Syracuse, New York, is a city with a wealth of great diners. Mother’s Cupboard is one of the best. Located just a couple of miles from Carrier Circle (Exit 35 of the New York State Thruway), it is a tiny shack that you might miss if you blink when driving by. I used to pass it many times on the way to my sister’s place, assuming it was abandoned because it always was closed. But you see, I drove by in the late afternoon; and as is the case with many diners in the area, Mother’s Cupboard is open only for breakfast and lunch.
I finally did come for breakfast, where a foot-wide blueberry pancake, a vegetable omelet for my girlfriend, and an order of home fries to share made us very full and happy. The home fries were stand-outs: fresh-cut potatoes cooked with minimal interference by Peter, who is co-owner and cook. He tosses them on the well-seasoned flat-top with butter, salt, and paprika, then leaves them alone to form a wicked crust on one side.
Unique frittatas are a regional favorite, and Mother’s menu’s 6-pound frittata challenge awaits anyone brave (or foolhardy) enough to try. I’ve confronted the half size, but cried uncle well before finishing. The potatoes and Italian toast (a “must have” on local breakfast menus) do fill one up rather quickly. I realize that the combination of broccoli and pepperoni may seem like an odd one, but it shows up in almost every frittata/fretta I’ve ever seen and it really works. The biscuits & sausage gravy with a side of home fries I had on one visit almost put me in a food coma, but it was totally worth it.
One dish worth noting is the Monte Cristo, which is ham and cheese sandwiched between slices of French toast, dusted with powdered sugar, and served with an irresponsible amount of butter. To take it over the top: maple syrup and/or a sprinkle of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.
Mother’s is very tiny and there is usually a line outside the door, but they try to get you in as soon as possible. While waiting in line, it is possible to find out about a local concert/fundraiser, to learn which politicians are running for office, or find someone to fix that computer that’s having problems: all on flyers posted in the entryway. Once you are inside, I suggest a seat on a stool at the counter. The sounds of Peter flipping, scraping and clanging is hypnotic and stirs the appetite. Glancing around while eating, it becomes apparent that this is very much a place frequented by locals. Peter and the waitresses know almost everyone by name. I have yet to try lunch here as I just can’t tear myself away from breakfast.