An off-season survey of Sylvan Beach


I’m an off-season kind of guy. I like people, for the most part, but not too many people in the same place at the same time. 

Places that thrive in summer, brimming with energy, take on a completely different personality in winter when a blanket of solitude and stillness wraps the place up tight. 

In CNY, we have our little amusement-park haven in Sylvan Beach, the village tucked tight against the east side of Oneida Lake. The amusement park recently underwent a bit of an overhaul, and there are longtime restaurants like Yesterday’s Royal and Eddie’s that draw big crowds when the sun is shining and families are looking to relax after having spent the day on the mini roller coaster or on the village beach or at Verona Beach State Park.

Picnic tables at ease along Oneida Lake

When Wife L and I took a ride to Sylvan Beach last weekend, the only folks around were fishing on the frozen Oneida Lake. It was sparse. It was a bit startling to see the washed-out landscape that is the lake when it’s covered in ice and the skies are overcast. Not much color can be found as you look out on this big body of water.

The village itself was closed up pretty tightly, with all the main restaurants closed for now.  Hungry, we went south of the village and were going to seek out Flo’s Diner on Route 31, which several Unchained Restaurant readers have suggested to me. But first we came across Johnnie’s Pier 31, and we popped in to give it a look.

This restaurant and marina has been family owned since 1954. Inside, the dining room is very clean though maybe a tad dated.

The mandatory fake swordfish filled most of one wall, and sea-evoking trinkets lined the window sills. A nice mini fireplace gave the room a nice burst of warmth.

We both ordered haddock sandwiches with steak fries. Both of us were glad we did. The fish was sweet and nicely breaded, some of the best we’ve had in a while. The side fries were the perfect accompaniment.

We enjoyed looking out on the lake from the big windows lining the dining room and the bar. Walking through the bar area I saw another couple enjoying what looked like a great plate of chicken wings, which the restaurant was promoting.

I admit to being distracted by the TV showing the Syracuse Orange hanging on in the final minutes of a Big East game against a very tough West Virginia squad.  Even Coach Boeheim seemed happy with the result.

Just like the coach, we were happy with our weekend game plan as we finished our meal and headed back home.

Oneida Lake

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