A ‘Dark Horse’ in Many Aspects
DeWitt tavern should not be overlooked
By Christopher Malone
Aside from a mighty quadruped with a black coat, the term “dark horse” refers to a person, a group or something which may not be at the forefront at their profession or in its niche but has a great potential of success.
Although this may not have been the intention when Dark Horse Tavern opened in 2003, its 20-year longevity does say a heckuva lot. Plus, to note, it’s corralled in a small plaza; blink and you may miss it.
The restaurant aesthetically lives up to its niche for many reasons. Cue a darkened atmosphere and dim lighting. The restaurant itself is on the smaller side, with a narrow path to get from the door, past the bar, and to a seat. It feels very prohibition-esque, or at least what I think it would feel like. During daylight hours, the brightness makes the path seem wider.
After an afternoon at the YMCA, lunch was a family affair. The staff was helpful and accommodating when it came to helping us situate our infant’s car seat.
They were also unintentionally helpful in another regard. As it was teetering around naptime, save the great exercise of being in the pool, our more-and-more-vocal kiddo quieted down when restaurant staff walked by, giving her attention or not.
They were equally attentive to us adults, from when we ordered a beer ($7) and appetizers to our sandwiches. Extra kudos is given to our server Brian.
Patrons are given complimentary bread and a dipping dish with parmesan cheese and seasonings. Bottles of olive oil are at each table, so add as much as you prefer before enjoying this palate teaser.
How many times have you looked at a nachos option ($14) and made the decision to not get them? Yet, there was reluctance with the conclusion drawn, which is validated when the dish of chips and pico de gallo smothered in cheese, ranch, and sriracha. Ah, let’s not forget the jalepeños, either.
The nachos did not disappoint aesthetically and the taste lived up to the visual hype. The house-made nacho cheese sauce was a spot-on replication of the boxed or bagged sauce you’d find on the nachos at any ballgame.
Although it did boast bright and crisp jalepeño slices and sriracha sauce, the spiciness wasn’t over the top. Then again, I’ve expressed my tolerance to food and sauces with a kick. My wife agrees it was a perfect amount.
The short rib grilled cheese ($16) combined the best of both worlds with a childhood and an adult favorite. Between two large slices of brioche bread sat tender short rib and caramelized onion held together with provolone cheese.
It came with a side of Dark Horse’s demi-glace — a rich, dark, semi-salty, medium-thick sauce. The generous cup of the sauce made it easy to dip and dip and dip — yes, gladly following suit and double-upping George Costanza for all you Seinfeld fans — until there was no other option except pushing the last bit of sandwich into the container to get whatever remnants were left.
Instead of opting for fries, we went with sautéed vegetables for no upcharge. What we got was yellow and green zucchini. The bright, crisp squash relatives were not overly seasoned, oily or mushy.
At the Dark Horse Tavern, you can get what’s called a “daily double” — a sandwich and soup combo ($14). The specials caught our eyes, so we couldn’t say no.
The shareable bowl of soup du jour was cream of cauliflower with Brussels sprouts. The thick, white soup boasted large florets of cauliflower and large sprouts, plus pieces of bacon floating about.
The sandwich special was also noteworthy. Shredded buffalo chicken topped with cheddar sat between a nice fluffy roll. The chicken, and short rib for this matter, was not dry. The chicken and beef were not only cooked well, they tasted fresh.
Before tip, the bill came to $55 and change.
Dark Horse serves up a great meal and experience. Sadly, I’m embarrassed to say it was only second time there, coming years after my first time. I look forward to enjoying another meal there soon, but hopefully there won’t be as long of a gap.
Dark Horse Tavern
4312 E Genesee St., Syracuse, NY 13214
Restaurant: (315) 446-31800
Sun. & Mon.: Closed
Tues. & Wed.: 4 – 9 p.m.
Thurs.: 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Fri. & Sat.: 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.