Name: Escape State Street
Location: 163 Washington St., Binghamton, NY 13901
Phone: (607) 723-1831
Cuisine: Sandwiches/Paninis/Flatbread Pizzas
Price: Less than $10 per person
Megan and I and a group of friends decided to avoid State St. for lunch one day a couple weeks back and went to...ummm...Escape State Street. Escape represents an oddity in the landscape of Binghamton food. The main idea behind Escape is for drunk Binghamton University students to have a place to go and commune after a hard night of partying one block over on, you guessed it, State St. As any Binghamtonian will tell you, State St. is notorious for being the place where the campus population intersects the city population. It's where the bars and clubs are, a dramatic world that evidently can sometimes be just a little too much to take. Sometimes its inhabitants need a quiet place to chat, to eat a hearty sandwich, to escape, if you will. Where should they go? Hmmm...
Escape State Street not only caters to the inebriated SUNY set but to the general public as well. They serve breakfast, lunch, and are open again for late-night hours until one hour AFTER the bars on State St. close. They also offer delivery service. In its short life, Escape has built a fairly sizable following among the college crowd--generating an article in BU's student-run Pipe Dream--but also seems to be making inroads in the community as well. It's a quaint little coffee/sandwich shop located in the Metrocenter "indent" on Washington Street, in the back left corner of said alcove. Walk around for a few minutes. You'll find it.
We got there for lunch 12:30 PM on a Thursday and the place was bustling. There are only a few tables in the place, but we were lucky to snag one after placing our order. The menu consists of a bunch of sandwiches and paninis with catchy names. Meat Your Maker is a roast beef sandwich with horseradish and caramelized onions, Binghamton on a Bun consists of chicken spiedies, feta cheese, peppers, and onions, and the Woppa is, as its mild slur of a name suggests, a panini consisting of various Italian meats, red pepper, onion, and provolone. That's just a few of their many offerings. All sandwiches and wraps with the exception of the $25, 4-lb. "Real McCoy" challenge are very reasonably priced in the $6 range. They also have some flat-bread pizzas available and various soups and salads.
I ordered the aforementioned Woppa and got a cup of coffee. The Woppa was not bad. Pepperoni, salami, ham, hot peppers, roasted red peppers, and cheese done up panini-style with the grill marks to prove it. Oil/vinegar on the side. Like I said, not bad. Average sandwich, decent taste, decent quality meat, some ridge-cut chips to go with it. All in all, this wasn't something that had me clamoring for more, but I liked it well enough. I guess I really didn't have much of an opinion of it. It provided sustenance. The coffee on the other hand was bad. Watery, not much flavor. Bah.
Megan ordered a turkey sandwich on marble rye. She was more dissatisfied with the experience than I was. Her turkey sandwich was lacking severely in the mayo department and she expressed that she thought the quality of the meat was nowhere near what you could get at a place like the Full Belly Deli in Vestal. I tend to agree with that assessment. Honestly, I prefer the Old World Deli right around the corner, not to mention Nezuntoz on the South Side (another home of catchy-named sandwiches). In good news, my friend Tom ordered one of the flat-bread pizzas and really liked it, so much so that he went back the very next day again for lunch. Maybe I should order similarly on my next visit.
Another issue I had with Escape was the slow and disorganized service. From the time we ordered until we had our food, it was probably about 15 minutes. It was busy that day, but not that busy. Had I been on a lunch break from working downtown, I probably would have been annoyed. My advice would be to call in your order ahead of time if you fall into that category. They also seemed to be having a hard time figuring out whose order was whose, which added to the inefficiency and probably extended the wait time for the food. I feel the layout of the place is something that could definitely use some remodeling in order to help increase the efficiency. If you go, you'll see what I mean.
I have to admit, if I were a certain kind of undergrad, I'd probably really dig this place. The food is cheap, it's a nice (perhaps a little cramped) hangout spot, and it offers an alternative to the bar scene. As someone a few years removed from the whole undergrad gig, I can't say I was too impressed with Escape State Street on my first visit. It was just awright for me, dog. But hey, they're still relatively new, still finding their way. In time, I could definitely see Escape State Street becoming a Binghamton fixture for the college crowd, the weekday warriors, and anyone else who feels the need to esca....well, you know.