Syracuse is incredibly deficient when it comes to good coffee. My findings at most coffee purveryors in the area have been that, more often than not, I would have been better off staying home and saving my money. This is even despite having a few Gimme! accounts in the area - there's more miss than hit, despite the quality of those beans. I can't say I've been to every cafe in the area, so I may eat my words later on, but at this point in time, the only place I can recommend is Cafe Kubal. With three locations, you shouldn't have a difficult time finding your way to at least one of them.
Syracuse is not a behemoth city, but it's not tiny either. Smack dab in the middle of New York State, it served as a central hub for many years, before business in the city dwindled and choked, causing stagnation downtown and more widespread poverty. In more recent years, the collection of universities and well-intentioned citizens have helped rebuild parts of downtown and the surrounding suburbs. As it happens, Cafe Kubal has stepped forward to help revive the city, as owner Matt Godard has staked two new businesses on that very hope. Having started in the residential Eastwood neighborhood, Kubal has built a reputation of good quality coffee, roasted by Matt himself, servicing local resaurants and cafes, and of course residents of the Syracuse area. More recently, Kubal expanded to the Near West Side, a neighborhood that's struggled in the past, and is seeing some minor revivals. Kubal's second location here is built into the space at 601 Tully St., an art gallery that is focused on improving the local community and providing a safer bastion in the area.
Just before Christmas 2011, Kubal opened their third location in downtown Syracuse, near the always-bustling Armory Square. Plopped squarely at the ground level of the historic Deys Brothers building, on South Salina and Jefferson, the new downtown space is a hip, quality-focused space that would be quite at home in New York City, and truly is a gem here in Syracuse. The coffee quality is just as excellent as any of their other locations, featured here via Beehouse or Chemex pourovers, as well as their La Marzocco Linea espresso machine. I've become a bit of a regular here, a testament to the skill possessed by Kubal staff, which has included more well-known barista and trainer Chris Deferio, for about a year now. Apart from the delectable coffee offerings - I get an "Eastwood", basically a rebadged cortado served in a Gibraltar glass, usually adorned with a heart in a heart to signify the Village Within The City (Eastwood) - this coffee geek appreciates the warmth and friendliness of the staff, who never hesitate to indulge my coffee-related banter. I do my part not to take away from other customers, of course, and try not to "hog" the barista's attention. But counter chat is something you don't usually get around these parts, so Kubal's ability to provide that is a refreshing aspect of the environment they provide.
In short, while Syracuse has become more of a breeze-through town for folks on their way to Montreal or New York, it's worth a detour if you're hankering for good coffee, at least. Kubal provides quality on the level with many specialty cafes (I say this from experience, of course), and actively participates in refreshing what was once a more booming downtown life. They are easily my favorite downtown hangout, and in my experience, the best coffee outside my own kitchen (and likely beat my kitchen most days).
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