(In First look, we quickly pay a visit to a new restaurant or bar in central New York City to give readers an idea of what to expect. Our food critics could possibly visit these places and give us their opinion, but we want to highlight the novelties in our region. If you know of a new place, send an email to [email protected] or call / text me on 315-382-1984. If I take your suggestion, I might just buy you a meal.)
Syracuse, NY – Over the past 22 years, Mike Bolognone has delivered premium coffee to hundreds of businesses in downtown New York City for his father’s distribution company. It makes sense that his first experience in the restaurant business was serving the perfect pastry to dip in this cafe.
The Koffee King Cafe opened its doors a few weeks ago at 3712 New Court Ave. in Lyncourt, in the building that once housed Bob’s Barkers’ brick-and-mortar hot dog stand. Mike and his wife, Rebekah, had been talking for years about opening a cafe that would serve him pastries, sandwiches and soups. Earlier this year he went to the office on Townline Road and noticed that the building was for sale.
Mike and Rebekah closed the property in April. They painted the entrance, built a catering counter using discarded wine barrels, and scraped years of grease off the kitchen equipment. While restoring the interior of the cafe, they opened an ice cream stand at the left front of the store on July 2. They serve milkshakes, floats and cones, using locally made Byrne Dairy hard ice cream.
The building is now fully open with five tables inside that can accommodate up to 18 indoor clients. They also have picnic tables in the outdoor patio and a drive-through window.
Throughout the summer, Rebekah worked on perfecting her recipes for coffee. She’s developed a breakfast pizza, chocolate peanut butter banana bread, grilled sandwiches, and soups that fill the belly.
The signature dish here, however, is the Gooey Buns.
Mike grew up in Syracuse eating the sticky buns his grandmother made every weekend. Rebekah’s family side in southern New Jersey had their own cinnamon bun recipe passed down from her great-grandmother. Rebekah spent months mixing the two recipes together until she found the perfect blend.
“I’m in love with the product,” Mike said. “Seriously, these are special. They take so long to make, but it’s totally worth it in the end.
You might think that making sticky buns is nothing more than mixing flour, sugar, cinnamon and water and throwing them in an oven.
It takes Samantha Kelly, their Managing Director and Head Pastry Chef, three hours to bake a batch of 30 to 48 buns each morning. “That’s why other people don’t make them,” Rebekah said. “It takes so long for the dough to rise that most people give up.”
The homemade dough recipe comes from Rebekah’s family side. Mike’s great-grandmother, Malvina, would put melted butter on the dough, under the cinnamon and sugar.
You must try …
Sticky buns ($ 3.19): A typical sticky bun from a bakery or supermarket weighs 2-3 ounces. Those at the Koffee King Cafe are anything but typical. I think I understood why they call them Gooey Buns here: the syrupy frosting thinks serves as a binder for the five rings of cinnamon dough rather than a thin, hard sugar frosting.
One of these 6 inch breakfast pastries weighs 9½ ounces, more if you order one with nut and / or cream cheese frosting. This baked yeast yeast dough is heavier than five scrambled eggs, and it’s way tastier.
You will need a large cup of their Paul de Lima medium roast coffee to wash it down. The coffee is fresh and complements the bun well without detracting from its flavor.
TRICK: Make sure you have a knife. These buns are so dense that without a fork, it’ll be like eating an extra-long fried pizza at the State Fair. This is a good thing.
Sausage and Cream Cheese Soup ($ 4.99): Koffee King offers a creamy tomato soup and this tasty soup every day. It just happens to be Mike’s favorite. It’s better since Rebekah came up with the recipe.
The soup has a base of chicken broth with heavy cream and cream cheese. She adds diced onions, garlic and tomatoes before adding ground Italian Gianelli sausage and Parmesan cheese.
I used it as a dip for my fried bologna sandwich. The buttered bun absorbed the meat broth so well. It has proven to be the perfect comfort bowl for this time of year.
Fried Bologna Sandwich ($ 5.99): This is one of the few restaurants in the area that serves such a sandwich, and that’s a shame. We’re not talking about a slice of Oscar Mayer’s lunch meat between two slices of Wonder Bread reheated in a microwave.
Mike fry seven thin slices of premium deli meats in hot vegetable oil while he toasts a buttery potato roll. Again, that’s what Malvina made her for lunch as a child. “It’s always been my favorite sandwich,” he says.
While Mike prefers his plain fried bologna, I had him smear black mustard on the meat. It also offers a slice of Colby-jack cheese.
Affogato ($ 4.49): This coffee-based Italian dessert is unlike anything you’ll find at Starbucks or a fancy cafe or ice cream parlor. It’s basically a coffee float.
Mike drops a thick scoop of vanilla ice cream into the bottom of a 20-ounce mug before filling it almost with roasted Paul de Lima coffee. He adds a dash of caramel syrup before garnishing it with a dollop of soft ice cream. It ends with a swirl of heavy whipped cream and a ring of hot caramel sauce.
The clear plastic cup looks like a drinking lava lamp as the soft serve ice cream slowly melts in the coffee. It’s THE perfect pick-me-up at the end of the afternoon. Sure, it’ll ruin your dinner, but the caffeine buzz fights a bad high of sugar to give you all kinds of energy.
The place: Café Koffee King, 3712 New Court Avenue, Syracuse. (315) 960-0006.
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Sunday. (They will close at 2 p.m. at the end of the ice season.)
Credit card? Yes
Eat in ? Yes
Go out: Yeah
Car park: Large parking lot.
MORE CNY FOOD
First Look: Let This New Italian Lakeland Market Do The Cooking And Become The Sunday Dinner Hero
More early glimpses in CNY
Hidden gems of CNY