Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Red Oak Diner
Name: Red Oak Diner
Location: 305 Front St., Binghamton, NY 13905
Phone: (607) 722-0440
Cuisine: American Diner
Price: Around $10 per person
Another day, another diner for the Tasting Binghamton crew. This time we headed out to the Red Oak Diner on Front St. in Binghamton's First Ward for our inaugural visit. With its location right off the highway en route to Downtown Binghamton, it's a place we've passed by a number of times over the years but never bothered to stop in. I had often wondered if it were anything like The Spot Diner, located further up on Front St., given that the restaurants look similarly from the outside.
Sure enough, on the inside, I found it to be somewhat comparable to The Spot. It's a 1970's-style Greek diner with lots of seating. Upon entrance you'll see some booths to the left, the standard coffee counter straight ahead, and a large dining room to the right. We were instructed to seat ourselves in the dining room and chose a reasonable-looking table toward the back, adjacent to a window.
Service is by far the best thing the Red Oak has going. Throughout our visit, the service was very quick, from the delivery of menus, to ordering, to receiving our meals and the check. The waitress was friendly and it seemed as if she was a longtime employee of the establishment. The question is: would the food match the service?
In my opinion, it would not. Venturing a little outside my normal diner order, I elected to go with the Chicken and Biscuits special they were offering. This came with a complimentary cup of soup and a side, so I went with the Vegetable Beef and a side of mashed potatoes. Megan was a little more conservative in her ordering and went with a Turkey Club sandwich, which she proceeded to enjoy far more than I enjoyed my meal.
This is diner food, so I really try not to get my hopes up too much. It's inexpensive and intended to be quick, comfort food, after all. It isn't fine dining. Even so, I was not happy with my meal at all. The Vegetable Beef soup was an OK beginning to the meal. It certainly wasn't skimpy on the vegetables nor the beef. All told, it was a minor improvement over Campbell's. The rest of the meal was pretty much a disaster. The mashed potatoes weren't the instant variety but they were about as close as you can get. The chicken didn't have much flavor, and the biscuits had absolutely none. The entire plate was topped with a yellowish gravy that was equally tasteless and had begun to congeal. This may have been the blandest plate of food I've ever been served. It was edible, and arrived from the kitchen at a breakneck pace (literally, there were fewer than five minutes between the time we ordered and the time we had our plates in front of us), but I felt as if I could probably get a better, or at least similar, plate of food from the Binghamton High School cafeteria. Hell, I'm no Wolfgang Puck, but I could muster a better effort myself. Harsh, perhaps, but that's the honest truth.
Like I said, the Red Oak has some pluses. The service is friendly and as quick as anywhere else I've been in the area. The dining area is a pleasant, large space and has some old-school charm. Megan liked her club sandwich perfectly well. In fact, I think she rather liked the place on the whole. The truth of the matter is that I wanted her to write the review for the Red Oak so that I didn't have to write all this, but the more I thought about it, the more I really disliked my meal there, and as you've probably discerned by now, the food was simply not anything I'd want to pay money for again. With dozens of diners in the Triple Cities, it's my feeling that there are many, many better options to choose than the Red Oak.