The spirit of Irish hospitality was very much on display on a recent Friday evening visit to Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub and Restaurant in Armory Square. While parking our car on West Fayette Street, we were involved in a minor traffic incident. Once we settled matters out front, we walked in and were seated almost immediately. We had barely sat down when our waiter was table-side to check on us and take our drink order, remarking that we could probably use something to take the edge off.
Ancient Irish law once required all households to offer some level of hospitality to visitors, even if they were strangers. The homeowner was obligated to offer food, drink, a place to sleep and entertainment to visitors. In return, the guests minded their manners and delivered stories and songs.
Thus "cead mile failte," translated literally as "a hundred thousand welcomes," became a common Irish phrase, and hospitality a way of Irish life.
At Kitty Hoynes, the tradition lives on. The superior level of service was something we noticed throughout the dining room. Waitstaff went out of their way to explain dishes and answer questions about dietary allergies. Glasses rarely went dry and dishes were cleared without question or wait. The servers had a keen sense of when and if to make conversation, detecting whether diners were chatty or reserved.
Frankly, it was one of the finest service operations we have witnessed in the local dining scene.
And the food was of equal quality.
Kitty Hoynes has a dozen craft beers on tap, in addition to the more well-known national brands. We started with a pint of Juice Bomb ($8), a India Pale Ale from Sloop Brewing Company in Columbia County. Juice Bomb is a Northeast IPA, a hazy, juicy variant of the hoppy IPA. The strawberry mule ($12), a seasonal drink on the menu, was one of many made with Irish whiskey. In this variation on the vodka and ginger beer cocktail, Irish whiskey and ginger beer join strawberries and muddled citrus fruit. The bar menu features 45 different Irish whiskies, including multiple single malt and reserves.
A basket of Irish soda bread was delivered shortly after the drinks arrived. The house-baked bread was dense and crumbled easily. A plethora of raisins imparted sweetness, which complimented the side of creamy butter well.
Kitty Hoynes offers an Irish twist on the traditional charcuterie plate ($15) with Irish sausage, glazed pork belly, Irish cheddar cheese, Cashel blue cheese and smoked salmon with sides of tomato relish and whole grain mustards. The dry Irish cheddar was rich and full-bodied, balancing the funky, creamy Cashel blue.
The banger had a rich pork flavor, as did the pork belly. The latter was the star of the platter. Two cubes of pork belly were Guinness and maple glazed and grilled until just crispy, rendering a salty and sweet product.
For our entrees, we opted for more traditional Irish fare.
Kitty Hoynes makes its own Irish bangers, a traditional sausage made with pork, eggs and breadcrumbs. For the bangers and mash ($13), three of the house bangers are served over Irish champ with Guinness-onion gravy. The sausage was robustly flavored with a slight kick of hot pepper at the end. It was balanced nicely against the champ, a type of mashed potato preparation made with scallions, which was earthy and full of savory notes. The gravy imparted a salty flavor akin to a thicker French onion soup, balancing the entree's savory features.
The kitchen smokes its own corned beef brisket for its sandwiches, including a Reuben ($11) and a massive corned beef sandwich ($12). We went with the corned beef -- a 3- to 4-inch stack of lean corned beef topped with cheddar and arugula on bread with Guinness mustard. We ordered the spicy coleslaw on the side and let the smoke and spices do the heavy lifting. It's not exaggerating to call it the best corned beef we have had outside of New York City.
Dessert was on our mind, namely the strawberry shortcake special featuring strawberries marinated in liquor. Before we could order, our waiter delivered a slice of creamy cheesecake with two shots of Irish cream liqueur courtesy of the hostesses that witnessed our traffic issue earlier in the evening.
The cheesecake was a generous gesture and the final punctuation mark on an evening that started with a hundred thousand welcomes after an unlucky incident when we arrived.
Kitty Hoynes' reputation for high-quality service and food is not just something that was earned. At Kitty Hoynes, it remains the law.
The Restaurant: Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub & Restaurant, 301 W. Fayette St., Syracuse, NY 13202; 315-424-1974.
Access to Disabled? Yes
Credit Cards? Yes.
Vegetarian Options and Allergy Information? Vegetarian menu options are available. The menu offers a disclaimer about food allergens. A gluten-free menu is also available by request.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost: Two people could have brunch for $30 to $50. For our visit, we sampled as much of the menu as was reasonable. Dinner for two with beverages, tax and 20 percent tip was $95.60.