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Johnson City NY non-chain eats?

Next month, my family and I will be traveling along I-86, stopping at a hotel in Johnston City, NY for one night each on our way to and from RI. We're interested in any non-chain, casual dinner and breakfast places (with a take-out option would be great, as we'll also be traveling with our dog) around there that have good quality food. Local pizza joints, sandwich shops, coffee houses, etc. are all fair game. Also, random googling brought me a link to Crepe Heaven. Is the food good there or does it just read well on their web site? And, are there any 'can't miss' coffee shops around there that serve up a nice, strong, flavorful cuppa joe?

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Crepe Heaven
217 Main St Ste 1, Binghamton, NY 13905

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  1. I'm guessing that you'll be staying in the area of the mall, which is unfortunately pretty much a wasteland in terms of non-chain restaurants these days. I encourage you to stop a few exits west of Johnson City in Endicott, where there are a few very good family-owned Italian restaurants. Joey's Pizza has a brick oven and makes some of the best pizza I've ever had. I also really like Consul's, which is more of a sit-down kind of place located in the same block. Both are about a 15-minute drive from the area where I think you're staying.

    In Binghamton, a few casual places for dinner I used to go to when I was in grad school are Southside Yanni's and Whole in the Wall, though those are a little far from Johnson City. I've heard good things about Mekong, a Vietnamese restaurant in Johnson City, but I've never been there. Closer to the university along the Vestal Parkway are quite a few restaurants, but nearly all of them are chain places that cater to students.

    As far as coffee, first thing in the morning, Wegmans may not be a bad place to go. Yes, it's primarily a grocery store, but they have good coffee, and you can also get some simple breakfast items (bagels, fruit, breakfast sandwiches) as well as a fairly good selection of sandwiches and takeout if you're looking for quick meals. Crepe Heaven must be relatively new, because I lived a block from where it's shown on the map about five years ago, and it wasn't there when I was there. I also didn't notice it when I drove through town a few months ago.

    1 Reply
    1. re: writergeek313

      Yes, we will be near the mall. I was noticing tons of chains when I googled, but was hoping there would be a decent local place somewhere around there that I was missing. Thanks for your ideas. Italian in Endicott would be totally do-able, and we'd enjoy Vietnamese. Good to know about Wegman's. I've heard they're a good grocery store (we don't have them here in OH) and I would bet that their coffee would be much better than any available at the hotel. (I'm sure it wouldn't take much.)

      Please keep the ideas coming, everyone. I am especially curious about the crepe place. The last crepe cafe I stumbled upon was in Monterey, CA and it was a real treat.

    2. Yeah, the area (my hometown) is pretty much a restaurant wasteland. Aside from the Italian places in Endicott, you might try the following:
      Man Nam, Korean, Vestal Parkway Eastbound side (aka Rt. 434), a couple buildings west from the Denny's at the intersection with Bunn Hill Rd. Basic but decent.
      Thai Basil, 1 Washington Ave., Endicott: very basic hole-in-the-wall, but good food.
      Lost Dog, corner of Henry and Water in downtown Binghamton. Casual bistro type place, many people like this more than I do.

      I'm not a big fan of Wegman's coffee or Mekong for Vietnamese. Sadly, about the best coffee I found in the area was Starbuck's.

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      Thai Basil
      1 Washington Ave, Endicott, NY 13760

      Lost Dog
      222 Water St Ste 101, Binghamton, NY 13901

      1. A good Italian place on Harry L Drive (in the area you are staying) is Cacciatore's.
        A non-chain steak place in that area is Christie's. Food is good but I find it a little on the expensive side.
        There are a couple of diners on Main St. in JC where you can get a decent, standard breakfast.
        Crepe Heaven (Main St in Binghamton) is good and has great coffee and their desserts look good (haven't tried them). They have both savory and dessert crepes. Worth checking out IMHO.
        I recommend Joey's and Consol's as well. There is a little coffee shop across from Joey's (can't remember the name) that has good coffee but the hours are sporadic.
        I am not a fan of Whole in the Wall; mediocre food and too pricy. Grande's (around the corner from Whole in the Wall on Vestal Ave.) has decent food including pizza.

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        Main St Cafe
        6 N Main St, New City, NY 10956

        Crepe Heaven
        217 Main St Ste 1, Binghamton, NY 13905

        1 Reply
        1. re: cnyer

          I was going to mention the coffee place across from Joey's but his hours are so irregular that I didn't want anyone to count on it. But get an espresso or cappucino if you are in the area and he is open. I think the cafe is a sideline to a business selling espresso machines.

