Creamy & Dreamy Food Stops Upstate

(5 / 5)

Whether chowing down on buffalo wings from a roadside food truck, sinking your teeth into a fresh-from-the-bakery grape pie, or indulging your inner 10-year-old with a sprinkle-smothered ice cream sundae—Upstate New York is full of foodie delights. So much so that it even has its own food trail, the 225-mile Upstate Eats Trail, which winds its way through Western and Central New York.

Including all four Upstate Eats cities and much more, these 10 food stops are the pantry staples of any foodie’s Upstate itinerary. Enjoy them as a single serving on a day trip or devour them during an epically tasty cross-state trip.

Step by step method

  • #1 Buffalo

    The home of the ubiquitous buffalo wing has long boasted Mecca status among die-hard foodies. This waterfront city is a melting pot of culinary vibes, from its time-tested food trucks and backstreet pizzerias to the National Buffalo Wing Festival, held over Labor Day weekend.

  • Several Buffalonian restaurants come with iconic status. First stop is the Anchor Bar, the birthplace of the buffalo-style wing, followed by Schwabl’s to taste Buffalo’s signature ‘beef on weck’ sandwich, and Parkside Candy for a fizzle-in-the-mouth dessert of sponge candy. Swing by Ted’s Hot Dogs before you hit the road—their foot-long charcoal broiled hot dogs are street food nirvana.

  • On the Menu:

    Beef on weck Buffalo wings Sponge candy Pizza Fried fish

  • #2 Rochester

    NY State’s third-largest city places innovation high on its priority list, and Rochester’s foodie scene follows suit. The prize for Rochester’s most beloved dish goes to the Garbage Plate, a traditional ‘hots and potatoes’ mash-up that’s best enjoyed with an empty stomach and a hearty appetite. You’ll find versions of the garbage plate served around the city, but for the original, hit up Nick Tahou Hots.

  • If street food snacking is more your style, you can’t go wrong with a Rochesterian hot dog (‘white hot’) or burger (‘ground round’)—Bill Gray’s, Don’s Original, and Schaller’s make them the old-fashioned way. Alternatively, grab some brunch from Rochester Public Market, then wash it down with a pint at Genessee Brewing Company, the oldest continually operating brewery in the United States. Save space for dessert, too: Abbott’s Frozen Custard is heavenly, and the unique recipe has been Rochester’s best-kept secret since 1902.

  • On the menu:

    Garbage plates, White hots, Ground rounds, Frozen custard

  • #3 Naples

    Italianate architecture and a passion for grapes nod to this town’s European namesake, and this Finger Lakes town makes a worthy detour for dessert-loving foodies. Wine tasting tours are popular, but the real highlight of the grape harvest is the town’s legendary grape pie. Celebrate the legacy of the ‘grape pie capitol’ during the annual Naples Grape Festival (typically held over the last weekend of September), which kicks off fall pie season.

  • Monica’s Pies is the pick of the bunch, where the award-winning grape pies are made with slow-baked Concord or Catawba grapes, while Cindy’s Grape Pies do a red grape variation, along with grape cookies and cakes. Pair it with a sweet dessert wine, and don’t feel guilty about going back for seconds.

  • On the menu:

    A double-serving of grape pie

  • #4 Syracuse

    If you’re a fan of crispy fries, buttery mash, and rosemary-infused slow-roasted potatoes, then here’s another potato classic to add to the list—the humble ‘salt potato’. This Syracuse staple dates back to the 19th century when Irish salt-mine workers would boil up small potatoes in brine from the mines.

  • Get a taste of this ‘Salt City’ delicacy by ordering a side at Bull and Bear Roadhouse or pair them with some ribs at Dinosaur BBQ. Other must-eats in Syracuse include the epic ‘Meatball in a Heel’ from Columbus Baking Company (imagine Italian meatballs, complete with spaghetti sauce and cheese… in a sandwich) and Cornell barbecue chicken, the star dish of the city’s annual Great New York State Fair.

  • On the menu:

    Salt potatoes, Meatball in a Heel, Cornell barbecue chicken

  • #5 Binghamton

    This buzzing college town provides a hearty serving of riverside walks, parks, and museums to help you work up an appetite. Come with an empty stomach as Binghamton cuisine is equally hearty. Local specialties include the ‘spiedie’, a grilled marinated meat sandwich (traditionally, lamb)—get yours at Lupo & Char Pit and perhaps pick up a bottle of Classic Italian Spiedie Marinade to take home with you as a souvenir.

