Review: Uncle Tony’s

uncle tony'sLocated in the middle of the State Street college drinking zone and a stalwart of the famous (infamous?) Binghamton University commencement week Bar Crawl, Uncle Tony’s has been a local institution since 1983. In 2014 the eponymous Uncle Tony, Tony Basti, retired and turned the business over to friend and long-time employee, Bryan Whiting. Not much has changed inside but by participating in this Binghamton Restaurant Week, the new owner is signaling that he is moving up the food chain, so to speak. Being a connoisseur of bar food, I had to try it.   

When we arrived on a Wednesday a bit after lunch hour the place was neither crowded nor abandoned. A couple tables and few bar seats were occupied by business types. There appeared to be a few more Restaurant Week patrons there too, as well as a long-time weekend bar server from another local institution and the leader of a popular bar band. The bartender greeted us as soon as we sat down at the bar and took our drink order promptly. The selections on tap include the usual national swill and a nice selection of regional micro-brews. The bottled beer menu is similar and the wine selections are quite impressive. We ordered draught micro-brews that were served at the perfect temperature.

The deal with Restaurant Week is that each participant offers a limited three-course prix-fixe menu. One does not generally associate appetizers with bar food and the ones we chose were ok but not outstanding. My wife had a bowl of chili that she found a bit too salty. My Caesar salad was simply a small bowl of romaine lettuce with giant croutons and a generous helping of Caesar dressing on the side. The lettuce was nice a crisp and the dressing passable.

To me the best bar food are sandwiches and here Uncle Tony’s did not disappoint. My wife had shrimp salad on a croissant accompanied by onion rings. I had a buttermilk-breaded chicken cutlet with provolone on a roll and a side of French fries. The shrimp salad had just the right amount of mayonnaise and seasoning; the croissant fresh and flakey. The onion rings appeared to have been house-cut but were just a bit greasy. The chicken was fried to perfection: crispy without a trace of excess oil. The French fries were likewise perfectly done arriving too hot eat right away. Obviously the chef is a master of the deep-fryer as a good bar cook must be. Both servings were generous for lunch—I would not want to eat that much every day but for a treat it was great. We passed on the tiramisu-flavored gelato that was part of the prix-fixe because we were simply too full!

Service was exceptional: friendly, fast, and competent. Mr. Whiting clearly understands that the trick to building a lunch trade is to get good food out quickly. Most downtown Binghamton restaurants I have visited at lunchtime are simply too slow for someone on an hour lunch break. I do not know, yet, what the new Uncle Tony’s dinners are like but I would certainly recommend it for lunch.

Uncle Tony’s Bar and Restaurant

79 State Street

Binghamton, NY 13901

(607) 723-4488

Tinga de Pollo y Papas

Most of what we in the United States think of as Mexican food is derived from the post-conquest cuisines of the border states of Chihuahua and Sonora. The Spanish influence is seen in the heavy use of cheese and meat which were virtually unknown in pre-Columbia Mesoamerica.  Farther south in Puebla and Oaxaca the food retains more of its traditional character. Chef and cookbook author Rick Bayless champions this distinctly more interesting cuisine. This recipe, which I adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen (New York: Scribner, 1996), pp 322-323, is an example from Puebla. Traditionally, tinga does not contain potatoes but Bayless’s use of them gives the dish an interesting texture and flavor. And, after all, potatoes are in the same botanical family and originated in the same area of South America as do tomatoes. In Mexico City, tinga is served on crispy tostadas topped with queso fresco and a slice of avocado. I usually present it with a plate of warm corn tortillas, shredded sharp cheddar, and avocado if I have some.

Ingredients

Garlic, unpeeled

3 or more cloves

Canned chipotles en adobo

2 or more to taste

Tomatoes, diced or whole

1 14-ounce can

Chicken fat, oil, lard, or combination

30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons) divided use

Chicken thighs, skinless*

2

Boiling potatoes

3 or 4 medium, about 250 grams (½ pound)

Onion, yellow or white

1 medium, about 125 grams (¼ pound)

Dried oregano, preferably Mexican

1 teaspoon

Salt

To taste

Tortillas, corn or flour, to serve

3 or 4 per person

Avocado slices and cheese, to garnish

To taste

* bone-in are best.

 Method

Put the garlic cloves, unpeeled, in a small dry skillet over medium heat, turning from time to time, until they have softened. When cool enough to handle, remove the peels and put into a food processor or blender along with the chipotles and tomatoes with their juice. Process to a smooth puree.

