Lebanese, Cambodian, Italian, Jamaican, the list goes on. With dozens of restaurants to choose from in Utica, there always is a spot to eat, the question is where.
For those who might need help to decide, the online review site Yelp provides a list of restaurants based on zip code. People also can filter their options by type of restaurant, price range, distance and other features such as children-friendly, outdoor seating available or free Wi-Fi.
Yelp also shows the best restaurants in the area, a list that is created combining the number of positive and negative reviews that online users have submitted.
Here’s a list of Utica’s highest-rated restaurants according to Yelp. Let us know if you agree or disagree with the list.
(By the way, Yelp results are subject to change as people share their reviews. The following list is accurate as of March 21.)
1. Zeina’s Café
Zeina’s Café is at the top of the list of best restaurants in the Utica area, according to Yelp.
This restaurant is owned by the Zeinas, a family originally from Lebanon. Some of their popular dishes include lamb gyros, chicken shawarma gyros, tabouleh, hummus and pita dip or baklava. Turkish coffee also is available.
Owners Albert and Layla Zeina opened Zeina’s Café in 2010 with the goal to serve the best and most authentic Lebanese food using “cherished family recipes that have been passed down for generations,” according to the website.
One reviewer said: “Amazing food prepared by a hard-working and beautiful family. Warm hospitality and smiles. Got a lamb gyro w/ fresh ingredients and a side of fries. Portions were generous! Top lunch spot for me.”
- Address: 607 Varick St., Utica
- Hours: 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
- Phone: (315) 738-0297
The Tailor & the Cook uses seasonal ingredients from local farms and providers to make new American cuisine, according to the website. The name Tailor and the Cook is a homage to the restaurant’s historical 1800s building, which was the home of numerous businesses such as the UTK Tailoring Company, according to their website.
The most mentioned dishes on Yelp were pan-seared scallops, beet risotto, rainbow trout or filet-mignon.
Childhood friends Chris Talgo and Tim Hardiman created the restaurant in 2012, a combination of their passions for “great local food and drink, sustainable business and improving the community,” according to their website.
One Yelper said: “Resumed going out after the latest pandemic wave and walking into this fine restaurant was like entering another dimension. The menu was filled with competing dishes and our choices were picked to our tastes; the meals were the best we have had in years but, if possible, the service was even better. Indicating an interest in Finger Lakes wineries started a conversation about several types of wines and a tasting of one that neither of us had ever had but will not forget. As good as dining gets in Utica, The Tailor sets new benchmarks in friendliness, culinary artistry and such a range of tastes.”
- Address: 94 Genesee St., Utica
- Hours: 5 until 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday
- Phone: (315) 624-3663
Willie’s Bagel Café has only been around for five years, but it already has earned 3rd place on the list of highest-rated restaurants, according to Yelp.
Opened in 2016 by Willie Rodriguez, Willie’s Bagel Café has become a popular breakfast spot which offers a wide range of New York-style bagels and different color bagels. People can pick cinnamon raisin, everything, jalapeño or blueberry and add their choice of cream cheese spreads or eggs with bacon, ham or sausage.
Besides bagels, Willie’s Bagel Café also offers lunch wraps, salads, deli-style sandwiches and some pastries. Willie’s Bagel opened a second location recently on Oriskany Street.
One review said: “If you’re looking for a place with bagels like NYC or the surrounding area, Willie’s is the go-to. The people are nice and it’s a simple shop with anything you could possibly need bagel-wise. Definitely going here from now on.”
- Address: 219 N. Genesee St., Utica
- Hours: 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
- Phone: (315) 790-5353
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Utica has numerous pizza places, but the one that hits the spot for Yelpers is Jonny’s Pizza. Established in June 2015, the restaurant offers traditional New York hand-tossed thin crust pizza and a full Italian menu. From the sauces to the pizza dough, the restaurant makes it all homemade.
Some of the Yelpers’ favorites include hand-tossed cheese pizza, Jonny’s Upside Down or tomato pie, the Buffalo chicken pizza or traditional chicken riggies. The restaurant also has fish on Fridays.
An online review said: “Jonnys Upside Down Pizza is my new favorite food. Also known as tomato pie maybe, but they call it UpsideDown. Oh my gosh! Ask for it “Well Done” because it just wants to be that way. Such a crunchy crust and roasty tomato and cheese taste. Put some extra parm on. You can’t go wrong. Buy the Jumbo Pie because you’ll want more the next day anyway. Save the gas of driving back for more!”
- Address: 100 Genesee St., Utica
- Hours: 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon until 8 p.m. Sundays
- Phone: (315) 507-4577
Craylee’s has been a family-owned restaurant since 2016. It is named after the owner’s children, Christian and Haylee.
The most mentioned dishes on Yelp were eggs benedict, French toast with a choice of meat and the giambotta, which is made with scrambled eggs with sausage, potato, greens, onions, peppers with mozzarella cheese. Craylee’s also offers vegetarian options.
