Freedom of Espresso

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At Freedom of Espresso, you have the right to a strong cappuccino and free Internet access. You also have the right to make small talk with the man behind the counter and ask questions about the 27 different flavors of syrup or the artwork on the walls. This Armory Square café (one of four Freedom of Espressos in the area) has everything people love about local joints — coffee named after a town hero, pastries from a bakery down the street, and baristas who greet patrons by name and say, “Having your usual?”

When to go: Local professionals order coffee and scones starting at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday, but college kids will probably prefer visiting Friday (6:15 a.m.-10 p.m.), Saturday (7 a.m.-10 p.m.), or Sunday (9 a.m.-5 p.m.). The best way to enjoy this café is to grab a table, a latté, and an electrical outlet, and spend a few hours procrastinating with the free Wi-Fi. Just don’t look here for a midnight caffeine fix. Bottom Line: Whenever you feel the need to high-tail it off the hill, pack a bookbag and head down to Freedom.

On Tap: The only beer you’ll be getting here starts with either “Root” or “Birch.” The café carries Boylan old-fashioned sodas, Nantucket Nectar juices, Vitamin Water, and Saratoga Spring Water, but if you want to make your coffee Irish, head to Coleman’s when Freedom closes. Bottom Line: Here the calories come from mocha, not Michelob.

Blue Plate Special: “Everything to do with coffee is our specialty,” promises Jason, a barista. Freedom of Espresso roasts all its coffee beans in its Fayetteville store. For a strong cup of joe, order a “Joe Heath” for $1.85, named after a Syracuse lawyer who helped the coffee company put “Freedom” in its name. For something sweeter, try an Iced Mocha Slush for $4.50, which locals love even in the winter. Freedom’s coffee drinks have two shots of espresso each, plus another two shots in the “mondo” size, so if caffeine makes you shaky, order a hot chocolate or milk steamer for $2.75 instead. Spice up any drink with flavored syrups, such as vanilla, pistachio, lemon, or lavender. Don’t leave without choosing from an assortment of muffins, scones, bagels, cookies, and rugelach, picked up from Pascale’s bakery daily. Bottom Line: Your drink will be fresh and tasty, whether it’s “one cappuccino” or “a mondo Double O’Latte with sugar-free Irish Cream syrup.”

The Scene: When you walk through Freedom’s purple doors, you’ll feel like you’re home — if your home has guitar music playing from a boom-box on the counter and a tattooed barista welcoming you with a smile. The yellow-orange walls (perhaps called Goldenrod?) create a cozy glow, and soft lighting sets a calm mood without inducing sleep. If you have extra cash, check out the original artwork for sale on the walls, done by a Freedom employee. Freedom will keep you posted on upcoming Syracuse events, such as Crunch games and yoga classes, with fliers on the wall and handouts on the counter. Bottom Line: Funky and fun, but not too-cool-for-school.

The Crew: If you visit Freedom with any kind of regularity, the barista will likely start making your drink as you walk in the door and thank you by name when you leave. Frequent Freedom of Espresso if you want to be treated well by people who care about coffee, you, and the Syracuse area. Bottom Line: The tip jar reads “Thanks a latte!” and the staff has the same pleasant attitude.

The Crowd: The café has roughly 25 chairs, where you can often find SU students on breaks from The Warehouse, or Armory Square shoppers, lawyers, doctors, downtown professionals, off-duty police officers, artists, bartenders, and anyone else who stumbles down Walton Street. People seem genuinely happy to sit and watch the Armory world go by. Bottom Line: The gang’s all here.

The Deets: Though the coffee barely costs less than the Starbucks across the street, Freedom of Espresso has an additional ingredient: local charm. High-quality coffee and dangerously good pastries make it worth your while to support this local business, and you can do it with cash, credit card, or the Off Campus Meal Plan. If you’re strapped for time, you can pick up a cup of Freedom’s coffee in the Pages café in Bird Library. But if you have a few minutes, it’s well worth a bus or car trip downtown. Odds are you’ll leave with a smile and maybe a new friend or two. Bottom Line: Freedom’s just another word for great coffee and stellar service.

Review by Tory Marlin


144 Walton Street
Syracuse, NY 13202
(315) 424-8840

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WOW. Not sure when this was

WOW. Not sure when this was written, but good review! I used to manage that location, and it's great to read that the baristas are still part of the charm to the place. One of my fave things about working there was being able to have a customer's drink started before they even reached the counter. :)

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