Warm 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon) of the fat in a heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat. When nearly smoking, pour in the puree and cook, stirring often, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Lower the heat to medium-low and submerge the chicken thighs in the sauce. Cover and simmer until the meat is done, about 25 minutes. Remove the thighs to a plate, leaving as much sauce as possible behind. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones in large shreds.

Using the coarse grating disk of the food processor or a hand grater, shred the potatoes. Roll them into a kitchen towel and squeeze out as water as possible. Thinly slice the onion. Add the remaining fat to a large non-stick skillet (I use a 12” one) over medium heat. Cook the potatoes and onions, tossing or stirring regularly, until well browned. Pour in the sauce, sprinkle on the oregano, and fold in the chicken. Heat through and season to taste with salt.

Turn the finished tinga into a warmed serving bowl. Present with warmed tortillas and garnishes.

Salisbury Steak

salisbury steak (3)When I was a young Air Force Russian language student at Indiana University more than a half-century ago, I enjoyed visiting a restaurant called The Gables that, besides being on the site of the former Book Nook where Hoagy Carmichael claimed to have written “Stardust,” served a delicious Salisbury steak at a price consistent with my $100 a month airman’s pay. At this remove I can honestly say that I do not remember what it tasted like but I have had a soft spot for Salisbury steak ever since. The dish itself was invented in 1888 by Dr. J. H. Salisbury, a physician from Cortland County NY, between Binghamton and Syracuse, who was an early promoter of a low carbohydrate diet—in fact he recommended eating his steak three times a day. During the World War I mania to remove German names from common items, hamburger steak was often called Salisbury steak. Today, while the US Department of Agriculture mandates that hamburger steak be made of 100% skeletal beef, i.e. no organ meat. Commercially prepared Salisbury steak may by law contain up to 25% pork, beef heart, and up to 30% fat. This last, if nothing else, should convince you of the wisdom of making it from scratch.

Note: to make this recipe gluten-free use corn flakes pulverized in the food processor in place of bread crumbs and rice flour instead of wheat flour. The mushrooms are optional and can be simply left out.

Ingredients

Onion

1 medium, divided use

Mushrooms

6 medium

Garlic

1 or 2 large cloves

Butter and/or oil

30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons), divided use

Ground beef

340 grams (12 ounces)

Egg, lightly beaten

1 large

Worcestershire sauce

30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons), or to taste

Bread crumbs

30 grams (¼ cup)

Parsley, fresh or dried

15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon)

Salt and pepper

to taste

Flour

8 grams (1 Tablespoon)

Beef stock

about 250 milliliters (1 cup)

Thyme, fresh or dried

2 milliliters (¼ teaspoon)

Method

Peel the onion and cut into two pieces through the root. Thinly slice one half and set aside. Coarsely chop the other half and put into a food processor. Separate the mushroom stems from the caps. Slice the caps thinly and set aside. Add the stems and the garlic to the onion in the food processor and mince finely. Sauté the mince in a small amount of butter until the onions are translucent. Set aside to cool.

Combine the ground beef with the cooled onion mixture, egg, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, and parsley. (I use my stand mixer with the flat beater, first beating the egg on medium speed then adding the rest of the ingredients and mixing on the lowest speed setting.) Form the mixture into two oblong rolls about the size and shape of a baking potato then flatten them into patties about 1 centimeter (½ inch) thick. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat about 15 grams (1 Tablespoon) of butter or oil in a heavy cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and cook the patties for about 8 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil and keep warm while you prepare the gravy.

Reheat the skillet over medium heat, adjust the fat to about 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon), and sauté the sliced onions until softened. Add the sliced mushroom caps and sauté until lightly browned. Sprinkle on the flour and cook for about minute, stirring constantly. Slowly add the stock a bit at a time stirring constantly. Be sure to let each addition come to a boil before adding the next otherwise you will not know just how think the gravy is becoming. Keep adding stock until the gravy is the consistency you like. (You can use water if you run out of stock.) Stir in the dried thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Serve the steaks with mashed potatoes and the gravy, accompanied by a green salad or vegetable.

Kümmelweck

kummelweckForget Buffalo wings, western New York’s real contribution to the culinaria of the Empire State is Beef-on-Weck, a sandwich of thinly-sliced roast beef on a crusty roll the top of which has been lightly dipped in the jus the meat cooked in. Not just any roll will do; it has to be a kümmelweck—literally “caraway roll.” Some who should know better (I’m talking about you, Bobby Flay) claim that you can turn a Kaiser roll into a kümmelweck by sprinkling it with caraway seeds and kosher or sea salt. But above the Niagara Escarpment people make a clear distinction between kümmelwecken and Kaiser rolls which are sold side-by-side in nearly every supermarket and bakery worthy of the name. The rest of us have to take matters into our own hands.