One Yelper said: “Without a doubt, the number one breakfast spot I’ve tried here in town. So much, I’ve been back 3 days consecutively lol. That should tell you how good the food and service are. I’ve recommended this restaurant to each of my coworkers, they’ve all tried it, and have come back a second time! Love sitting at the bar, conversations with the staff over some coffee and enjoying some steak and eggs. Doesn’t get much better!”
- Address: 237 Bleecker St., Utica
- Hours: 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
- Phone: (315) 507-4713
Motus takes its name from Latin, meaning movement, progress, passion, revolt, according to the website. This restaurant and gastropub offers new American cuisine, and it’s located on Genesee Street.
Some of Yelpers favorite dishes include smoked beef rib pierogi, charred carrots, Berkshire pork chop or braised pork belly.
Chefs JD Smith and Vincent Petronio created Motus in the fall of 2017 after working together at Tailor and The Cook. According to the website, the restaurant’s goal is to be a movement of change for customers to experience the “development and celebration of Upstate New York’s progress in agriculture and small business.”
A reviewer said: “Let me start with WOW! This place is a hidden gem, farm to table fresh, flavorfully seasoned, cooked to perfection! The staff is on point and Stephanie and her crew are wonderful bar tenders! Can’t wait to eat here again! Kudos to the chef!”
- Address: 234 Genesee St., Utica
- Hours: 5 until 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday
- Phone: (315) 624-9090
Heart of Cambodia offered authentic Cambodian and Thai food right in the heart of Utica until recently. The restaurant announced on Facebook January 23 their closing until they find a new location.
Some of this restaurant’s popular dishes included shrimp nime spring roll, red curry noodles, wonton soup or Cambodia farm soup.
One Yelper said: “Spectacular hole-in-the-wall. Pho was huge and delicious, crab rangoon was light and fancy and delicious, and the Thai tea was delightful. Prices were good, and the place was quiet. Real selling point was that the owner’s husband asked if I’d like hot tea, I invited him to sit and we talked and drinker tea for an hour while he shared stories of growing up in Cambodia. Very patient, thoughtful and genuine people. I’ll come back as often as I can!”
- Address: 32 Bank Place, Utica
- Hours: 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. Mondays, 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; and 12 p.m. until 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
- Phone: (315) 864-3499
8. Pantry 284
You can’t miss this family-owned restaurant on Genesee Street as it is in a recognizable white brick building. While the space inside is limited, Pantry 284 has a wide variety of sandwiches and soups and in the summer. It also has sidewalk seating.
Some of the most mentioned dishes on Yelp include sirloin, pantry salad and the Utica Club sandwich. All sandwiches come with homemade chips.
One online reviewer said: “Sweet spot; definitely worth the stop! We enjoyed the fresh roasted turkey club on toasted sourdough bread with a tasty siracha/mayo dressing. The meal came with homemade chips and a delightful tabbouleh side salad (apples& raisins). I also had the tomato basil soup which was delicious. We took our lunch to go and appreciate the eco friendly container. There are about 8-10 spots for dining inside. Hope they can have a few tables outdoors when it warms up a bit. Happy to support this wonderful small business.”
- Address: 284 Genesee St., Utica
- Hours: 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday
- Phone: (315) 351-2618
The small café in downtown Utica offers breakfast and lunch options, and it is well known for its burgers.
Yelpers mention the smash burger, sausage omelets and crepes as some of their favorites. Golden’s also offers soups and yogurt bowls.
An online user said: “Awesome burgers! Best in Utica. The place itself is very small and more of a diner so don’t recommend large party gatherings. More of a quick grab & go lunch spot. Can’t go wrong with any of the burgers.”
- Address: 244 Genesee St., Utica
- Hours: 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Friday
- Phone: (315) 507-6931
Located in a picturesque space in downtown Utica, Wisk Baking Company offers breakfast, lunch, coffee and pastries. The business was established in 2014 as a startup called Bite Bakery and Café and opened a physical location in Franklin Square a year later.
Wisk Baking Company, which has another location in Old Forge, specializes in pastries that are made right in-house as well as breakfast and lunch options.
Among some of the most mentioned dishes on Yelp are avocado toast, banana foster French toast, breakfast burrito and classic turkey sandwich.
One Yelper said: “We were on a short road trip and found this gem. We ended up ordering breakfast in and pastry take out. The breakfast was delicious. Need to be patient since it’s a boutique, but well worth it! Had pastry in the car ride home and, so freaking good. Decided we will try to get macaroons shipped for holidays. It’s a popular place, at least on a Sat morning, so to go may be better for someone avoiding lots of people. Lastly the owner was incredibly gracious and welcoming.”
- Address: 53 Franklin Square, Utica
- Hours: 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Sunday
- Phone: (315) 864-8742
Maria M. Silva covers food, drink and culture in the Mohawk Valley for the Observer-Dispatch. Email her at [email protected]