Name: Moxie Grill
Location: 998 Conklin Rd., Conklin, NY 13903
Phone: (607) 237-0779
Cuisine: American eclectic
Price: Likely $30+ per person
After long last, the Tasting Binghamton crew amassed an army of our loyal followers and made the trek out to Conklin to check out the fabled Moxie Grill, a restaurant we'd heard a lot about in the last few years, but had never made a priority to check out. I've read a lot about the restaurant and realize that many consider it one of the finest restaurants in the Binghamton area. Naturally, I was extremely excited to give it a shot, and so we made reservations for a party of eight, left the city lights of the South Side behind, and headed an extra few miles out to Conklin.
Upon our arrival we were seated promptly on the lower floor of the two-tier restaurant. It immediately struck me as one of the nicest-looking restaurants in the area, with its attractive color scheme of golds, beiges, and browns and hardwood tables giving the restaurant an arresting look. Unlike some of the area's other fine dining establishments like Number 5 and P.S., which are somewhat stuffy and mannered, Moxie is hipper and more likely to appeal to a younger crowd. But I came to chew the food, not the scenery, so on to more important matters...
We ordered drinks, and I was happy to find an impressive beer list which included various choices from Cooperstown's Ommegang Brewery and Chimay Blue Trappist Ale. For wine drinkers, there's an equally impressive list to make a choice from. We put in some orders for appetizers while waiting for one of our late-arriving friends. Megan and I decided to try out the Blue Cheese Fries, with crumbly Danish blue cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and scallions. The fries were pretty tasty and hit the spot, with the marriage of the creamy cheese, smoky bacon, and well-seasoned fries providing a good first impression. Our friend Jaime opted for the Fried Calamari, served with a slightly spicy marinara sauce and a neat presentation. I got to try some and was impressed with what I had. Neither of these appetizers was mind-blowing, but both were impressive enough for me to want to order them again.
When it came time to order the main course, I was torn, since so many of the entrees on the menu looked to be up my alley. Tender Kobe beef would call my name one minute, and tasty-sounding variations on wood-fired pizza the next. In the end, I decided to go neither route and instead ordered the Paella, in part because it was listed as a "signature dish" and in no small part due to the fact that I am unlikely to find it on another area menu. Served with a salad, I got the house salad with a Thai peanut dressing. Megan opted for the Delmonico steak, cooked medium well (grrr...) with a side of polenta and the Chicago iceberg wedge salad.
The house salad was interesting, with field greens, kalamata olives, and peppers doused in the peanut dressing I had chosen. Normally I am not such a fan of my salad being drenched in dressing, but I can make an exception this time because it was quite delicious. Did it pair well with the olives and peppers? Not especially, but here I go again, going on and on about salad...let's move on to the main course.
The paella was a good choice, well-prepared with quality ingredients. This dish included shelled clams and mussels, shrimp, scallops, chicken, and chorizo sausage served over risotto. There are aspects to the dish I liked more than others. The scallops, for example, were perfectly cooked, and if I had it to do over again, I might just order scallops as a entree. Some of the other parts of the dish, like the chorizo sausage (usually a dominant, bold flavor), were buried a little too much in the mix. Overall, this was a good dish that I liked, but did not love. On a future trip to Moxie, I am likely to try something different.
Megan's Delmonico was overcooked. Granted, she did order it medium well (to my chagrin...I am a medium rare guy, myself), but there was no trace of pink to the meat at all. It was charred and tough, which detracted from her enjoyment of the experience. There's no doubt in my mind that it was a quality piece of meat, but at a steep $26, it should probably be cooked how you want it. On the plus side, her side of polenta was pretty tasty, rich and slightly cheesy and a nice addition to what I believe to be a good, diverse menu.
The Almond Joy Cheesecake was our dessert of choice, and was probably the best part of the whole meal. It tasted exactly like the name suggests: an Almond Joy candy bar (almonds, chocolate, and coconut) in a rich, New York-style cheesecake. Very nice.
The service at Moxie was friendly and well-paced. Our waiter, Drew, was attentive without being overbearing, and was patient with us even when one member of our party was more than a half hour late. I also appreciated the fact that they allowed us to split the check six ways, which was probably a major pain in the butt from the waiter's perspective, but made our lives much easier.
I was not blown away by Moxie, but there were many positives about the experience. For starters, the atmosphere is one of the best in the area. The beverage list is unquestionably top-notch, and the food was generally solid, with the major faux pas occurring with the overcooked steak. Is Moxie one of the area's best restaurants? I'd have to say the jury's still out on that one. Would I go back in a heartbeat if I had $100 burning a hole through my wallet? Without a doubt.