By Rochelle Bilow
Photos by Ciara Feltham
It’s an easy assumption that downtown Syracuse’s Eden restaurant is so named because it’s a seasonal paradise for locavores. Although it is — Chef Rich Strub estimates that about 90% of its ingredients are locally sourced from farmers and culinary artisans — the name is actually a sly nod to co-owners Adam Anderson and Eve De Rosa’s.
That said, there is plenty to tempt diners at Eden, from a constantly changing menu to a wine list that’s sourced entirely from New York wineries. (All of the beer and spirits are sourced regionally, as well, Eden’s sommelier Keenan Davis says.) Why work so hard to cultivate such an immersive experience? “The whole ethos of this restaurant is we want you to know where you are, and what season it is when you’re dining here,” explains Strub, who was born in Vermont and lists farm-to-table powerhouses such as Hen of the Wood and The Tailor and the Cook on his resume. “It’s how I’ve cooked my entire life,” he says.
If the cornucopia of Upstate New York veggies and local meat isn’t enough to send you scrambling for a reservation, perhaps the ambiance at Eden is. Strub renovated the restaurant almost entirely by himself, creating an atmosphere that’s the perfect combination of cozy and romantic; all gleaming steel, chunky wood, and exposed brick. And if that doesn’t do it, perhaps the technique used by Strub and his team will seal the deal: Eden is a wood fired restaurant. One wall in the open-plan kitchen is devoted to a custom-built wood fired hearth, which isn’t hard to spot upon entering (your nose will alert you to the smoky, woodsy scent, too). To keep diners safe and protect the historic building, there is a rigorously up-to-code ventilation system with a high-tech hood and built-in sprinklers.
Of course, the hearth means that at Eden everything is cooked over wood. Everything? Well, almost. “We do have induction burners, now,” admits Strub, explaining that he wanted to be able to fry himself an egg for lunch without firing up the entire hearth. A surprising benefit of cooking with wood is that Strub and his team have another opportunity to support local: Eden goes through five cords of wood a month, delivered straight from Baldwinsville. Strub has even developed a keen intuition for what type of wood is ideal for each task. Ash burns quickly, he says, but hickory takes things nice and slow.
Eden has plenty to celebrate. They marked their two-year anniversary last August, and Strub is beginning work on a cookbook. But you don’t have to have a special occasion to visit Eden: Many of the diners at this downtown restaurant are just enjoying a spectacular meal on an average night, in their community.
118 E. Genesee St.
Rochelle Bilow is a romance writer, food writer, and writer writer. She is a graduate of The French Culinary Institute and has worked as a baker, a line cook, and the social media manager for Bon Appétit and Cooking Light magazines.