Name: Lost Dog Cafe
Location: 222 Water St, Binghamton, NY 13901
Phone: (607) 771-6063
Cuisine: "American eclectic" for lack of a better phrase
Attire: As informal or formal as you want
Price: Varies. I'd say $25-$30 for lunch and $50+ for dinner for a party of 2. But it depends entirely on what you get.
The Lost Dog is somewhat of a Binghamton institution which has evolved over the years from a coffeehouse which happened to serve food to more of a casual fine dining establishment. The place is pretty unique and gives off sort of a slacker, bohemian vibe. Live music can often be heard later in the evenings. Really, the Lost Dog is whatever you want it to be. You can stop by for a cup of coffee, have a drink at the bar with its unspectacular beer and wine selection, have a casual lunch, or a nice dinner. Its versatility is one of the Lost Dog's most intriguing attributes.
If you're planning on going to Lost Dog during peak dinner hours on the weekend, plan on waiting, sometimes an hour or so. You can wait at the bar, so all is not a lost cause. Of course, you can always call ahead and get your name on the list ahead of time to cut down the waiting time. This place is definitely worth the wait, as it's one of the better places in Binghamton to get a bite to eat.
On my last visit I started with a bowl of the soup of the day, which was chicken pesto. Quite delicious if I may say so. They also bring out some french bread and butter to get you started. They also have lots of options for appetizers. A very tasty spinach artichoke dip, sun-dried tomato pesto dip, and bruschetta are but a few of them. Or you can get all three with the combo platter. None of these appetizers are particularly amazing but all are good.
For the main course you have a couple options. They have a sandwich menu with various inexpensive options, and a menu of entrees which are more expensive. One thing I will say is that the menu is not very extensive for main entrees. There are only maybe 8-10 items to choose from on the menu so if you're not in the mood for one of those you're out of luck.
Luckily, one of your options is the Rigatoni ala Vodka. Which easily stands as one of the finest dishes in Binghamton. Many restaurants in the area offer this dish, but none have perfected it to the level the Lost Dog has. You can add chicken (as I did), shrimp, or tofu to the dish to give it a little protein, and you can get it "Old School" which adds spicy cayenne pepper to the mix (I added this option as well). Overall, a pretty perfect dish. The rigatoni is cooked perfectly, and the vodka sauce is out of this world. I find it to be thicker sauce than you get on the "average" vodka rigatoni and it's all the better for it. The cayenne pepper kicks it up a notch. For $18 (regular size with the chicken added) this is well worth every penny.
As far as other entrees go, the Greek Chicken ($15) is also commendable. I've gotten the Chicken Marsala ($15) before as well, and was less pleased with it, but it was still pretty good. The Lost Dog is very vegetarian/vegan friendly, with several menu options appealing to those of that persuasion. One minor complaint is that nothing else is included with the entrees, but you can add a side salad for $1.50 if you want, and other sides are available for $3 or $4. I recommend the sweet potato fries.
When it's time for dessert, you've got a few really solid options. The wife and I often split the "Good PMS." An odd name, no doubt, PMS stands for "Perfect Mexican Sundae" in this case. It's a brownie flanked by ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel, and chopped peanuts. Very nice. I'm also partial to their after-dinner drink menu. I usually get their version of an Irish Coffee entitled the Dublin Coffee, which is quite good. Has the usual desired elements (Jameson) but a touch of brown sugar and a huge dollop of whipped cream literally takes it over the top. A really good drink, if you like that sort of thing.
All in all, the Lost Dog Cafe is one of the best, most unique restaurants in the Binghamton area. My only real complaints with the place are the somewhat limited entree menu and their mediocre beer selection. Admittedly, I am tough to please in the beer department, and this will be a common complaint throughout my reviews! These are minor issues that do not detract from a great dining experience. The Vodka Rigatoni is reason enough to go to the Lost Dog on a regular basis. It's a nice place to go for a somewhat fancy meal with the wife, but relaxed enough that you can go casually with a large group of friends as well. If you haven't been to the Lost Dog before, it definitely belongs at the top of your list when deciding your next nice dinner outing.