What makes a vibrant neighborhood? I believe it is when residents have a commitment to the place they live in; strong ties that bind but also bend when demographics shift and new needs arise. And, I firmly believe, the neighborhood has to serve the people in it with a selection of good restaurants, bars, and shops.
I think Eastwood in Syracuse fits the definition of a strong neighborhood. Friend M lives there, so I know a little about the place through my visits. There is an active neighborhood association that weighs in on development plans and works hard to coax builders to accommodate the streetscape.
There is the rejuvenated Palace Theater, a cultural icon for this village within the city limits. There are bars like Chadwick’s, a must-happen stop during our annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities. There is a skating rink and a nine-hole golf course.
Wife L and I visited Friend M a few weeks back for the YMCA Folksmarch walk that was held in the neighborhood. We all started at the Palace, which opened in 1922 and now serves as a venue for films, musical acts, and all kinds of gatherings.
It was fun to poke my head in the cavernous theater that was showing an old black and white film. There is a cafe adjoining the lobby, and an events room on the second floor. The aroma of freshly popped popcorn filled the lobby and a free sampling fueled our walk through the neighborhood.
Popcorn, though, can only go so far. So after our 5K stroll we gave serious consideration to lunch, and Friend M suggested one of his favorites: Ponchito’s Taqueria, on New Court Street.
Ponchito’s calls itself a roadside taqueria serving Latin American food. Friend M said there are lines out the door late weekend nights because the restaurant stays open until 3 a.m. I’m not sure how folks find it because it is definitely off the beaten path, but find it they do.
I discovered that it is just down the street from Hammi’s BBQ and Diner, which Unchained Restaurants reader Jennifer had just tipped me off to with a comment here on the blog. Next time we will stop in at Hammi’s, which has a sign that touts its Bacon Bomb. Not sure what that involves, but I know it merits further investigation.
Ponchito’s was just opening its doors when we trooped in. You order food at the counter and grab a bottled drink at the cooler. There are about seven tables and booths available. It’s spartan, and not a place where you would linger, but we were there to eat.
Unless you have been fasting for six weeks, do not order the Super Burrito. I ordered the regular burrito, and it was more than enough for me. You have a choice of fillings: ground beef, pork seasoned in beer broth, chicken, chili-rubbed steak or veggie. I ordered the ground beef, and watched as my monster burrito was filled with beans, salsa, cheese and a drop or three of hot sauce.
The warm tortilla was the perfect envelope for this heady concoction of flavor, all melding perfectly into a spicy, flavorful dish. Wife L and Friend M had a few tacos each, and the crunch from the corn tortillas was nonstop as they enjoyed each and every bite.
Ponchito’s is technically in the hamlet of Lyncourt, but is just one mile from Eastwood’s main drag, James Street, which is the neighborhood’s heart and soul. It one of several restaurants that add flavor to the neighborhood, and a worthy stop if you are traveling in the eastern edges of the ‘Cuse.