The area between Utica and Syracuse may seem like stretches of fields populated only by cows, but the small towns of Central New York offer some hidden gems that deserved to be discovered. Next time you’re on a drive along the Thruway or Route 5 and need a cup of coffee and a snack, skip the obvious franchise and try out a local independent cafe. Here are two fine examples that opened recently.
The HipStir Cafe
Conveniently located at 125 Farrier Ave. in Oneida, this coffee shop is close by the post office, banks, and other stops on your errand list if you live in the Oneida area. And if you’re passing through, it’s about 10 minutes from Thruway exit 33 and 5 minutes from Route 5.
The clever name and industrial decor, custom created by Industrial Loft in Cazenovia, together with jazzy tunes on the sound system weave a truly hip atmosphere. The menu features interesting mixes of flavors like the Seasonal Harvest Salad I had for lunch. Roasted butternut squash, cranberries, and apple slices gave the greens a fun twist.
The glass pastry case offers something for everyone from cinnamon buns full of butter, brown sugar, and cream cheese to the more health conscious gluten-free blueberry scones. Owner Jennifer DiGiorgio, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), makes all the pastries in house. Utica Coffee rounds out the local flavor.
Tables inside provide a cozy place to warm up with good coffee or hot chocolate this winter, and when the warmer weather returns, Jennifer says they plan to add sidewalk seating.
HipStir Cafe’s hours are Monday-Friday 7:00am-3:00pm and Saturdays 8:00am-2:00pm.
Center Street Market
Just off Peterboro Street at 106 Center Street in Canastota, this shop is only 5 minutes from Thruway exit 34 and about the same distance from Route 5. The cozy nook of a storefront is the place to stop in for coffee, soup, and sweets to go.
Another graduate of CIA, owner Marlene Parlow’s finest feature is her pies. Her very berry pie is power packed with fruity flavor. It was a big hit at our family Christmas celebration.
The day I stopped by she was whipping up handmade marshmallows. Soft and springy with none of that manufactured taste of the store-bought version, they are really worth a try.
Enjoy the cute small town atmosphere inside, and browse other locally made and grown food items on the shelves. Marlene’s motto is “Celebrating the bounty from our county,” so you’ll find eggs, butter, salsa, olive oil and lots of other items produced in Madison County.
On Thursdays. you can stop by Center Street Market to pick up some of the best bread around made by HeartStone Artisan Bakery at Alambria Springs Farm in Cazenovia. It’s so local they even use wheat grown in the area for their flour. It’s one of my favorites from the local summer farmer’s market.
Center Street Market is open Wednesday-Saturday 10:30am-6:00pm.