Review: Uncle Tony’s
October 20, 2016
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Located 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