        2. I graduated from SUNY Binghamton back in the early 1980s. Reading these posts is bringing back good memories. Whole in the Wall was in downtown Binghamton back then, and a vegetarian friend used to make us go with her there because she loved it. The university is really in Vestal, off of the Vestal Parkway you spoke about, and I used to go in the side entrance on Bunn Hill Road, which you also mentioned, not far from the Dennys. We used to go to that Denny's on Sundays for the Grand Slam Breakfast, which kept us fueled to study all day! And we'd go up the highway to Dunkin Donuts, and I believe that we also had a Ground Round back then on the highway? I believe now that there are more national chains up and down Vestal Parkway. Back then, there were small chain Italian restaurants which were local to upstate NY, and were pretty good. Coco's, Augustino's, The Vineyards - all of these I believe had common owners, had restaurants in Syracuse too, and were really good. Coco's was fancier, and across Vestal Parkway from the college. The Vinyards was in the parking lot of Sugarman's 5&10 and Great American food stores. Augustino's was in the Oakdale Mall off of Harry L Drive, which you mentioned has another Italian Restaurant nearby now. Are any of these Italian restaurants still around? And the Oakdale Mall had a nice dept. store called Fowler's. There was another Fowler's on Vestal Parkway but that closed down.
          Of course, back then the Vestal Steakhouse, with the huge cow, was still on Vestal Parkway. And I lived in an old motel that the college rented as off-campus housing called the Colonial Inn, which was a motor court and the college renamed it "Colonial Community", and my section was in the parking lot behind Wendy's. Now I hear that they knocked the motel down (Wendy's may still be there though?) and it's now a major hotel chain, like Courtyard by Marriott or something similar. Oh, the best ice cream was in nearby Johnson City, at Pat Mitchels, near a cemetary and not far from the war memorial arches. They opened another branch when I was graduating, off of Vestal Parkway in the small shopping center I think called Vestal Plaza, which had an okay pizza place that delivered. I bet that shopping center isn't there anymore either. The Colonial Inn was directly across Vestal Parkway from a bar I think called the Ale House, which I heard is still there, and we used to go get sandwiches and play darts. Oh, and on parent's visiting day, my dad drove us out towards the Champion Outlet, near Broome Commnity College, to some strip shopping center, which had a terrific steak house, similar to ones in NY. Does anyone remember any of the places that I've mentioned, particularly the Italian restaurants? I'd like to hear if any of these places are still there? One of these days I'm going to go back (we went once when my son was looking at colleges, but for less than a day.)

          3 Replies
          1. re: barbgail61

            Much has changed since the early '80s in good ole Vestal ... it is now pretty much seven miles of strip malls, etc.
            The Ground Round is gone ,,, there wasn't one for a few years but it reopened in JC by the mall.
            The other three restaurants you mentioned are gone. The Vestal Steakhouse (and the big bull) are gone ... I remember the bull got new life elsewhere but I can't remember where. It's nowhere in Greater Binghamton that I'm aware of.
            I knew the Colonial as I had a dear friend that lived there while attending BU. A part of me was sad to see it go even though it became an eyesore ... the Wendy's is still there as is the Ale House.
            Pat Mitchell's is not in JC or Vestal anymore ... its in Endicott by the Kmart Plaza and has been there since at least 1993 when I moved here. I am friends with one of the current owners.
            Vestal Plaza is alive and kicking ... they tore down the Grand Union and built student housing so it is a bustling place. There is a Tullys, a burger chain (5 Guys?) and a good non-chain Thai and a decent Greek place there now. I think the pizza place (Mario's?) is still there also.
            Champion Outlet is gone as is the steak house (the Bull's Head). There is a place (Grande's ... different than the one mentioned in my earlier post) in that plaza now.
            The parkway doesn't really have any Italian places now but there are plenty still around in the area.

            1. re: cnyer

              The big bull is at the Discovery Center near Ross Park Zoo.

              1. re: cnyer

                Thank you so much cnyer for the updates. My head is spinning from all the changes that you mentioned, but then again, it has really been a long time. I wonder if your friend lived at the Colonial when I did? Who knows, it was a lifetime ago, and it was a little "seedy" when I lived there, but not quite an eyesore. Glad to hear that the bull got new life!

                Anyway, one of these days I'll make it back up to that area! Thank you once again.

            2. I second the suggestion on Lost Dog Cafe in Bing. I also want to mention Theo's Southern Style Cuisine, which is in Johnson City. This link indicates that they are closed, but it said that when we ate there a few years ago (they apparently had some tax problems) so I'd definitely call to check. Also, we went there for lunch, I am not sure what sort of neighborhood is it at night. They had great wings and corn bread, their other stuff is also supposed to be really good.

              http://www.yelp.com/biz/theos-souther...

              2 Replies
              1. re: MisterBill2

                I used to like Theo's but the last time I ate there (several years ago) it was sub-standard. Then I heard that they might be closed. If they are open and up to their original standards, then this is a good place for soul food. I woudn't worry about the neighborhood.

                1. re: jmoryl

                  My son just finished his 2nd year of college, so we were probably there 3 years ago when we were visiting schools. There was some question about whether they were open at that time but they were. We only had wings and they were great (as was the cornbread they gave us). I can't speak for the rest of the food.

              2. One of the places I miss the most from when I lived in Binghamton is China Lake on Main Street in Endwell. It doesn't look like much from outside, but the food is authentic, reasonably priced, and very good.

                On the fiip side, stay away from the Chinese buffet in the strip mall near the mall. I went there a few times after they merged with my favorite sushi place (which is sadly now the Dunkin' Donuts across from the mall). The food was awful, and the sushi was nothing like it used to be.

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                China Lake Restaurant
                3215 E Main St Ste 2, Endicott, NY 13760