As a NYC parent, during my son's first year at SUNY-Bing I began to despair of ever finding a good, reasonably priced restaurant in that area. But then, Eureka!, so I share it with you: Whole in the Wall, 43 S. Washington St. immediately south of Vestal Pky. (NY Rte. 434) in that part of the city of Binghamton located just south of the Susquehanna River.
They describe their fare as natural foods prepared from scratch, and I would add that the chef has a deft hand with herbs and spices and does wonderful eclectic inter-ethnic mixes of ingredients. They make their own breads-the kind that remind me of some I've made myself at home. The dessert list is short but good. They have no liquor, wine or beer license but you can BYOB and they'll gladly provide the glasses--I did it the last time I was there. And, from my point of view, what makes it even better is that all of this is at prices that are very reasonable.
Since I take my son back up to school tomorrow morning and wondered if they're open for lunch, I called to check their hours. It's Tue.-Sat. 11:30-9:00.
For those interested in ambiance, it's located in a ca. 100-year-old storefront that's been decorated in a way that's comfortable, informal and relaxed. The wait staff are also, and on the three or four occasions I've been there, helpful and reasonably attentive, as well. I understand that there's live entertainment on weekend evenings; and, I found out when I went there late afternoon St. Patrick's Day 2000, that I had just missed a special bash with entertainment that had begun at around noon.
To get there from I-81, go south from exit 4 in Binghamton, following routes 7, 363 and 434 toward Vestal (where SUNY Binghamton a/k/a Binghamton Univ. is really located), which routes succeed each other in very short order. It's not really that far from I-81 and it's worth the short detour if you want to eat in that area and are not heading for SUNY.
Other recommendations in the area (the first two in Vestal near SUNY and the third--an ice cream parlor--in Binghamton and Endicott):
This one not from me, but from my son: Kampai located at the intersection of Vestal Pky. E. (NY Rte. 434) and Jensen Rd., only open evenings, a Japanese restaurant with hibachi, sushi, and the like. I was there once; my son had sushi; I had hibachi. It is a big barn of a place and if someone in your party is ordering hibachi, you get sent to that part of the restaurant where that is prepared before you on one of the big communal tables with the necessary cooking surface. The food may have been reasonably good, but I was put off by the eating-in-a-large-mostly-empty-barn ambiance. As is generally true of Japanese restaurants, prices are on the higher side of the ethnic restaurant range.
For breakfast, desserts and baked goods only, in my opinion: Take a Break, 2313 Vestal Road (which runs parallel to Vestal Pky. (NY Rte. 434) and north of it). I am not only a chowhound, but also a desserthound. On my second breakfast here, I finished off with one of their baked desserts--excellent. Greek specialties are indicated and I made the mistake on a third visit--at supper--of ordering a spinach dish. The worst I've ever had, the spinach being severely overcooked and nothing happening by way of herbs and spices. Dessert made up for it. So, go for the baked-on-premises desserts and forget the main meal, unless you're there for breakfast.
Finally: Desserthounds of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your waist! Pat Mitchell's for excellent ice cream. I'm aware of two locations, one in Endicott NY in the Endicott Plaza mall and the other--that I've actually been to--at the intersection of Vestal Ave. and Park Ave., one block from Binghamton General Hospital and several blocks from Whole in the Wall, with which this whole thing started.
Anyone else with suggestions for food that's good and cheap-to-moderate in the Binghamton-Vestal-Johnson City-Endicott area? My son still has a year and a half to go up there.
Love and knishes,