These Bars, Cafes & Restaurants in Binghamton Are Spicing Up the Local Food Scene
April 12, 2023
Tacos served in an old mechanics garage. A café filled with coffee-themed takes on pop culture. Delicious pasta in an old cigar factory named after a 2-pound chihuahua. A true 1920’s-style speakeasy. You’ll find all that and more at these bars, cafés, and restaurants in Binghamton. Find out where you can get the best food and drinks in town.
Every time I’m in Binghamton, I have to get a coffee from my favorite local cafe, Strange Brew. The first time I stepped inside, I instantly fell in love with the atmosphere. The walls are covered in coffee-themed pop culture icons. Spock, Kermit the Frog, Einstein, Walter White & Jesse… I’m obsessed.
Not only that, but their coffee and pastry selection is fantastic too! They have a variety of breakfast sandwiches, omelets, and vegan tofu scrambles. For lunch, choose from a selection of soups, salads, artisan grilled cheeses, and various mac and cheeses. Let’s not forget the wide variety of drinks available too – including seasonal specials. Coffee, tea, lattes, bubble tea, flavored lemonades… There is something for everyone.
Garage Taco Bar
Unique location, check. Trendy atmosphere, check. Delicious food, check. Drink specials, check. That’s right, Garage Taco Bar in downtown Binghamton checks all the boxes.
When car-enthusiast Daniel Sharp saw the old mechanic’s garage go up for sale, he saw the perfect opportunity to create a unique restaurant. It was a risk he was willing to take because if it didn’t work out, the garage would serve as a place to store and work on his cars. Needless to say, Garage Taco Bar was a smashing success. There’s an awesome vibe both indoor and out. The garage style and decor make for such a unique and “cool” atmosphere.
But don’t worry, it’s more than just a cool place to hang out. The food is really good too. Inspired by famous street tacos, the dishes with unique flavors made with fresh, local ingredients. In addition to a wide variety of tacos, the menu includes quesadillas, burritos, nachos, and even burgers. Can’t decide which taco to choose? Order them a la carte (singles) and try out a few different styles. Plus, vegetarians and vegans will have plenty of options too.
If you’re on a budget, check out the daily specials. Happy hour is every weekday from 3 til 6pm, offering $4 margaritas and well drinks, $1 off draft beer, and half off chips. Margaritas are half off on Mondays. Taco Tuesdays boast $3 taco specials. White Claws are just $3 on Wednesdays. And nachos and Tecate are on special every Thursday.
Lost Dog Café & Lounge
A dog-themed café with great food and cute decor? Say less; I’m already on my way. The women-owned café came to be unexpectedly. Owners Maria and Elizabeth had dreams of making music. They lived in New York City as part of the band ‘The Derangelles” while working at restaurants to keep their dream alive.
Ultimately the band didn’t make it, so the pair moved back home to Binghamton with new dreams – this time of opening a restaurant of their own. Lost Dog Café first opened in October 1994. It was named in honor of Liz’s dog, Clarese, who had a habit of getting lost. The space would serve as a place for friends to meet up, have some great food, and listen to live music.
Lost Dog remains a favorite spot of both locals and visitors to Binghamton. The menu consists of your standard fare: salads, pastas, and sandwiches. For drinks, they are one of the only places I’ve been to that sells Italian sodas (seltzer with flavored syrup) and French cream sodas (like Italian, but with cream). They come in the most interesting flavors, including mint, pistachio, pomegranate, peach, praline, and more.
If you go to Lost Dog Café and don’t order the Rigatoni a la Vodka, you are truly missing out. And you should know that I’m (not-so) silently judging you. It’s their signature dish for a reason. Make sure to order it “old school” – with a dash of cayenne. It’s ‘chef’s kiss.’
Easily my newest favorite bar in Binghamton, 205 Dry is everything that I love. First of all, it’s a true speakeasy. You have to figure out how to enter the bar once you arrive. Second, they went all in on the speakeasy theme. Everything from the bar decor to the furniture, the menu design to even the bathrooms are spot on. Third, the bartenders sure know what they are doing. They are very friendly and open to suggesting food and drinks they think you’ll like. And last, but definitely not least, the food and drinks are all so damn good.
So what’s on the menu? Pretty much what you’d expect. Carefully curated craft cocktails, a laaaaarge selection of whiskey/whisky, delicious appetizers, and artisan entrees. (They even do flights of Pappy. If you’re a whiskey fan, you know that’s the cream of the crop. It’s quite expensive and hard-to-find.)
Since truly everything on the menu sounded delicious, my friend and I left it up to the discretion of the bartender. We gave him a handful of options we were considering, and said ‘surprise us!’ Best. Decision. Ever. We had the Pesto Baked Brie and Chicken Nachos – both phenomenal. We did the same with dessert, and ended up devouring the House-Made Cheesecake and Ice Cream Sandwich. I still dream about that ice cream sandwich…
Pssst. Don’t forget to ask for the secret shot menu!
Spiedie & Rib Pit
If there is one food that Binghamton is known for, it’s chicken spiedies. The famous marinated and char-grilled chicken sandwiches have been a landmark of the southern tier since the 1940s. While the exact origins are unknown, the sandwich is so popular there’s a yearly festival dedicated to it.
For years, Lupo’s S&S Char-Pit was the most iconic place to grab a fresh spiedie. Unfortunately the restaurant recently closed after 45 years in order to focus on their wholesale business. (Hello Wegmans!) But fear not, a sister restaurant, owned by a member of the same family is still thriving.
John Schofield & Susie Lupi Schofield opened Spiedie & Rib Pit in 1993. The menu features traditional spiedies made with chicken or pork in addition to specialties. These other sandwiches have a variety of breads, sauces, and other condiments. Of course there are a handful of other grilled favorites, salads, and classic sides too.
So if you are visiting Binghamton for the first time, trying a spiedie is a must!