By Larry Stansbury
Photos by Steven J. Pallone
Just across the street from the Landmark Theatre, there’s a place in the downtown Syracuse area that recreates the image of the old theater and honors the Syracuse orange colors. It’s also the place to honor its crowd with a wine and dine restaurant.
Oh My Darling opened two years ago and owners Ryan Benz and Leigh Ann Boatman Benz knew the building available
across the street from The Landmark Theatre was perfect for a restaurant to reflect the arts culture of Syracuse. This restaurant is the place for a perfect date night, drinks on the town, boozy brunches, big birthday bashes, and a work lunch. Obsessed with building a restaurant with a positive, empowering, and supportive culture, Oh My Darling dedicates to its every meal and moment.
“I have always appreciated the metropolitan style culture,” Leigh Ann Boatman Benz explained. “I think the culture of our restaurant attracts people who have like-minded appreciation for a space that is a bit more modern and open.”
The Benzes lived in New York City for seven and a half years. They returned home for the holidays every year with energy, however, and a feeling they could build something impactful for the community. Every time they came home to see their friends and family, it seemed that there was a want and need for a renaissance in downtown Syracuse. Their favorite childhood area needed grown and positive change; this is where they stepped up to create that future of downtown Syracuse. They moved back to Syracuse with their two-month-old and planned a restaurant from scratch, while nurturing their son through the process.
“We are both passionate and have our backgrounds in the arts,” Ryan said. “To know that a crowd could come wine and dine at our restaurant before or after a show was an exciting appeal to us.”
The concept of Oh My Darling, the Benzes thought about the image of the Syracuse orange and wanted to soften that to a
Clementine. The owners believed a clementine fits with the name of the restaurant. Fresh white colors with hints of light blue and light orange treasures the homage of Syracuse. The logo is structured like its sister company, Lee Lee’s Forest, a woman’s dress boutique in NYC, where they owned it for six and a half years. They brought that idea from the big city to Syracuse and wanted their visitors to feel that energy.
With its restaurant scene being incredible with a lot of long-standing followings, their brunch and dinner service has a coffee shop, Clementine, attached with a great cocktail bar, The Fitz, where cocktails are made with fresh juices. Their signature cocktail, the Clementine whiskey smash, is made with fresh Clementine juice and packs a good punch for a drink of the town. The Fitz is Oh My Darling’s 1920s-inspired speakeasy cocktail bar, featuring live music Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The upstairs is light and airy, with the ceilings low and space dark and intimate, so they can keep it in the 1920s style. The restaurant partners with The Landmark Theatre, Redhouse, and Syracuse Stage to host many of the shows’ cast parties down at The Fitz.
The restaurant is the New-American restaurant, with its signature dish, the Darling Burger, which has Pat LaFrieda beef, goat cheese croquette, onion jam on a toasted Portuguese muffin served with truffle fries. Other dishes are the rosemary hot honey chicken, shrimp + grits; the banana bread French toast and California avocado Benedict are the crowds favorites. Plus, the restaurant has a great children’s menu named after their one-and-a-half-year-old son called Oliver’s Corner, for the Syracuse families.
Oh My Darling is located at 321 S. Salina St. and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday, with brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner service from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, check out darlingsyr.com/ or call at (315) 290-3330.