’s sad, dry mac at first glance, but it is NOT. It was much creamier and cheesier than it looks. The green beans, however, were pretty much just as sad and probably-canned as they look. I look forward to getting the collards some day, once they stop running out.
(Also, this is really neither here nor there, but the leftover samosa sauce goes really well with these wings.)
PIE’S THE LIMIT- Oat and Berry Slice- $3.50
While they do have an interesting selection of savory pies, I decided to get something more dessert-y to round out my night of hedonism- uhh I mean supporting local business.
The crust was surprisingly tender and flaky for a vegan dough (ie no butter/lard/etc). The berry filling was a pretty much perfect blend of tart and sweet that you would want from a pie filling. The oat topping clearly uses some kind of steel cut oat- or at least something other than the instant oats I’m accustomed to in streusel toppings like this- because it has a more toothsome chew to it, which I thought added a nice contrast in texture.
All-in-all, everything was very good, with most of the shortcomings easily being excused as these businesses try to keep up with how busy they’ve been. I’m much as it kills me to have to wait, I’m probably going to have to wait a week or two for part 2 for the crowds to die down a little.
One thought on “I Try One of Everything at Salt City Market (Part 1)”
That gives us a week or two to acquire Camera Glasses.