Baldwinsville — A popular Mexican restaurant in downtown Syracuse quietly closed its doors for good Saturday and is reopening in Baldwinsville this afternoon.
San Miguel Mexican Bar & Grill has taken over the spot once occupied by Muddy Waters Kitchen & Bar, on the banks of the Seneca River at 2 Oswego St. below Sammy Malone’s bar/restaurant. It serve takeout-only today, starting at 4 p.m., and 11 a.m. Saturday. The bar and dining room will open Tuesday.
The move to Baldwinsville had been in the works for three months, and owner Kelly O’Connor Metrick had hoped to keep open the downtown location. The restaurant at 425 N. State St., however, became part of a state-designated orange zone on Nov. 23 because of the coronavirus, so all indoor dining had to cease.
“We loved the downtown location; the college students really loved the downtown location,” Metrick said Thursday. “But once we had to go to takeout-only again, we just decided to close and focus on the new location.”
Metrick, her mother, Michaelene O’Connor, and restaurateur Saul Leon started San Miguel five years ago. The mother-daughter duo met Leon in their hometown of Waterloo. He had opened a Mexican restaurant there, and the food was so good that Metrick urged him to partner with them to open San Miguel.
“His food was unlike anything I had ever eaten,” Metrick said. “Everything tasted so fresh. I think I ate there every day for two weeks. I knew this is what we had to do in Syracuse.”
San Miguel quickly became popular, especially among young professionals and Syracuse University students. Commenters on syracuse.com’s Where Syracuse Eats Facebook page often rave about San Miguel’s food, how it’s all made in-house, right down to the chips and salsa you’re served when you first sit down.
The drinks are made with fresh ingredients, not a mix. Their margarita was named the best by judges at Syracuse’s Winterfest every year San Miguel entered.
It was recently featured on syracuse.com as being among the best places in Central New York for tacos, according to the area’s self-proclaimed taco expert.
The restaurant outgrew the building shortly after its debut. Even during the pandemic, the place maintained a steady flow of customers. On a chilly Saturday night in October, more than 20 customers stood outside waiting to get a table or a spot at the bar. The line returned this past Saturday, even thought the fans could only get takeout meals.
The downtown restaurant seated 91 customers before the Covid-19 restrictions; the Baldwinsville location can accommodate 300, which includes outdoor seating with a waterfront view.
“When I was looking at this location, I couldn’t stop thinking about how nice it would be to sit outside next to the water while drinking a margarita,” Metrick said. “It’s almost like being in Mexico. Well, it will be when it gets warm again.”
Metrick lives in Baldwinsville, so she knows many of the other restaurant and store owners. While she’s kept this move under wraps, the word started getting around.
“This community is so supportive,” she said. “They say, ‘Oh, I hear you’re opening your restaurant here. We can’t wait to eat here.’ This is coming from people whose restaurants we’ve been eating at for years. We help each out here.”
That’s why she hung a large chalkboard on a back wall of her new place. Customers can buy a piece of chalk for $1 and write a message on the board. All the money raised will go to a local charity.
The menu here will be the same as the downtown location. Metrick, however, will begin offering a Sunday brunch and featuring more specialty cocktails, such as a sunset mimosa to drink outside in the summer as the sun fades.
On Thursday, Metrick and her staff from the old location were still getting acclimated to the new kitchen. They were making food for today’s takeout-only debut and ordering more ingredients for next week’s real opening.
Baldwinsville, Metrick said, will have already started noticing the smells emanating from the kitchen. They’re boiling spices, making tortillas and cooking meat.
“At the downtown place, I loved pulling into the restaurant in the morning and smelling the salsa,” she said. “It makes me think ‘I could really go for a quesadilla right now.’ People are going to notice that the second we turn the vents on.”
San Miguel will be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday; and closed Monday.
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Charlie Miller finds the best in food, drink and fun across Central New York. Contact him at 315-382-1984, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find him on Twitter @HoosierCuse.