Wolff’s Biergarten brings Syracuse soccer fans, beer enthusiasts together

Downtown Syracuse's new German bar caters to a wide variety of Central New Yorkers, especially soccer enthusiasts.

After being open for more than two months, Wolff’s Biergarten continues to serve a niche demographic in Central New York: Syracusans who enjoy European beer and soccer.

Co-owners Matt Baumgartner and Mark Graydon opened their third location of the German biergarten specializing in soccer at 106 Montgomery St. on Nov. 17. Inside, customers will notice the soccer flags and string lights that hang above the bar, as well as the communal seating. Toward the back, there is a tree, attesting to traditional German biergartens being outside. Wolff’s Biergarten shows games from English Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and Bundesliga, as well as US men’s and women’s and Syracuse University soccer games.

Photo: Ellen Meyers

Baumgartner, who grew up in Utica and played soccer in high school and college, noticed how many bars and restaurants focused on other sports, but rarely soccer.

“There aren’t a lot of bars and restaurants that do a great job of featuring soccer,” he said. “It feels like a not very popular sport to show at bars.”

Baumgartner, who has run several restaurants in New York state including Bombers Burrito Bar and The Olde English Pub, realized he could fulfill that gap in the market. He started the first Wolff’s Biergarten in Albany in 2009 and another one in Schenectady last year.

Graydon said they were considering Syracuse, Rochester and a few other locations for their third bar. When they came across what would be their Syracuse location, they realized that it had eerie similarities with the Albany location. They are both converted fire stations. The Albany location is next to the Miss Albany’s Diner, while the Syracuse Wolff’s Biergarten has a Miss Syracuse Diner right next door.

“To look at it from the outside, it’s almost like a mirror image of each other,” Graydon said.

The biggest difference comes has to do with their food selection. Baumgartner said they were not able to put a ventilation hood in the kitchen to serve a lot of food. Instead, they focus on their beer selection and have a limited menu including pretzels, chili and peanuts.

So far, Wolff’s Biergarten in Syracuse has been well-received by the community. Vince Filapello, a global funds control analyst at a bank, heard about Wolff’s Biergarten after his son, Eric, visited the bar with friends. Filapello visited the bar for the first time in early December with his friends and his son. They spent much of their time drinking beer and playing darts in the back of the bar.

“The beer selection is good, I get to follow my teams,” Filapello said. But, he said he wished the bar’s lighting was a little brighter. Filapello also said the downtown location was a little bit inconvenient for him because he lives in Liverpool, a village that is six miles northwest of Syracuse.

Charles Ballon, an accountant, had been to the Wolff’s Biergarten in Albany. That location brought a lot of soccer fans together, he said, so he was excited when he heard on social media that there was a Syracuse location opening up. Ballon, a Syracuse resident, said he would only go to the bar in Albany if he already had business to do in the state capitol. “Three hours is a lot of driving,” he added.

Ballon said he will add the new Syracuse location to his bar rotation, which includes Empire Brewing Company in Armory Square. He had been to Wolff’s Biergarten a couple of times, including the bar’s opening night.

For both Baumgartner and Graydon, they want to get to know the rest of the Syracuse community and bring Central New York soccer fans together.

“If you walk in on a Friday night, you’d see a table that has people in their 70s and 80s, and the next table over, you have college kids,” Baumgartner said, adding that it is a very friendly atmosphere where he can talk to all different types of people.

“For us, we wanted to build the first soccer bar here,” Graydon said. “A lot of people don’t really focus on soccer because it’s not one of the four major sports. But for us, we find that no one really focuses on soccer. For us to do that and for us to be in the middle of the Syracuse sports network as well is awesome.”

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