Editor’s note: This is part 2 of 3 for our “Made in Syracuse” series highlighting game-changers in the local food scene.
An enlarged blackboard projects the days’ specials on the left wall: “MEATLOAF SANDWICH: meatloaf, provolone, red onion, molasses, ketchup, chili cheese Fritos.” This eclectic combination is one of many unusual items served at the Syracuse sandwich shop Street Eats.
Street Eats is hidden from the street. Tucked behind the Imperial Gardens Tower on James Street, the brick and mortar is marked by a dotting of picnic tables and a green road sign. Inside, frames and frames of pen-and-watercolor illustrations fill the sage wall: goat cheeses, stone fruits, edible weeds. In the kitchen Paul Cox is cleaning the countertops from his last bustling order. With a green headband pushing his hair back and a close-lipped smile on his face, he’s found his zen. Cox is both the man who conceives these unique food combinations and the one who cooks them all.
Cox took over Street Eats this June when past owner Steve LeClair purchased Beachcombers Restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida. Needing someone to replace him, he turned to Cox, his elementary school friend. Cox is a veteran chef of Syracuse eateries: Pastabilities, To the Moon, and Lemon Grass. Street Eats had become a standby in town for its famous food truck—but with the transition of ownership, Cox has decided to build up his business before taking his talents to the street this winter.
He brings his own style to the restaurant by changing the menu daily and daring to make unfamiliar pairings in his dishes. A pulled pork sandwich with crispy macaroni and cheese, Carolina barbecue, and fried onions is certainly not a mundane menu choice at Street Eats.
“I learned what fits and goes together through all my years of cooking. You kind of wing it,” he says. Cox can take a pineapple, white beans, chicken, and sour cream and throw them all in a taco. And no dish is complete without cilantro.
Cox’s seven years at the Ithaca restaurant Just a Place inspired him to make every product from scratch. “From the soup, to the bread, to the pasta, everything was made in-house. That’s when I realized that was what I wanted to do, and now that’s what I do here,” says Cox.
He aims to make the renewal of the Street Eats food truck a success. If the restaurant’s popularity is any indication, then customers will certainly be queuing up on Fayette Street for its revival.
“I really want to get the name out there again about Street Eats, both the truck and the restaurant. I want more people, especially young people, to know we’re here,” he says. “I’m going to push myself and make it the best it can be for them.” ●
—Janelle James, contributing writer for Baked.
This story was originally featured in Baked’s Fall 2014 issue. To read more, click here.