I always check Chowhound when traveling. I live in Syracuse and finally got around to checking out the posts for my hometown. I was appalled.by what I found. Obviously tastes will vary, and I don't claim any particular expertise, but I want to offer my own views on the local restaurant scene.
If you have ever tasted a fine steak, you probably don't want to order one in Syracuse. The exceptions are Lemon Grass / 238 Bistro and L'Adour. Otherwise you will find a better steak at the local Price Chopper supermarket (but not Wegmans).
If you want good Italian food, there are several places in the Utica / Rome area. Back in the day, there were several fine places in Syracuse, but they are long gone.
The food critic for the local newspaper is, IMHO, an idiot. She likes Olive Garden, for example.
First, my favorites:
Lemon Grass / 238 Bistro -- Consistently excellent food. Heavy on Pacific Rim style dishes, but also excellent for steaks, duck, etc. If you are only having one dinner in the area, this is the place to go.
L'Adour -- French. Very good for bistro dishes. Best cheese plate in town for dessert.
Dinosaur BBQ -- Not the greatest BBQ, but a very friendly and fun place. The pulled pork is still smoked daily in house. The ribs and some of the other meats are par-boiled and cryovac'd by the supplier, then finished with a few hours smoking. Edible, but not really right. It gets crowded for both lunch and dinner. Later in the evening (Maybe 9:00 or so) the music starts. The crowds actually thin out, so it is easier to get a table then. The bar is very lively and friendly.
China Road -- Best chinese in the area, FWIW
Black Olive -- Very friendly mostly Greek dishes.
New Century -- Good Vietnamese
Steak & Sundae -- Typical Greek Diner food. Decent for what it is.
Aunt Josie's -- Nothing special red sauce Italian
Now the places to stay away from:
Scotch & Sirloin
Casa Di Copani
2204 Brewerton Rd Ste 1, Syracuse, NY 13211
238 W Jefferson St, Syracuse, NY 13202
238 W Jefferson St Stop 1, Syracuse, NY 13202
Steak & Sundae Restaurant
1830 Teall Ave, Syracuse, NY 13206
Casa Di Copani
3414 Burnet Ave, Syracuse, NY 13206