  • Next up is a bowl of hand-made spaghetti from the Little Venice Restaurant , which has been cooking up its famous Italian sauce since 1946, followed by a ‘hot pie’ from Consol’s (that’s pizza to non-Binghamtonians). Wash it all down with a craft beer from the Beer Tree Brew Co, then carry the fun through to an apple-waffle brunch at the Apple Dumpling Café.

  • On the menu:

    Spiedies, Italian food, Hot pie

  • #6 Ithaca

    Hemmed in by cascading waterfalls and forested gorges, food will probably be the last thing on your mind when you arrive in Ithaca. Thankfully, the culinary offerings in this Finger Lakes getaway are just as enticing as the natural scenery. Ithaca Farmer’s Market is the town’s foodie hotspot, where you can fill up on street food, while eateries of choice include Moosewood Restaurant , the holy grail of vegetarian cuisine, and the Ithaca Beer Co , where farm-to-table cuisine meets local craft brews.

  • Leave space for dessert because Ithaca’s greatest claim-to-fame is its title as the ‘Birthplace of the Ice Cream Sundae’, and what better excuse to grab a spoon? You’ll find ice cream parlors all around town, but our vote goes to Purity, which has been scooping and sprinkling since 1936.

  • On the menu:

    Ice cream sundae

  • #7 Utica

    If your fudge-swirled sprinkle-topped sundae got the dessert ball rolling, let your sweet tooth lead the way to the next stop on our ultimate foodie road trip: Utica. This Mohawk Valley city is renowned for its baked goods, and its signature sweet treats make ideal snacking for hungry travelers.

  • Pick up some ‘pusties’ or ‘pasticciotti’, Italian-style single-serving pies filled with chocolate, fruits, or seasonal flavors such as pumpkin. The family-run Florentine Pastry Shop has been baking them since 1928, and you can also grab a bag of Half Moon cookies—these ubiquitous half-chocolate, half-vanilla frosted cookies are a Utica icon, dating all the way back to the early 20th century.

  • On the menu:

    Pusties, Half-moon cookies, Utica greens, Chicken Riggies

  • #8 Saratoga Springs

    Horse racing and wellness spas put Saratoga Springs on the map, but this Adirondacks gateway also has some eclectic eating habits. Fill up on clam, corn, chicken, and every other variety of chowder imaginable at the annual Saratoga Chowderfest (Jan/Feb), feast on southern soul food at the ever-popular Hattie's Restaurant, or indulge in seasonal specialties like warm apple pie from The Bread Basket Bakery and festive Peppermint Pigs™ from Saratoga Candy Co.

  • Saratoga Springs also lays claim to the invention of the potato chip—pick up a bag to go or head to the West Side Sports Bar on Broadway to feast on fried Calamari with a side of fresh-cut Saratoga chips.

  • On the menu:

    Chowder, Southern fried chicken, Apple pie, Saratoga potato chips, Peppermint Pigs™

  • #9 Kingston

    Albany and Hudson often top the list of the Hudson Valley’s culinary hubs, but New York’s first capital has undergone a foodie renaissance in recent years. Variety is king at this Catskills-meets-Hudson-River hang-out. Italian eateries serve up the classics (try Frank Guido’s Little Italy and  Stella’s ), atmospheric French cafés bring a touch of bourgeois (Le Canard Enchaine is our pick), and award-winning cocktails are mixed up at Stockade Tavern.

  • An added bonus: this town serves some of NY State’s best Chinese cuisine—local favorites include Eng’s Restaurant and Wing Shui.

  • On the menu:

    Escargots, French onion soup, Chinese cuisine, Cocktails

  • #10 Plattsburgh

    Perched on the shores of Lake Champlain, just a half-hour drive from the Canadian border and a short cruise from Vermont, Plattsburgh warrants a substantial detour from the rest of our foodie voyage. This remote city still deserves an honorable mention, though.

  • Hands-down, the city’s most iconic eat is the meat-sauce-and-onion-smothered Michigan hot dog, which owes its humble beginnings to local institution Clare and Carl's Hot Dog Stand. Plattsburgh is also the best place to try classic Canadian poutine (gravy and cheese curd-topped French fries) without crossing the border. Order a plate to share from Olive Ridley's or Our House Bistro.

  • On the menu:

    Michigan hot dogs, Poutine