From the Kitchen

More than 45,000 visitors come to Syracuse for Downtown Dining Weeks

Lucy Naland | Presentation Director

Cold, dreary February is one of the slowest months for dining out. According to Jason Jessmore, an executive chef at Aster Pantry & Parlor, February is slow not only because of the weather, but because people are still paying off their Christmas splurges. That’s where Downtown Dining Weeks comes in.

Starting Feb. 15 and running through March 1, Downtown Dining Weeks offers a three-course meal for $25 at over 32 local Syracuse restaurants. The goal is to not only showcase local restaurants, but to drum up more customers during a traditionally slow period for eating out.s

“It definitely brings in a lot of people that might not be going out if it wasn’t for the Dining Week experience,” Jessmore said.

Downtown Dining Weeks’ menus have offered a range of appetizers, courses, drinks and desserts for 13 years. For $25, customers can eat anything from waffles to steak, and the Downtown Committee of Syracuse hopes to offer enough variety to please even the pickiest of eaters.

“Literally, we have any sort of taste that your taste buds could crave represented in all of our wonderful dining week’s menus,” Alice Maggiore, communications coordinator for the downtown community said. “We have a diverse array of restaurants and we want to draw attention to them.”

It’s also expanding. This year, Downtown Dining Weeks has added five new restaurants: Original Grain, Apizza Regionale, Eleven Waters (Marriott Syracuse Downtown), Khao Gaeng and Niko’s Family Italian Restaurant.

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Daily Orange file photo

Maggiore said the committee touches base with new downtown restaurants that have opened up in the beginning of the year to see if they would like to be a part of Downtown Dining Weeks.

“I think, almost any new restaurant that opens in downtown certainly wants to be part of the scene as a whole,” Maggiore said. “And Dining Weeks, one of the most popular winter events, is part of that scene.”

Between 45,000 and 50,000 visitors come from the central New York area to experience Dining Weeks. Some stay the night through a $185 special roommate rate at four hotels: Courtyard Marriott, Residence Inn Marriott, Jefferson Clinton Hotel and Marriott Syracuse Downtown. The downtown community hopes that by offering these discounts individuals will want to spend a few days in Syracuse, taking in its sights and foods.

“Our hope is that when folks come in for dinner, they’ll stay the night and then go out to breakfast the next day or take in a show,” Maggiore said. “Maybe, they’ll bring the kids and they can take the kids to one of the great museums.”

Maggiore also wants Downtown Dining Weeks to encourage people to engage with downtown Syracuse. While there are no specific entertainment events linked with Dining Weeks – Maggiore says that individuals can plan their trip around the food, but then also see shows or sporting events while downtown.

“The goal is so they can to get experience not only the flavors you can taste from Downtown Dining Week but the sights and sounds and the whole downtown experience,” Maggiore said.

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Chris Gallero | Contributing Photographer

Downtown Dining Weeks has also incorporated giveaways into the fold of events. If customers can spot a hidden chef hat while dining out, all they need to do is snap a picture and email it to them to be entered into a daily drawing and potentially win a gift card to a restaurant.

Jessmore appreciates that Dining Weeks brings in more customers who are excited about eating.

“We look at it as kind of a marketing thing – new customers in for the first time will become regulars down the road,” Jessmore said.

For higher end restaurants like Aster Pantry & Parlor, Jessmore encourages customers to add a little extra to their meal.

“I think that people should be able to take advantage of it. They are saving money on the food aspect of it so they should take the opportunity to get that bottle of wine that might normally be out of their price range,” Jessmore said. “The money that they’re saving should be used to elevate their experience.”

Ultimately though, the goal of Downtown Dining Weeks is to get people to enjoy all of the opportunities that downtown Syracuse has to offer, Maggiore said, adding that she hopes visitors will come again.

“We’re just so happy that people are seeing downtown through new eyes and hopefully finding reasons to come back,” she said.

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