There are many recipes for kümmelweck online, all different and all claiming to be authentic. For no better reason than I use their flour, I adapted this recipe from one I found on the King Arthur Flour website. The biggest changes I made were to start with a pre-fermented poolish using my trusty sourdough starter and to add a bit of rye flour. If you have the time, you can eliminate the instant dry yeast and let the starter leaven the rolls. Being impatient I use a bit of commercial yeast. If you do not have a sourdough starter, simply increase the amount of water and of flour by 50 grams, increase the yeast to 2¼ teaspoons or one envelope, and skip the pre-fermentation altogether.  

A note on units of measure: It is simply not possible to achieve consistent baking results with volumetric measures. The weight of a cup of flour can vary by 10% or more depending on how it is scooped. Digital scales are so inexpensive today that every serious cook can afford one. All such scales display either Imperial or metric units making it easy to use the latter and to avoid having to try dividing by 16 in one’s head. It is not necessary to be familiar with the metric system; just set the scale and read off the numbers. The one exception I make is for small, non-critical amounts for which teaspoons are more convenient.

Ingredients

100% hydration sourdough starter

100 grams

Water

170 grams (divided use)

Bread flour

320 grams (divided use)

Rye flour

20 grams

Potato flour

25 grams

Sugar

6 grams

Salt

6 grams

Non-fat dry milk

15 grams

Unsalted butter, softened

30 grams + extra for brushing

Instant dry yeast (optional)

½ teaspoon (2½ milliliters)

Large egg

1 (approximately 50 grams)

Caraway seed

As needed

Kosher or coarse sea salt

As needed

Method

To make the poolish, combine the 100 grams of starter with 100 grams of water, 80 grams of bread flour, and the 20 grams of rye flour a bowl. I use the bowl of your heavy duty mixer. Brush a piece of plastic wrap with oil and place it directly on top of the dough. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside until bubbly, a couple of hours is best. The longer you let it ferment, the more pronounced the sourdough flavor will be.

Combine the remaining ingredients, except the caraway seed and kosher salt, with the poolish and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a nice smooth dough. Place in a large, lightly oiled proofing bowl, recover with the plastic wrap and towel, and set aside to proof until doubled in size—an hour or two depending on the temperature and the activity of your starter.

Line a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper. Divide the dough into six equal ball of about 100 grams each. Working on a floured surface, form each ball into a flat roll about three inches (75 mm) in diameter and place it on the pan. Cover with the towel and allow to proof for an hour or so until the rolls have roughly doubled in size.

Set a rack near the bottom of your oven and preheat it to 475°F (250°C). I use the convection setting in mine.  Wet a very sharp knife or a razor blade in water and cut an X into the top of each roll. Brush generously with melted butter then sprinkle with caraway seed and kosher or coarse sea salt to taste. When the oven is hot, put the sheet pan into the oven and spritz the interior with a spray bottle of water. Immediately turn the neat down to 425°F (220°C). Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.

Review: Garage Taco Bar

CaptureThis latest addition to the downtown Binghamton restaurant scene is located in a former auto repair shop. Friends of mine spoke highly of the work on their cars there. I do not expect similar comments about the current occupant. The décor is supposed to have a garage theme but that is pretty much limited to the front end of an old Chevrolet on the wall behind the bar and a few dozen wheels above it. The rest of the space, filled with retro Formica-topped tables, reminds me of my high school cafeteria. In nice weather, the garage doors open onto a patio furnished with picnic tables giving the place an improvised look. And, like most restaurants today, the sound level was just below the threshold of pain.

Unless you are seated at the bar, you order your food at a counter where you are given a number to place on whatever table you choose to sit at. Presumably your meal will be delivered to you. At the bar, you order from your bartender. And then you wait…and wait…and wait. Finally, your food arrives—in one or more rectangular cardboard bowls accompanied by a plastic spork.

