About a quarter of the way down its 444-mile southerly course from Cooperstown to Turkey Point, where it becomes the Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna River dips briefly from New York into Pennsylvania to go around Tuscarora Mountain then flows back north and west into Binghamton. Conklin Road, NY Route 7, follows the left bank of the river from the state line into the city before taking a right turn along the Chenango River and heading for Albany and Vermont. Every few years the river floods the homes and businesses that line Route 7, so it takes some moxie to locate here. But the irony is that the owners of Moxie Wood Fire Grill, Mark and Victoria Tedeschi, did not have that in mind when they chose the name a year before the 2006 flood put five feet of water into their restaurant just as they were about to have their grand opening. The Binghamton area is fortunate that they did have that moxie, though, because the region would be poorer without this wonderful place. Located a half dozen miles from downtown Binghamton Moxie is well worth the short drive.
The first thing that strikes you as you walk toward the door to Moxie is the tower of flame across from a couple of chairs to accommodate smokers. A nice touch that perhaps keeps such people from driving a few more miles into Pennsylvania where smoking in restaurants is, sadly, still permitted. Open the door and aroma of wood smoke greets you from the wood-fired grill and pizza oven along the far wall as you walk in. On the left is a cozy bar and lounge; on the right the spacious two-story dining room surrounded by a balcony under which are intimate booths. Over each booth is an unobtrusive sound absorbing panel that makes the sound level just right adding to the overall calm, relaxed ambience.
We were a bit early for our reservations—strongly recommended because the restaurant is often crowded—but the friendly hostess seated us promptly, cheerfully acquiescing to our request for a booth. Our waiter, Chris, was right there to introduce us to the Moxie and to take our drink orders. The menu is extensive with a unifying theme of wood fire cooking. Steaks, of course, are prominent but grilled fish and seafood are also featured. And, since Conklin, New York is well north of the surf-and-turf line (more about that in another post) various combinations are available. Besides having an impressive list of reasonably-priced bottles of wine, including a number from the near-by Finger Lakes, the menu offers an unusually broad selections of wines by the glass. There is also a fine selection of beers and bar drinks.
As is our wont, we started with martinis. Chris did not miss a beat when we ordered classic martinis, not the vodka abominations that pass for such these days. Minutes later he poured them at our table and took our dinner orders. Glenda had the mixed grill of beef tenderloin, diver scallops, and jumbo shrimp; I opted for the New York strip, rare—a personal favorite. Both came with a medley of roasted peppers, zucchini, and carrots. For a side Glenda chose fried polenta and I French fries. I could go into great detail but suffice it to say that everything was near perfection. The polenta was so good that I must try to recreate the recipe. My steak was juicy and bit chewy just as NY strip should be; Glenda raved about her mixed grill. The only minor complaint we had was that the salads arrived before we had finished our martinis. But those salads—mixed greens with croutons, grape tomatoes, and an inexplicable pepperoncini—were topped with outstanding house-made dressing. The roasted-onion dressing I had was especially nice. I should note that while we declined an appetizer the special of the night was grilled pork belly that sounded superb. Perhaps next time we will make a meal from the appetizer menu! The dessert list is short but elegant and well-suited to the rest of the menu. We shared a flour-free chocolate cake that was simply decadent.
I have to rate the dinner we had at Moxie among two or three best I have ever had in Binghamton. The bill for the two of us, including tax and tip but not the dessert that was kindly comped because it was our anniversary, came to about $125, pricy for Binghamton, perhaps, but more than reasonable for the quality of the food and service. If you are celebrating a special occasion, trying to impress out-of-town guest, or just in the mood for an excellent meal, you cannot go wrong at Moxie Wood Fire Grill.
Moxie Wood Fire Grill
998 Conklin Road
Conklin, NY 13748