Revisiting The Stoop
By Gabrielle Reagan | Photography by Steven J. Pallone
The year is 1995. Clinton is president. Gillian Anderson, perpetually skeptical Agent Scully, is a sex symbol. And Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” is playing on loop in our collective consciousness. You pass through the front door at 311 W. Fayette St. and climb the narrow staircase to the painted floor of a little-known dive dubbed The Stoop, feeling both curious and expectant. Then, as if by magic, you feel far from Syracuse, a part of some cool secret.
For owner Eric Alderman and guests alike, that was the allure of The Stoop. It was beyond an ordinary bar or restaurant. It was an experience, a concept. It was as much a getaway as it was a gathering spot, an offering to the community. And, yes, there was a lot of tequila.
Predominately a margarita bar featuring a small galley kitchen and enchanting outdoor patio, The Stoop was a Syracuse staple before it closed in 2006. After that, the familiar Stoop sign hung, unlit, alongside the vacant building for more than a decade.
“I couldn’t sell it, or the building,” Eric said. “Deep down, I always knew I’d reopen someday.”
And, in October 2017, he did. The beloved eatery has returned as a reimagined and expanded version of itself: The Stoop Kitchen.
Playing at novelty and nostalgia, this hip and homey three-story restaurant boasts two unique bars, a bakery café, an expanded open kitchen and locally-sourced menus (brunch, bakery, bar and dinner) that shift with the seasons. The first floor is chic with cozy booths, a full bar and a small café, complete with a bright, canary yellow espresso machine. The second floor pays homage to the past, with The Stoop’s original painted floors and murals, tequila bar — now with 160 tequila options — and those same sought-after outdoor patio seats.
A crucial player in the restaurant’s rebirth is Syracuse native Abigail Henson, The Stoop Kitchen’s chief inspiration officer. Owner of former downtown eatery LoFo, Abigail is a farm-to-table restaurateur and conscious food advocate.
“I needed LoFo to sit on the back burner for a minute for this to live and breathe on its own,” Abigail said. “For me, LoFo is my daily message, but this is a different channel to engage the community in local food.”
Wanting to step back from the kitchen, Abigail put an ad on Craigslist and eventually connected with Sarah Hassler. Sarah, whose vision of food and community aligned with Abigail’s, is now The Stoop Kitchen’s executive chef. She works closely with more than 40 farms and farmers to ensure that 80 percent of the menu comes from within 50 miles of the restaurant.
Having grown up on a dairy farm, farm-to-table isn’t just a trend for Sarah. It’s in her blood.
“To me, it’s just the way you cook,” she explained. “I don’t think there’s any other way.”
Offering plenty of options for people with dietary restrictions, the menu strives for inclusiveness and showcases the seasons, as well as the talents of French baker Yemen Tounsi. Salads, small plates and entrees are all available, as well as cheese plates and charcuterie, including vegan cheese. Keep an eye out for the pumpkin lasagna and, Sarah’s personal favorite, traditional British pork pie. Visit the café for bread, pastries and coffee products by Ithaca’s Forty Weight Coffee Roasters.
The team is also planning a program called The Stoop Kitchen Give-It-Back Initiative.
Each year, The Stoop Kitchen plans to donate a portion of profits to local socially-motivated not-for-profits. They also plan to offer gathering space to groups and organizations that aim to further awareness of issues like conscious food and sourcing, ethical eating and nutrition, including LoFo.
“No other restaurant created a memory for me like The Stoop did,” Abigail said.
She described a message she remembered that was on the wall of the original restaurant. It was a story about family, friends and neighbors congregating, she said.
“It’s about a space to share stories, a place where traditions are born and legacies are built,” Abigail said. “I didn’t realize then, but the writing was literally on the wall.” SWM
The Stoop Kitchen is located at 311 W. Fayette St. in Syracuse. The Stoop Bakery Café is open 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekends. The restaurant serves dinner from 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays, with a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The bar menu is available 4 p.m. to close Wednesdays through Saturdays. Reservations are accepted. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 315-257-7000.