As an avid foodie, and someone who visits Utica on the regular, I’ve had my fair share of dining experiences in Oneida County. I’ve spent most of my life visiting the local food shops with my family, picking up our necessities to traditional Polish meals. (Hapanowicz for the win!) In addition to scoping out the best bakeries and delis, we had to find the best lunch and dinner spots. Plus, being a Saranac ambassador and having friends in the area means I still drive down the thruway pretty often. Since I’ve made my list of the best restaurants in Utica, it’s time to share it with you. From signature cocktails and out-of-this-world garlic bread to fresh dolmades and delightful Irish coffee, you’re in for a treat.
Hands down one of the best dining experiences you can have in Utica, Nostro stands out from the crowd. The Italian restaurant is located in an old bank, and the upscale ambiance immediately sets the tone for the meal. I was in love with the mosaic map on the wall. It features notable landmarks in and around Utica along with tributes to the 6 Iroquois Nations native to the area.
The best time to go for dinner is during happy hour, when the signature cocktails are discounted, and the crowds haven’t formed yet. I love how creative they are with the cocktails – for both the flavors and the names. On my visit, I ordered the “Dominick the Donkey,” a refreshing cocktail featuring peach and rosemary.
While my friend and I browsed the menu, the white truffle garlic bread immediately caught our eyes, so we quickly ordered it. Holy moly. It is PHENOMENAL! Crispy on the outside, super soft and cheesy inside. It is easily one the best garlic bread I’ve ever had. Seriously.
For dinner, we split two entrees- sweet corn ravioli and campanelle pesto. They were both so good, I don’t know which I liked better! The menu features a wide variety of modern twists on Italian classics. No matter what you order, you really can’t go wrong.
For dessert, we took the bartender’s recommendation and ordered the vanilla meringue cake. A mile high and filled with pastry cream, it was delicious!
If you’re very hungry, willing to splurge, and feeling a little ambitious, get The Arsenale. For $65 per person, you will get a chef-selected multi-course meal of sharable plates for your entire table. I’ve yet to do it, but know several people who have and they say it is worth every single penny.
The Lifted Cup
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a delicious breakfast and be treated like family, The Lifted Cup is your place to be. Owned by retired US Navy veteran Tim Corelli, the restaurant is their way of giving back to the community, displaying honor and gratitude. It makes sense that Tim is the star of the kitchen because he initially served as the Mess Specialist on a Navy submarine. Now, he serves meals at his restaurant in Barneveld. An large window opens the kitchen to the dining area, adding to the familial charm of the cafe.
The cafe uses a unique ordering method; the menu is your ordering ticket. When you walk into the restaurant, grab one ticket for each person at your table. Mark your meal choices and then return all the tickets to the counter at once. Both the breakfast and lunch menus feature classic, simple yet flavorful meals. Plus there are rotating daily specials that get a bit more creative and adventurous. Check their Facebook page to keep updated.
If Tim isn’t too busy in the kitchen, try to chat with him for a few minutes. He will gladly share some stories with you! If you’re in the Barneveld area, be sure to stop by The Lifted Cup for breakfast or lunch. There’s often live music on Saturdays as well. You’re sure to enjoy it.
On one of my work trips in the Utica area, I googled restaurants in the area to find a spot for lunch. I was hoping for a place I hadn’t tried before, and one that had some tasty food options. I found all that and more at City Cafe in Whitesboro.
Known for being a completely dairy-free and gluten-free cafe, you’d never know that they use nontraditional ingredients. Their goal is to provide excellent quality food without all the common allergens and dietary concerns. A place where anyone can feel safe eating anything on the menu. And while there are meat dishes, there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian choices too. The menu features a variety of burgers, fries, salads, and Rochester’s famous garbage plates.
I had the taco fries for lunch and they were incredible. Reasonably priced, exploding with flavor, and a generous portion. I can’t wait to go back to try their long list of bakery items.
Since Utica is home to a lot of large, proud European communities, you can find some truly delicious European food. For example, Symeon’s in Yorkville is the closest you can get to Greece while in Central New York. The popular restaurant is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year – so you know the food is great!
The name comes from the original owners, Symeon and Ann Tsoupelis. The family-owned business has since passed down to Symeon Jr. and his wife, Shelli. But the same great food, great service, and family hospitality remain.
The menu features many of your favorite Greek foods, including dolmades, spanakopita, tzatziki sauce, hummus, Greek olives, souvlaki, gyros, kebabs, and more. Don’t forget the baklava – or try the baklava cheesecake. My favorite dessert? The galaktoboureko, flaky filo dough filled with custard and topped with a honey syrup. It’s perfection.
5 Points Public House
You might not expect to find one of the best restaurants in Utica inside an cultural center, but trust me on this one. 5 Points Public House is located in Utica’s Irish Cultural Center, and is one of the best Irish pubs you’ll find in Upstate New York. It has everything you expect to find in an Irish pub: Guinness and Smithwicks on tap, fantastic Irish stew and fish & chips, live music, and a beautiful dark wooden bar that spans the room.
I was astonished to learn that the furnishings and decorations were all handcrafted in Ireland and shipped in to provide the most authentic restaurant experience. The menu features a lot of great Irish classics. In addition to the standard fare, try the corned beef sliders or the shepherds pie. But the best part? Dessert, of course! Bread pudding topped with an Irish cream glaze. And don’t forget the Irish coffee. I swear to you it’s along with the best Irish coffee I’ve ever had.