Not all the food we had on this trip need to be raised on their own commemorative pedestals, but Syracuse, NY, earned bonus points for providing us with not one, but two of the best meals of the week. That’s worth a single-entry shout-out.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Since 1999 Anne and I have taken one road trip each year to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. After years of contenting ourselves with everyday life in Indianapolis and any surrounding areas that also had comics and toy shops, we chucked some of our self-imposed limitations and resolved as a team to leave the comforts of home for annual chances to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.
For 2022 we wanted the opposite of Yellowstone. Last year’s vacation was an unforgettable experience, but those nine days and 3500 miles were daunting and grueling. Vermont was closer, smaller, greener, cozier, and slightly cooler. Thus we set aside eight days to venture through the four states that separate us from the Green Mountain State, dawdle there for a bit, and backtrack home…
To our relief Auburn was a mere 40 miles from our next evening base camp in Syracuse. Upon our last visit four years ago we’d stayed in their deserted downtown. This time we settled for the city limits conveniently off I-90, where traffic and Saturday night life were curiously nonexistent. We checked into the hotel, where the clerk was relaxing at a nearby table when we walked in. The room was fine, though their info binder hadn’t been updated in months. It featured ads for dead restaurants and a cable channel lineup that hadn’t rolled with the changes, such as Food Network being swapped out with BET.
Dinner was a few blocks south at Loded, a fast-casual burger joint opened in spring 2021 in the ruins of an erstwhile breakfast diner that now shone with a simulated youth-foodie radiance jarring against the surrounding farm-life biz. The tiny dining room only fit five tables and a barstool counter, encouraging takeout rather than loitering, though this didn’t stop a passel of white dudes from chitchatting in the parking lot for several minutes without buying anything.
Both our cheeseburgers were served on potato buns. At left is Anne’s, called Grandma’s Coglioni’s — topped with smashed meatballs (on top of the beef patties, not instead of), fried mozzarella, marinara, red pepper parmigiana sauce and a slice of non-fried mozzarella. At right is mine, the Bull-Go-Gi Smash Burger — all the same beef topped with fried pork belly, Korean barbecue sauce, sriracha-spiked frizzled onions, and a garlic scallion aioli. It was a lot. It was towering fork-and-knife fare. It was sinfully grade-A.
We returned to the hotel bloated and exhausted. It was time for Saturday movie night, a simple tradition the two of us began during the pandemic and have kept going whenever time permits. Sadly the best that cable TV could do for us was Uncle Buck, which we’d never seen because, despite what historians under 30 might think, not all us Gen-X-ers felt compelled to worship at the John Hughes altar. The film was likewise bloated and exhausting, very much a case of “you had to be there” that did us no good because we refused to be there at the time. Many other films did far better by the late John Candy, but his wee nemesis Macauley Culkin is the real driver at the wheel. Decades later we at long last understand why anyone thought Home Alone was a great idea on paper.
Sleep was spotty thanks to the noisy college-age white dudes in the room next door, though not the same loiterers from the Loded lot. This was not our favorite hotel. I eventually conked out after killing some time by slightly obsessing over the unfairness of Candy dying at 43, seven years younger than I am now.
DAY TWO: SUNDAY, JUNE 26th.
In the morning we drove a couple miles farther south to a cozy diner called Rise N Shine, whose menu had the same flashy, modern bent as Loded. Current owner Danielle Mercuri Campolito was a waitress who’d been hired in 2009 and took over in 2011 per the owner’s deathbed request. Not until after the fact did we learn she also owns Loded. It was a pleasant coincidence.
Anne’s meal is in our lead photo, a dish that’s apparently no longer available on their sometimes rotating menu. My selection, which is still around, was their Grilled Shrimp Po’Boy Benny — poached eggs on toasted croissant buns, topped with Bibb lettuce, herb tomato concasse, grilled shrimp and remoulade.
My only complaint: like quite a few other restaurants out there, despite the array of coffee paraphernalia you see in that pic up there, they didn’t serve decaf. Unfortunately the older I get, the more side effects I suffer whenever I try enjoying normal coffee more than once a week. What I once prized for brain performance boosts is now a thing I have to beware, like loudmouth youngsters or Uncle Buck.
To be continued!
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