The Best Hangout Spot In Armory Square: The Stoop Kitchen
As fate would have it, my constant search for the best hangout spot in Armory Square brought me most recently to The Stoop Kitchen. As soon as I walked in, I knew I’d be a regular at this place.
There is always someone there to greet you with a smile, and you don’t take many steps before the stunning pastry case demands your attention. Or maybe it was the smell of baking dough and the sound of the espresso machine that got me. It doesn’t matter what senses are alerted first, you’ll stop to take it all in.
A great hangout spot has something interesting going on throughout the day, and Stoop Kitchen doesn’t disappoint. On most mornings the bakery and café greet you with the smell of butter infused everything. Impressive rows different breads require you to sip a cortado while you try to narrow down the choices. Or maybe you’re trying to decide between savory or sweet pastries made by French Master Baker, Yemen Tounsi, who has been kneading and creating these specialties since age 12.
Natural light streams into the back room where there is a communal table and extra seating on either side of the room, including a rich yellow banquette that invites a leisurely hang out.
The Stoop Kitchen seems like a familiar hangout to some locals, and yet, when you walk through the door, it feels like you’re in another city. More than the layout and the rich colors and eye-popping accents, the personality of the space makes you feel like you’re in a cafe in Brooklyn or even in Europe. Only the restaurant is spacious, unlike some hangouts you find in your favorite mega city. It stretches with ease to the back room, not lacking for windows, but offering a view of the alley.
There are places in Syracuse that create a similar feeling. Sitting in Apizza Regionale has the vibe of a popular spot for locals on the outskirts of Siracusa. The back patio of Francesca’s attracts locals to Brooklyn on North Salina Street, with the lights strung around the pergola. The Stoop Kitchen however, is a hangout that is unlike anything the Syracuse community has seen before.
Building On A Vision
Eric Alderman, the owner of The Stoop Kitchen loves color. The yellow espresso machine is a cheerfully contrasts with the bakery wall painted Oceanus, a shade of aquamarine. The color palette Alderman chose elegantly blends the caramel leather booths, the camel-colored leather bar stools, and the copper bar top with the original brick that he had excavated 20 years ago.
“We refer to the front booths as the ‘clams’ because of their shape,” said Alderman. “I wanted the first image seen when one walked in as warm, comfortable and cozy—which the clams are—in color and fabric, embraced from their shape.”
Jennissa Hart is a notable artist in the region and the front of house manager at The Stoop Kitchen. She added her creative touch by helping to paint the restaurant as the designs came together. “I designed everything, but when it came to the wall colors, I did show them to Jennissa to get her input, as she has a great eye for color,” said Alderman.
Once the walls were painted, he searched for the different sconces and pieces to highlight the sections even more, while tying together the lighting and color schemes. “Believe or not, it came out exactly how I envisioned it before I started,” said Alderman.
A Welcoming State of Mind
“Welcome” is the theme written into the dishes on the menu, laid out in the floor plan, and embodied by the Stoop Kitchen team. The people who greet you and serve you make you feel like you’ve been a regular for years. Abigail Henson, Stoop Kitchen’s Chief Inspiration Officer, brought her experience of running another Armory Square restaurant LoFo, to this place.
Alderman and Henson talked about collaborating when he was thinking about re-opening this location as a new version of The Stoop. That original restaurant was a popular spot, but Alderman decided to close it after struggling to find the right pairing of management and staff while also balancing another full-time job.
History in the Details
Alderman and the team made sure they kept some of the personality of their previous restaurants. The upstairs bar stools are the same, and the walls are covered with the old posters and murals that are sure to invoke memories for those who frequented The Stoop.
But this is definitely a new place. You see that in the ornate light fixtures that illuminate the bakery case. They are theater lights that are over 100 years old that Alderman has owned for decades.
“Eric had them in his basement for 20 years, waiting for this moment” says Henson. Alderman bought the lights at an auction in Cortland, New York but the fixtures were originally from a theater in Ithaca. “He kept talking about these lights,” says Henson. “He knew they were going to fit into a space and he imagined it would be this place.”
Oh Yeah, The Food
Stoop Kitchen’s executive chef is Sarah Hassler who previously worked at Veraisions at Glenora Wine Cellars, in the Finger Lakes wine country. She understands the importance of seasonal food and using the freshest produce from the surrounding community.
Hassler looked at previous menus from The Stoop and LoFo as she developed recipes for the new restaurant, balancing traditional and modern techniques. The focus on locally-sourced and seasonal products imbues everything on the menu, even while it references the partner’s long history in the region. “She knew the value and the energy of having farmers come to your back door,” says Henson. “It’s about how two hands can essentially touch a community because of the food they made.”
The new restaurant has only been open since October 4, and they’re continuing to refine their process as first-time guests and regulars continue to give feedback.
Feedback and reviews from guests continue to affirm that The Stoop Kitchen has already made an impression. “They love the service, and the ambience and vibe of the very different first and second floors,” said Alderman. “I am so pleased that people have appreciated what we are attempting to bring from the menu to the food, to the bars and the bakery.”
Whether you visit downstairs sitting at the bar—with the most cushion-y bar stools I have ever sat on—choose a table, or go upstairs to see the Tequila bar, you have options for your hang out. No need to feel indecisive on where to sit or what to taste. You’ll be back.