10 Totally CNY Foods, Regional Dishes

Every city or region has cuisine that developed over time, often thanks to the cultures represented in that area or the available agricultural bounty. Central New York is no different – we have several delicious regional dishes we’re known for, so tuck in for some totally CNY foods!

bowl of hot tomato oil a CNY regional food

Spicy Hot Tomato Oil
Use this addicting oil as a condiment, bread dip or pasta sauce. Pastabilities, the downtown Syracuse staple where the sauce originated, and the oil were featured on the Food Network. The restaurant itself is always worth a trip, but if you can’t get there, the “Hot Tom” is sold online. Where to eat it:
Pastabilities, 311 S. Franklin Street, Syracuse

plate of utica greens a CNY regional dish

Utica Greens
Find this regional fare in the appetizer section of many local menus. Utica Greens are an Italian American dish made of sautéed greens, including escarole, hot peppers, cheese, breadcrumbs, and fried prosciutto. Greens emerged from home kitchens when Joe Morelle tweaked the dish and put it on the menu at Chesterfield’s in the 1980s. Where to eat it:
Chesterfield’s Tavolo, 131 N. Genesee Street, Utica

box of tomato pie a CNY regional dish

Tomato Pie
A tomato pie isn’t actually a pie, and it isn’t pizza, either. It has a thick, doughy — sometimes described as focaccia-like — crust cut into squares, tomato sauce and a dusting of Parmesan and Romano cheeses and a bit of oregano. The delicacy is typically served cold or at room temperature. Tomato pie evolved from a recipe that Southern-Italian immigrants brought with them. It is extremely difficult to find this outside Central New York (particularly Utica) and the Northeastern US. Where to eat it:
Napoli’s Italian Bakery, 412 Culver Avenue, Utica

close up of grill with CNY regional food hofmann hot dogs and snappy grillers

Hofmann hot dogs at Heid’s
They’re not just hot dogs. Hofmann Sausage Company’s history in Syracuse dates all the way back to 1861 when a German immigrant and his family moved to the area bringing special sausage recipes with him. The family opened a wholesale and retail meat market in 1879. Since 1917, Heid’s of Liverpool has served these special hot dogs grilled on a flat grill and with condiments like their house mustard. Whether they’re red (franks) or white (coneys), the spices in these dogs make them unlike any other. Where to eat it:
Heid’s of Liverpool, 305 Oswego Street, Liverpool

CNY food regional dish chicken riggies

Chicken Riggies
Another tangy example of regional dishes that originated in the Utica/Rome area features rigatoni pasta, chicken, hot or sweet peppers all coated in a creamy, spicy tomato sauce. Many Italian restaurants in the area feature this entree, but try Teddy’s in Utica, who is a Riggie Fest Hall of Fame Member, voted #1 in Utica’s Riggie Fest three years in a row. Where to eat it:
Teddy’s, 851 Black River Boulevard N., Rome

bowl of salt potatoes with melted butter CNY food regional dish

Salt Potatoes
A perfect example of an immigrant culture influencing local cuisine for generations to come. Salt potatoes originated with the Irish immigrants who worked in the area as salt miners. Workers would bring small potatoes for lunch and boil them in the salt brine they were bringing up from underground. This simple side dish involves boiling small/new potatoes in heavily salted water and dousing them in melted butter. Where to eat it:
Bob’s Barbecue, 5290 State Route 281, Homer

CNY food specialty Cornell chicken barbecued

Cornell Chicken
You can only get Cornell Chicken in one place, one time of the year. During the annual New York State Fair from late August to Labor Day, Baker’s Chicken Coop BBQ serves a specially marinated grilled chicken invented by a professor of poultry science at Cornell University. Seventy years ago, Dr. Robert C. Baker experimented with and published a method for the perfect way to barbecue chicken. Cornell Chicken isn’t just about the special sauce: a vinegary, salty sauce that produces crispy skin without burning and absorbs deeper into the meat than tomato-based sauces. The cooking method with charcoal-fueled fire pits, large metal turning racks and a basting process is just as integral. Where to eat it:
Baker’s Chicken Coop, 581 State Fair Boulevard, Syracuse

packages of black and white half moon cookies a CNY food

Half Moon Cookies
Look to the cookie: a cake cookie base, typically vanilla, though sometimes chocolate, topped with thick, fluffy layers of white buttercream on one side and chocolate fudge frosting on the other. These popular frosted cookies were first introduced to the world by Utican Harry B. Hemstrought. The recipe has not changed since 1920 and you can still get them fresh at Hemstrought’s Bakeries or have them shipped. Many local bakeries make their own variation. Where to eat it:
Hemstrought’s Bakeries, 900 Oswego Street, Utica

door of nora's candy shop home of CNY regional dish turkey joints

Turkey Joints
Despite the name — and the fact that it’s a seasonal treat often given as gifts during Thanksgiving and Christmas — this confection has nothing to do with a bird. Invented in Rome, NY, the pale sugar-coated “bones” have a filling of chocolate and “joints” of Brazil nuts or hazelnuts. Nora’s Candy Shop, the creator of the candy, has been making these since 1919. Due to the nature of the outer shell, the unusual treat can only be shipped from October through May to ensure freshness. Nora’s also has other varieties in addition to their original recipe. Where to eat it:
Nora’s Candy Shop, 321 N. Doxtator Street, Rome

pints of wine infused ice cream a CNY food

Wine Ice Cream
When you have access to farm fresh dairy products and award-winning Finger Lakes wines, the natural next step is to combine the two. Mercer’s Dairy was the first to introduce wine ice cream. They began with a Port flavor and expanded to 10 wine-infused varietals. Others have since followed suit, including Owera Vineyards. Where to eat it:
Mercer’s Dairy, 13584 Route 12, Boonville
Owera Vineyards, 5276 East Lake Road, Cazenovia

Whether you’re here for a short visit or becoming one of us, you don’t want to miss these CNY foods, regional dishes we can’t live without.