Since the Garage calls itself a taco bar, one would expect it to have tacos. But at 8 PM on a Tuesday evening two of the five flavors of tacos, carne asada and carnitas, were sold out leaving pollo asado, frijoles y queso, and tofurizo. Tacos are served as a “dinner” of two with a side from a modest list and your choice of salsa, all for $8.  I ordered the first two with a side of Mexican rice…and I waited…for about twenty minutes even though the place was perhaps 10% full. For a signature dish, the tacos were a huge disappointment. They were flour tortillas hard in spots, soft in others, filled, respectively with perhaps a tablespoon of finely shredded chicken with no discernable flavor and a like amount of bland cheddar with a few canned black beans. The rice was yellow and served with one cilantro leaf which I suppose made it “Mexican.” Since I like really hot food, I opted for the hot salsa. It was basically chopped habaneros with too much heat and not enough flavor. I would have asked to try the medium hot salsa had I been able to get the bartender’s attention. I passed up a couple local brews for a Mexican beer, Modelo, on draft. That was a mistake. The beer was cold enough, but sour and reminiscent of American mass-market swill.

I have in the past criticized local restaurants for overly large servings but the Garage Taco Bar is at the opposite extreme. Their dinner is barely enough to be an appetizer and rather overpriced for what you get. I would pay a bit more to have tacos worthy of being a meal. And I would really like a choice of corn or flour tortilla and perhaps of hard or soft tacos. In fairness, the Garage has only been open for a couple of weeks so perhaps in time the food will improve and be prepared in a more reasonable length of time. Meanwhile, if you have a yen for Mexican fast food I recommend Chipotle or Moe’s.

Garage Taco Bar

211 Washington Street

Binghamton, NY 13901

(607) 217-7464

Review: The Colonial

6a2779_a8fee734a75243f0877e89b0222687e2Ok, we’re all grown-ups here so let’s tell it like it is: The Colonial has all the warmth and charm of a college town dive bar. Its unrelenting hard surfaces make it very noisy but the bar chairs are comfortable and the floor is only sticky in a few spots so, all in all, it is not an uninviting place. And the clientele is friendly and accommodating—a couple of young men sitting at the bar when we arrived happily rearranged themselves to make room for the two of us.

The selection of beers on tap is varied and interesting, ranging from local microbrews to some old standbys, Yuengling and Sam Adams. To their credit they do not waste tap space on “lite” swill. I had a very pleasant blonde ale from Good Nature Farm Brewery in Hamilton, NY. Had I not wanted to stay with a low-alcohol beer I would certainly have chosen the exceptional stout which was the rotating selection from the North Brewery in Endicott, NY.

On the two occasions that my wife and I have been there, the food has been very good. The special was something I have never seen on a restaurant menu in some forty years of eating out in major cities all around the country and more than few in Europe: camel. Yes, camel, the humpy-backed beast. I might well have ordered it but the bartender did not see fit to tell us what the evening’s specials were so I had already ordered something else. Perhaps she thought that we older people would not be interested in something so exotic. I overheard her reading the specials to someone else at the bar and asked her what they were. Speaking of bartenders, while the service was pretty decent I could just hear Jon Taffer of Spike TV’s Bar Rescue fulminating when one of the bartenders checked her mobile phone behind the bar.  

During warm weather, The Colonial has a few tables on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. Before taking our places at the bar, we had requested the next table that came open there. And one did just before our food arrived. The odd jerk on a motorcycle notwithstanding, the outdoor seating was much quieter than inside. My wife had the fish and chips which she, an anglophile of long standing, declared among the best she had ever tasted. My cheesesteak was good if not quite up to South Street Philly standards. And the fries we both had were excellent.

So, the Colonial is not a place one would choose for a romantic dinner but it a great for interesting beer and surprisingly good food. Just don’t expect to have a quiet conversation there.

The Colonial

56-58 Court Street

Binghamton, NY 13901

thecolonialbing@gmail.com

Tel: (607) 238-7741

Fricassée

Some might be prompted to ask, “Fricassée of what?” but to add anything to fricassée would be redundant since, as the authoritative Larousse Gastronomique puts it, “In modern French usage, the word fricassée applies almost exclusively to a method of preparing poultry in a white sauce.” [Larousse Gastronomique, (New York: Crown Publishers, 1961), 430-431]. Most commonly in the United States it is a stew of leftover poultry with vegetables and gravy. Technically a white sauce contains milk or cream but I find that to be gilding the lily, so to speak. The easiest approach is to figure out how much leftover chicken, or turkey, you have and scale the recipe accordingly. The quantities listed below make a generous pot full that should feed at least four.

