…Keeping the St. Patrick’s Day themed content rolling right along, this week, I met Big Hungry Patti, owner of the fabulous Shades of Orange kids art studio in Syracuse, for lunch in Syracuse’s Armory Square at Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub and Restaurant. I’ve brought you a few reviews from Armory Square, namely, the superb BC Restaurant and Bistro Elephant, but hadn’t ever stepped foot inside Kitty’s until this week. Frankly, I’ve eaten in a few chain Irish pubs, was really unimpressed with them, and didn’t think this spot would offer much more, until I saw it featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives last fall. Guy may be a little overwhelming and a lot shouty, but he sold me.
I’m not going to beat around the bush with my shillelagh stick, this was a fabulous meal. I don’t know how Irish it was. I had intended to get something much more traditional, like bangers and mash or corned beef, but the specials menu hatched a diabolical plot to divert my best intentions: pork belly. PORK BELLY! So yeah, I love bangers, I love lamb burgers, I love corned beef. But I don’t love any of those more than I love pig. It’s not my fault, you guys. BBQ pork belly with champ and delicious, buttery, pan-sautéed fresh veggies is a plate of food I cannot resist. And you know what? I’m glad I didn’t, because it was major.
Have we talked about pork belly enough by now that you know what it is? Basically, it’s what you make bacon out of, but if you buy the whole belly, you can braise it, smoke it, or apply a dozen other treatments to coax out different textures, flavors, and outcomes that can hit the notes of other cuts of pork while keeping enough fat content to avoid that dry pork chop fate. These two colossal slabs of belly were slathered in a BBQ sauce that I’m assuming was fortified with a beer of some kind, because it wasn’t cloyingly sweet like so many. And the texture of the meat was everything…tender, juicy, porky…like the thickest piece of bacon you’ve ever had, but without the salt cure. The champs, which are Ireland’s answer to mashed potatoes, were perhaps a tad smoother than I prefer mine, but the minced scallions gave them a very mild hint of the something-something they needed to be above average. And while the green bean, summer squash, and red bell pepper mix was perhaps pedestrian, it also was well-executed, well-seasoned, and well-portioned, so that I didn’t feel completely stuffed when I neared the end of eating.
Patti was craving grilled cheese, so she went with Naughton’s Irish Toastie sandwich. And once again, Kitty’s took something that should have been pretty ordinary: grilled ham, tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, and cheddar, on sourdough, and made it really, really good. The bread was thick cut and the ham was super high quality, tender, and complete with just a mere whisp of smoke flavor that sang with the milky, fresh mozzarella and somewhat more substantial cheddar. Patti, who is a total character, and whom I should feature in more posts, exclaimed, “It’s Naughton delicious. I want to live in this cheese!”
Alongside her sandwich, a cup of the soup of the day, chicken with white bean, was served. Again, I expected a run-of-the-mill bean soup, which doesn’t usually ring my bell. Oops: DING! The broth was enriched with ham, and was velvety, complex, and very deep. The whole of this dish was so much more satisfying than you would ever expect from a grilled cheese and ham sandwich with chicken soup. You just have to go and try it yourself. Patti said she hasn’t been to Kitty Hoynes in years, but will be making more of an effort to return in the future. So will I, Patti, so will I.
I couldn’t help it, I had to get dessert. Nevermind that I have to put on a cocktail dress this Saturday for a party with Miss America. I laugh in the face of calories! It wasn’t even that I was still hungry, but our food was so good, I just wanted more. Sometimes I worry about how greedy I am.
I’m almost relieved to tell you that this carrot cake was solid, but not especially remarkable. It was good, dense, moist, spicy but not overwhelmed by any one spice, and graced with delectable cream cheese frosting. Carrot cake is my favorite cake, and I would order this again, but it’s not in the farthest reaches of the upper echelon of cakes or anything. Thank God, because I didn’t feel pressured to eat the entire thing.
I’m not sure I’ve ever given this high a score to a joint after just having lunch there, but I’m going for broke on this one and giving Kitty Hoynes a nine on the BHS scale. The only drawbacks were the interior temperature (my hands were so cold, it was tough to eat) and our sort-of aloof waiter, who didn’t refresh our drinks often, and wasn’t in our dining room that much at all. The interior was very homey, authentically pub-like, and not too slick, like so many “modern gastropubs.” I just absolutely loved it here, and I recommend you hightail it to Syracuse for your own taste of Ireland post haste.
I’m heading down to Staten Island and Manhattan for Miss America’s Homecoming this weekend. I procured a sick dress, so I’m pretty excited. This is the first time my parents and I have been down there since Hurricane Sandy, so I’m eager to see how SI is doing, and you know I’ll find something interesting to eat. Meantime, hit up the comments, below, and share your favorite Syracuse eats. My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!