Skip to content

9 Out-of-the-Way Stops for Obama’s New York-Penn Tour

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — President Barack Obama visits Central New York and Northeast Pennsylvania on Thursday and Friday. Good choice. Still in the midst of our August vacation/Minor League Baseball odyssey here, Roll Call After Dark has some suggestions for where to hang out, eat and drink for the chief executive.

  • Charlie The Butcher’s Kitchen — Obama can avoid the sticky situation of choosing among Buffalo’s many chicken wing emporiums and head to Charlie’s for the sui generis sandwich Calvin Trillin once referred to as the sadly misunderstood Beef on Weck — tender, rare roast beef on a kummelweck roll with au jus and horseradish.(1065 Wehrle Drive, Williamsville, N.Y.)
  • The Sound Garden — Very few record stores have as much cool, well-priced music, movies and books than this Syracuse institution. In an increasingly digital world, vinyl is doing great business and giving stores that held on through the darkest years, like The Sound Garden, a revitalized cultural presence. While the sister store in Baltimore was named one of the best record stores in the country a few years back by Rolling Stone, the Syracuse store is bigger and a bit grittier. It also did that rarest of things: fought city hall and won. Faced with the prospect of being subject to regulations meant for pawn shops and having to possibly leave the city, a grass-roots movement prevailed upon the Syracuse Common Council to hammer out a compromise. A small-business success story! (310 Jefferson St., Syracuse, N.Y.)
  • Dinosaur BBQ — This venerable barbecue and honky tonk/biker bar/family restaurant is spreading throughout the Northeast, with locations now as far away as Brooklyn, N.Y. But the original set up shop here in 1988, and its outlawish, kinky vibe makes it a great place to attack a plate of smoked, cured meat. (246 W. Willow St., Syracuse, N.Y.)
  • Empire Brewing Company — The president has shown his interest in brewing beer. First lady Michelle Obama has shown her intense interest in the locavore movement, getting food from nearby sustainable sources. Empire, located just a few steps from The Sound Garden, is the perfect marriage of the two — local beer and a menu largely derived from ingredients from local farms. (120 Walton St., Syracuse, N.Y.)
  • Syracuse Chiefs — On the day Obama is scheduled to be here, Aug. 22, the Chiefs, the Washington Nationals’ AAA affiliate, will host the Charlotte Knights at 7 p.m. Yes, it could be a busy time. The New York State Fair opens that day here. But consider Obama’s connections to both teams. The Chiefs are the top affiliate for his current D.C. home’s team. The Knights are the same for the Chicago White Sox, Obama’s favorite team from back home. (1 Tex Simone Drive, Syracuse, N.Y.)

Chiefs 2nd Baseman Danny Espinosa signs autographs for fans. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call.)
Chiefs Second Baseman Danny Espinosa signs autographs for fans. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
  • River Read Books — Downtown Binghamton, N.Y., can be a bit bleak. But this independent bookstore is one of the green shoots of life there. Located along the river walk, with a great selection of New York sports books. (5 Court St., Binghamton, N.Y.)
  • Sharkey’s Restaurant — Sharkey’s specialty dish, the spiedie, is not to be missed at this Binghamton tavern. The spiedie, grilled kabobs served in Italian bread, goes well with the cheap beer and hearty Central European fare, like stuffed cabbage and pierogies. A favorite of the Roadfood gang, Jane and Michael Stern. (56 Glenwood Ave., Binghamton, N.Y.)
  • Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders — More Minor League Baseball! During Obama’s visit, the New York Yankees’ AAA affiliate will be taking on the Pawtucket Red Sox, the top farm club for the Boston Red Sox. Given how tense the most recent Yanks-Sox series was (playoff jockeying, A-Rod plunking, etc.), it’s a great time to head to PNC Field to take in one of the minor league system’s gleaming new parks and to check out one of its more confounding mascots, the RailRiders’ nutria-like, lightning bolt-adorned rodent. (235 Montage Mountain Rd, Moosic, Pa.)
  • Glider Diner — Scranton, as we’re often reminded by its native son, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., is a proud, tough town. One of the great measures of such towns is the quality of the diners. The Glider Diner is a great choice. It’s big, has all the classic diner fare, and also does right by local specialties like the porketta sandwich. (890 Providence Road, Scranton, Pa.)