Ingredients

 

Schmaltz, olive oil, or a combination

2 tablespoons

30 ml

Onion, diced

8 ounces

250 grams

Carrot, diced

6 ounces

175 grams

Celery, diced

4 ounces

125 grams

Flour

2 tablespoons

30 ml

Chicken broth or stock

2 – 3 cups

500 – 750 ml

Tarragon leaves, dried

½ teaspoon

2½ ml

Thyme leaves, dried

1 teaspoon

5 ml

Parsley leaves, dried

1 tablespoon

15 ml

Potatoes, medium dice

12 ounces

350 grams

Peas

4 ounces

125 grams

Cooked chicken in bite-sized pieces

1 pound

500 grams

Salt and pepper

to taste

to taste

Method

Put the schmaltz or oil into a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat and sweat the onions, carrots, and celery for about 5 minutes or until softened but not browned. Sprinkle on the flour and stir to make a roux. Cook for about 2 minutes then add stock a bit at a time stirring until each addition comes to a boil. Continue to add stock until the gravy has a nice consistency. Stir in the herbs then add the potatoes, peas, and chicken. Add more stock if needed to just cover everything. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. Check to see that the potatoes are done. If the gravy is too thin, uncover, turn the heat up to medium for a few minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Review: Tranquil Bar and Bistro

 

shapeimage_2[1]Opened in 2008 by Binghamton University professor Sean Massey and his husband Loren Crouch in what had for years been an Irish bar, Tranquil Bar and Bistro bills itself as, “(a) Little French Bistro in the Heart of Binghamton” and promises “(w)onderfully creative cuisine, spectacular beverage menu, welcoming surroundings and attentive service.” And, on the whole, it delivers on that promise.

My wife and I have been there for drinks, dinner, and brunch on a number of occasions, most recently on our tenth wedding anniversary last Tuesday. We arrived a bit early for our 8PM reservation to find ourselves the only dinner patrons—not entirely surprising for that hour on a Tuesday in Binghamton. We started out at the bar with the evening’s special: $5 rail martinis. In a trice the bartender poured us two perfect gin martinis—stirred not shaken—garnished with olives. (One might be surprised at how difficult it is in the post-James Bond world to get a real martini.) So, on to our dinner.

By the time we sat down to dinner another couple had come in to the restaurant. Our server was prompt and attentive to everyone. (In my experience, service is often worse in a nearly empty dining room because wait staff are bored.) On occasions when Tranquil was more crowded the service has been equally good. After considering the daily specials we both decided to order from the menu. My wife chose the Trout Meunière and I the Steak au Poivre. Since we were having such different entrees we bypassed the impressive wine list and chose white and red Côtes du Rhônes by the glass. Our server brought us a basket of excellent warm bread—Italian bread, actually, but that is what Binghamton is famous for—with whipped honey butter. I would have preferred a bit of French baguette with unsalted butter but what we had was good. The salads were very nice plates of mixed greens in a classic French house vinaigrette garnished with cucumber slices and grape tomato halves. They were attractive, tasty, and perfectly whetted our palates for what was to come.

While preparation a la meunière is often associated with sole it works wonderfully with any small mild fish. In this case it appeared to be farm-raised rainbow trout which is sustainable and delicious. Our only compliant is that the fish was perhaps a bit overdone, either because getting thin filets done perfectly is difficult or because of the local Binghamton culture that looks askance at potentially undercooked food. (My personal opinion is that there is no such thing as undercooked fish.) The rice pilaf accompanying the trout was very good and a perfect match for the buttery sauce. About the vegetable of the day, broccolini, more later.

I am sorry to report that the steak au poivre was less successful. For one thing, it was served with mashed potatoes, the traditional accompaniment of pommes frites being unavailable. The potatoes were fine—red potatoes with bits of skin—but I find it unbelievable that an establishment billing itself as a French bistro does not offer that most iconic of French bistro food, the French fry. Secondly, although the meat was cooked nicely rare as I requested, I found the serving too large, too thick, and not well trimmed. In fairness to the chef, we Americans tend to prefer large slabs of beef, but a French bistro would do well to consider getting French cuts of meat. I could not tell whether the steak had been cooked on a grill but the classic French preparation would have been in a very hot cast iron skillet with a bit of butter. And for my taste it could have used quite a bit more black pepper.

Now to the broccolini. I love broccolini, a smaller, crunchier version of broccoli. But what we were served was disappointing. Some of the stalks were bright green as they should be but others had the telltale grey of reheated vegetables. Yet they were still a bit underdone. A $27 entrée should not come with obviously reheated green vegetables, ever. Broccolini is a nice touch but it has to be done right and served fresh.

