Manlius restaurant is worth a stop with friends or with family
By Christopher Malone
It’s safe to say Scenic Root, located at 301 Fayette St. in Manlius, is confidently rooted into the eastside community after almost three and a half years in business.
The place that formerly housed Bella Cigna and Saucy Swan had flown away from the ugly duckling of nomenclature redundancy for a name that’s, well, more grounded.
Let the aptly named pond and wildlife do the talking themselves. Having a swan pond next to the restaurant really works the release-the-deer moment from the movie “Funny Farm” to add more warm-and-fuzzies to an already attractive Manlius.
On a cold December evening, the rustic orangey glow and a wood-heavy aesthetic really warms the mind and body. It preps and eases the creeping anxiety of trying a restaurant for the first time.
As I waited for my eating buddy to arrive, I ordered a Cooperstown-born Ommegang Rare Vos. The beer tasted good and not just for the sake of being good beer, but it’s comforting to know the restaurant cleans its tap lines.
The tap lines aren’t the only clean aspect to Scenic Root. The restaurant as a whole, from the silverware to the dining area and to the bathroom, is very tidy. Alex and I could eat our appetizers consisting of calamari ($13), goat cheese bruschetta ($10), and Utica greens ($11) without worry.
For the amount of food and pricetags of the appetizers, it’s a great deal. There is a good amount of food to enjoy and comfortably share among four people.
The calamari, both rings and tentacled, were lightly battered and not overly chewy. The addition of cherry peppers and Romano cheese was great. The black pepper aioli dipping sauce was deliciously simple.
The Utica greens were very good with enough heat and very little of that residual water known to puddle around the Upstate New York dish. I was also a fan of the noticeable garlic with each crunchy bite. No sogginess nor sadness.
The bruschetta was one of the two big steps for me this evening. The loaded ingredients sat incredibly well on the crispy, toasted ciabatta slices. It’s not that I dislike bruschetta — I don’t, and this bruschetta could do no wrong — but I do dislike olives. Cut up kalamatas sat with the tomatoes, crumbly goat cheese, red onion tapenade and balsamic.
To my surprise, I actually enjoyed my bruschetta with olives. In the big picture, it’s not so much a big step for me, but Scenic Root proved this popular appetizer has a well-balanced flavor. The olives and other ingredients danced in a circle and never tripped.
Alex and I also shared entrees: the center cut filet ($30), which was the most expensive item on the menu, and the bourbon pork ($18).
Since I’m on the topic: the center cut filet was the second milestone I overcame that evening. The biggest turn off for me other than olives are bleu or gorgonzola cheese. Spoiler: I enjoyed the jalepeño gorgonzola compound butter that topped the perfectly cooked medium rare filet. It was a great piece of meat, for one, and the house rub also helped balance out the flavor. Otherwise, I would have dramatically scraped off the gorgonzola.
Frankly, the worst part of that was the plating. Along with the soft and delightful mashed potatoes, the filet was simply plopped on the plate. That’s all, folks. Despite the massive flavor of the entrée, the boring presentation was a bit sad. The swans would turn grey if they saw it.
The bourbon pork made up for its head-scratching cohort. The sliced-up tenderloin, which was also joined by a side of the same mashed potatoes, was doused with a dried cherry glaze. Of course, the bourbon flavor isn’t overly present, but the semi-thick and slightly sweet glaze was top notch. For the $18 price, there is a fair amount of food.
The total, including tip, came to $117.74 for a beer and soft drink, three appetizers and two entrees.
Whether you take the highway or the scenic — hmm, wait, I won’t go there — back roads, Scenic Root in Manlius is worth a stop with friends or with family.
It’s a great and clean atmosphere, plus the staff works as a cohesive team to ensure your dining experience is worth talking about and photographing.
Photo: Bourbon pork ($18) at Scenic Root in Manlius comes with mashed potatoes and top-notch cherry glaze on top.
301 Fayette St, Manlius, NY 13104
Sun.: 4-9 p.m.
Mon. – Thurs.: 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Fri.: 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sat.: 3-10 p.m.