Darwin, Syracuse, N.Y.

There’s this spot across from the Clinton Street entrance to The Post-Standard building that is a revolving door for restaurants. As a kid, I remember going there for dinner to a place called Renee’s Brown Baggers (it was the first time I had carrot-raisin salad…who does that?). As a high school intern for the long-gone hj magazine at the now defunct Herald-Journal, I would get lunch from Our Father’s Pizza — cleverly named by the Jesus-loving (nothing wrong with that), proselytizing (that’s my problem) owner that slung the dough. (Look, no hungry overweight 17-year-old wants to talk about whether they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior when there is pizza on the line.)

A couple of deli’s later, it is now Darwin. Monday marked my second visit in the past week to the spot near the corner of Clinton and West Genesee Streets. Partially owned by Terry Riley, he of the highly underrated Riley’s with it’s new menu every day, Darwin has limited hours, a limited menu and limited space. But, they do so much with so little.

Darwin doesn’t have the revolving daily menu, but I get the impression that the owners are not afraid to switch things up. When I asked for a takeout menu today, I was told that I should come back tomorrow because they are changing things up. Apparently, my choice of the Pork Cubano is going on hiatus, in lieu of a pork, ham, bacon, melted cheddar on an onion roll deally. Uhhhh, yeah!

Anyhow, back to today. Well, back to last week. When I was there Thursday, I had the Whack-A-Mole — house-roasted turkey breast with melted provolone, guac, sprouts and tomato, served on a DiLauro’s wheat roll. On first appearance, I thought I was overpaying. $8 for a sandwich roll-sized sandwich. What I didn’t know is that I was going to need a nap afterwards. Loaded with turkey, and slathered with the avocado mixture, the sandwich was like eating a bowling ball. It was do dense and heavy that I was still full five hours later at dinner.

So, to today. I wanted soup and was hoping for something palatable (last week was butternut squash bisque…gag). Today’s chicken and vegetable was a nice surprise. I was expecting a cream-based soup, but instead got a thin, well-herbed chicken broth full of chicken cubes and vegetavles. Carrots? Check. Onion and celery? Check. Peas? Yep. Corn? Sure. There was some other stuff, but I was hungry and didn’t pay much attention. Cups and bowls of soup come with a slice of Pastabilities stretch Italian.

You would have thought that I learned my lesson last week. Order a sandwich alone. Noooo. I got the soup and the Cubano, which was good. Not great like Thursday’s turkey, but good. The blend of pork, ham, cheese and pickles were nice, but the mustard was a little over the top. There was just too much of it and the flavor from the pork and ham held the sandwich up. DiLauro’s came calling again, with a seeded French loaf providing the shell.

That’s worth noting. Darwin is not loyal to one bread. It brings in Pastabilities, Harrison Bakery, and the highly underrated DiLauro’s. It does not serve Columbus Bakery bread, which is so refreshing [1.) Everyone serves Columbus. 2.) Columbus is not the best bread in town. It’s barely in the top five. 3.) Columbus bread goes stale so quickly.].

The cookie was because, well, I love cookies. I thought I grabbed the oatmeal chocolate chip, but got the oatmeal-raisin by accident. It was still damn good.

Lunch was $15 and included a fireball (cool!). Darwin on Clinton is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It is located at 211 N. Clinton St. in Downtown Syracuse.

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