A special dining experience awaits at Emerald Cocktail Kitchen

A special dining experience awaits Emerald Cocktail Kitchen

Q&A: Michele Roesch’s vision transforms Syracuse’s dining scene with the newest three-story rooftop bar with a fresh, innovative menu.

Emerald Cocktail Kitchen in the Tipperary Hill neighborhood of Syracuse
Emerald Cocktail Kitchen
Emerald Cocktail Kitchen in the Tipperary Hill neighborhood of Syracuse

Imagine a refreshing glass of 1911 Honeycrisp Cider in your hand, the wind in your face, a steaming hot plate of crispy barbecue cauliflower in front of you, topped off with a scenic overlook of the city of Syracuse. That’s precisely the experience cultivated by the Emerald Cocktail Kitchen.

Co-founders Michele and Nora Roesch opened Emerald Cocktail Kitchen, the city’s first rooftop bar, this past June. The three-story bar is new to the Syracuse scene but has, nonetheless, received rave reviews. Central New Yorkers can now enjoy delicious cocktails and appetizers while overlooking Tipperary Hill.

Michele Roesch was introduced to the restaurant industry before studying business in college when she worked at O’Dea’s Pub on Tipperary Hill for her father, Jerry Roesch. Michele later worked as a host and eventually an events coordinator at the bar and restaurant at the Tuscarora Golf Club. After experiencing the restaurant industry firsthand, Michele knew she wanted something to call her own.

After graduating from college, Michele and her mother purchased the pub and took over for her father, who had to sell O’Dea’s Pub because of the pandemic. When conditions permitted, she started the remodeling process after planning the renovations during the pandemic and obtaining the proper funding.

Emerald Kitchen in the Tipperary Hill neighborhood of Syracuse
Emerald Cocktail Kitchen
Emerald Kitchen in the Tipperary Hill neighborhood of Syracuse.

Emerald Cocktail Kitchen’s menu ranges from Maple Smash Burgers and French Onion Grilled Cheese Stackers to gluten-free Apple Crisps and Pretzel Caramel Cheesecakes. The bar offers a long list of cocktails and alcohol-free mocktails.

The NewsHouse sat down with Michele Roesch to learn about her vision and future hopes for the Emerald City Kitchen.

The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

What is the menu and overall theme of the restaurant, and what do you think makes it unique?

MR: Our first floor has a speakeasy-like atmosphere. On the second floor, we have a lounge that is more of a quiet sitting area and is relaxing for customers. Everything on that floor is sustainably sourced, secondhand and thrifted. The rooftop is the biggest feature. It’s the largest space we have and can fit over one hundred people. It’s almost like a New York City rooftop garden and has a bar-style service. 

Our focus is cocktails. All of our cocktails and juices are fresh, and they’re made in-house. Our food menu includes mostly shareables, so it’s not a sit-down restaurant with full meals. Rather, the idea is for people to come and enjoy some snacks and share time with friends on the roof. 

What has been the most rewarding aspect of owning Emerald Cocktail Kitchen so far?

MR: When we were building and we were finally able to go on the roof. My son, Elijah, saw the dome from the roof for the first time. That was probably the best feeling that I’ve ever felt — when he pointed it out and was all hyped up. Personally, though, I had been working on the drawings and the renovation for two years, so when we finally opened, it was really nice to be able to see what I pictured in my head in brick-and-mortar form. It was really cool to watch that process and to see people sitting on the roof enjoying a cocktail after two and a half years of hard work. 

How do you foster a positive workplace and ensure your employees are well-trained and motivated?

MR: We have a lot of new staff, and I try to manage them individually to their strengths and help them improve their weaknesses. We don’t really know each other yet, though, so it’s something that we have to work on every day

The main thing we try to run is a collaborative environment rather than a competitive one. Everybody has ideas that they can bring to the table, and everybody’s opinion is important. It’s not who has the best ideas or who has the best drink, or who has the best menu item. It’s about working together to make Emerald the best it can be.

It is an adjustment for a lot of people because in our industry, and within leadership in general, I think that people are used to feeling blamed or responsible for something. We shift that mindset, and sometimes, it takes a second to get there. 

What initially inspired you to open Emerald Cocktail Kitchen?

MR: What inspired me is that I really like being able to do something different and offer something different. The Emerald Cocktail Kitchen was kind of my idea of revitalizing a building that was really old; it was built in the 1800s. I wanted to expand what we offered. I also have a five-year-old son, and I just wanted to keep achieving for him and keep showing him what hard work we can do.

Can you provide an example of a difficult decision you had to make as a restaurant owner and how you handled it?

MR: There’s a lot of them. I feel like I’m making the decisions every day.

Recently, we decided to stop doing our Sunday brunches and are just open for private events. That was a really difficult decision because, personally, I am a huge fan of brunch, and it was my favorite thing that we offered. Professionally and for the business, however, it just wasn’t the best decision. 

Back in May, we sat down with our leadership team and set goals for ourselves if we didn’t do brunch, and that we would reevaluate at the end of the summer. We set some marketing initiatives and set some plans. But at the end of the day, we didn’t reach the goals we had to get to. My front-of-the-house staff was not making any money, and my back-of-the-house staff was pushing really close to full-time hours and overtime hours, which didn’t create a good work-life balance. I think looking at what takes care of the employees the best is what drives the business decisions, and long term, it just didn’t make sense anymore for us to do brunch. That was a really tough time for me because I invested a lot in brunch, but it just didn’t make sense for the team.

What has been the most extravagant or memorable private event you’ve had so far?

MR: We do a lot of private events, and we host in-house events. We recently hosted a birthday party at Emerald; they rented out spaces on two of the floors and had a DJ come in. But I don’t know what my most memorable one would be. I like doing weddings, to be honest. They’re the most fun.

What is your personal favorite item on the menu?

MR: I really like our Buffalo Sprouts. They’re oven-roasted brussel sprouts tossed in Buffalo sauce and topped with blue cheese. Those are fresh and made daily. Then, for drinks, we have a nice mocktail selection, and our non-alcoholic Margarita, the Clear Emerald, is very good. It’s very tasty. I’d say those are my favorites.

Michele Roesch has found great success in her business, reflecting both her vision and the effort she puts into every aspect of the restaurant. She hopes to eventually establish Emerald Cocktail Kitchen as a premiere destination for celebrations of both locals and guests in the Syracuse area.

Emerald Cocktail Kitchen is open six days a week from 12 p.m. to 1 a.m. and closed on Tuesdays. The restaurant is located at 1333 W. Fayette St.