Our evening ended with complimentary crème brûlée, in honor of our anniversary—a nice surprise made possible by one of Glenda’s artist colleagues whose work was on display at Tranquil for the month. All in all, it was a wonderful celebration. Despite my nitpicking, which I offer as constructive criticism, we will certain be back and I urge everyone to give Tranquil Bar and Bistro a try.  

Tranquil Bar and Bistro

36 Pine Street

Binghamton, NY 13901

(607) 723-0495

Review: Jrama’s Soulfood Grille & Barbecue Pit

jramas

It is a bit difficult for me to decide how to describe Jrama’s Soulfood Grille & Barbecue Pit. For one thing, the restaurant, housed in a former fast food joint in a strip mall on Upper Front Street just north of exit 6 from northbound I-81, although it has been open for several months, still has its “soft opening” menu, suggesting that changes are likely. That menu, however, is supplemented by a variety of daily specials announced by the owner as people arrive. And arrive they do. We stopped in well after the traditional 1PM end of lunch hour and the place was packed. When we left, there was a line for service and people were still coming in. So clearly Jrama’s has found a niche.  

Jrama’s concept is to provide freshly-made, often locally-sourced food made to recipes handed down through the owner’s family. The Soul Food menu struck me as more American comfort food—mac ‘n’ cheese, fried chicken, fried cat fish, baked beans, and cornbread—as well as such favorites as collard greens and spicy cabbage. A nice selection but missing such soul food staples as chit’lins and organ meats. However, the menu does include some Jamaican dishes like candied yams and rice and peas. Today’s specials included other Jamaican favorites: ox tails and jerk chicken. In any event the line between Island cuisine and Soul Food is a bit blurry and the selection is certainly appealing.

Being something of a BBQ connoisseur, I started out with the chopped pork BBQ sandwich. It was a generous portion served on a soft roll with the traditional coleslaw. I was surprised that it was Kansas-city style: lightly smoked with a cloyingly sweet, mild sauce. My wife had the BBQ chicken leg. It had the same too-sweet sauce but was cooked to perfection on a grill in the parking lot. Frankly, I much prefer Carolina-style pulled pork with a spicy vinegar-based sauce so I do not expect to have Jrama’s BBQ again. But then, as the lines indicate, Jrama’s knows its clientele. I do expect, however, to be back to try some of the Jamaican specialties.

One word of caution if you plan to try Jrama’s on your lunch hour: like many local restaurants I have visited, they have not mastered the concept of a quick lunch. I suppose that is the price of a made-to-order menu, but it would perhaps be good if they had a lunch menu of items that can produced a bit more quickly. Still, at least on the Friday we were there, the wait did not seem to discourage anyone.

Jrama’s Soulfood Grille & Barbecue Pit

1237 Front Street, Binghamton

Open Thursday-Saturday, 12pm-10pm

Sunday, 12pm-8pm

(607)644-7272

 

Review: The Painted Pig

Painted PigThe Southern Tier of NY is not famous for its pulled pork BBQ. In fact, before the Painted Pig, I have never had decent pulled pork in the area. But here is the real thing—east Carolina style, vinegar-based BBQ but made with locally-sourced ingredients.

At lunch on Friday, I had the pulled pork sandwich. It was piled generously with meat and topped with house-made BBQ sauce. The owner gladly provided a small cup of Texas Pete’s hot sauce, telling me that he too preferred it hotter but that he had to tone it down for the delicate palates of upstate NY. My only quibbles are that the roll was a bit over-toasted and that there was no coleslaw on the sandwich as is traditional in BBQ-eating country. The side of fresh arugula and a dill pickle spear that tasted locally made rounded out a satisfying lunch.

My wife, who does not eat wheat, ordered the pulled pork nachos. Wow! The $10 order was more than enough for two. It consisted of a big pile of multi-colored tortilla chips with lots of pulled pork topped with melted NY state cheese and generous dollops of sour cream and house-made guacamole. Next time we might well share an order for lunch.

If pulled pork is not to your liking, the Painted Pig offers a variety of other sandwiches and an impressive selection of salads.

Currently beverages are limited to soft drinks and raspberry iced tea. Personally, I think that the absence of unsweetened ice tea was taking the Southern theme a bit far. Depending on the time of day, you can always pick up a growler of beer at the nearby Binghamton Brewing Company to have with your meal.

Besides the food, the Painted Pig is sort of an art gallery with work by local artists displayed on the walls. On some evenings they feature local musicians. This is a place worth a visit.

 

The Painted Pig

258 Main St

Johnson City, NY 13790

 (607) 296-3799