Notable Syracuse diner fills bellies
By Christopher Malone
No offense to chain restaurants — wait, I’ll stop there because that statement would be a lie.
I’ll gladly offend. When it comes to grabbing a satisfying brunch, local diners are the way to go. Whether it’s Mother’s Cupboard, located at 3709 E James St. in Syracuse, or one of the other countless and locally run greasy spoons, there’s no need to consider a “grand slam” breakfast.
Mother’s Cupboard has everything stomachs crave: omelettes, pancakes, French toast, burgers, sandwiches, home fries, hash and more. Breakfast is served from 6 a.m. to early afternoons, and typical lunchtime options are available during the weekdays.
Featured in numerous articles and on television shows, such as the original “Man v. Food,” Mother’s Cupboard is known for generous portions. Take note of its gigantic frittata and foot-long pancakes. It’s important to bring an appetite, too, because sharing food what you ordered comes at a $1.99 extra charge.
Don’t worry, takeaway boxes are available if cleaning a plate seems like an impossible task.
Speaking of takeaway, due to COVID-19 and its impacts, the diner is offering that option. Since Mother’s Cupboard works with a small dining area, even fewer patrons are permitted to eat inside, saving the outdoor picnic tables as alternative options. Limited seating also means longer waits for tables to open up. If you’re far down on the list, a 30-minute wait may creep past an hour. This depends on eaters savoring the experience and food. In short, be sure to plan ahead.
After staff called us in and apologizing for the wait, we cozied up at the counter and were immediately served coffee and waters. The diner counter, the best seat in the house in my opinion, gives a great view of the food prep operations. The wood paneled walls and countless photographs cannot be over looked. Listening to staff banter and engaging in conversation with them are such perks.
On top of the regular menu, a list of specials was provided. Our original decisions then strayed. We opted for the breakfast burger with home fries ($10.95) and the pumpkin pancakes with chocolate chips ($9.25). Our waitress, Kate, thinking we were done, said these were great choices and “a lot of food.” Then we ordered the quarter-sized frittata with cheddar ($9.50) and Oreo French toast for dessert ($8.25). With two coffees and tip, the meal was less than $50.
The quarter-sized frittata can easily be shared among three people. Mother’s world-famous generous dish is a high pile of Italian sausage, pepperoni, sweet peppers, onion, broccoli, and eggs. There’s nothing like the crunch of crisp broccoli to pull a frittata together. Plus, there’s toast. Even the smallest portion isn’t for the weak-kneed. Leftovers were taken home because the other options needed our attention.
The foot-wide pancakes — we were going to get chocolate chip and banana — were sacrificed for the pumpkin pancakes. ‘Tis the season. However, the flavor of the breakfast staple was well worth it. They were light, fluffy, and generously filled with chocolate chips (for an additional dollar). The glop of cinnamon cream cheese was delightful and just sweet enough. The amount of topping was a perfect amount to cover the four saucer-sized pancakes and not overpower the flavor of the pumpkin and chocolate.
The burger was insane. The medium-rare cooked beef patty was topped with two strips of maple brown sugar bacon, cheddar cheese, onion jam, a sunny-side up egg, sriracha mayo, and the standard lettuce and tomato. The home fries with onion were dusted with a seasoning with a slight kick. The onion jam was a flavorful, stand-out condiment.
The stacked burger was easily shareable. One of the cooks approached us with paper towels — “You’re going to need these.” We certainly did.
French toast is great. French toast with Oreos — that’s something to get people talking. It’s a balance of sweet and savory, of course, with the former having an advantage. The light, French-toast-style Italian bread slices are placed on a dish decorated with drizzled chocolate sauce. They’re topped with crushed Oreos, chocolate butter, and powdered sugar. Just — wow.
The two of us left stuffed and satisfied. Mother’s Cupboard served up a huge homecooked meal on a perfect sunny, cool autumn Sunday. The staff did their part to offer a safe and clean atmosphere during this pandemic. For the amount of food and price tag, it’s an affordable experience.
I’ve said it before and will say it again: Keep supporting local businesses during this time. Chains are one thing but Mother’s Cupboard and others offer a uniqueness and are part of Central New York’s vitality.
3709 E. James St., Syracuse
Daily: 6 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Photo: Great dessert: Oreo French toast.