Saturday, November 6, 2010

Whole in the Wall

Name: Whole in the Wall
Location: 43 S. Washington St., Binghamton, NY 13903
Phone: (607) 722-5138
Cuisine: Organic/Vegetarian
Price: $20-$25 per person

I have to admit, before I went to Whole in the Wall, I was not too excited about the prospects of eating at a "health food" restaurant. When I go out to eat, I want a hearty meal, I want decadence, I want to indulge. I expected Whole in the Wall, one of Binghamton's most well-known and well-loved eateries, to provide none of those things.

Well, I was wrong, because Whole in the Wall proves that an organic meal can be just as sumptuous as any other.

On my first visit to Whole in the Wall, I ordered the Roasted Red Pepper pesto entree and thought it to be just OK and not deserving of the "Best Pesto in the Universe" praise that the restaurant has received over the years. Megan ordered the Mideast Platter, which included falafel, baba ghanouj, and hummus with sliced pita bread. Neither of us were too impressed with that dish and found the tzatziki sauce on the side to have an off-putting taste. In the end it was an expensive meal that neither of us was really that pleased with so we weren't really in a rush to go back.

Big mistake. Visit #2 would prove to be much better.

Last Saturday we made our second visit to Whole in the Wall, a charming little restaurant with a quaint dining room that includes a piano and local artwork for sale hanging on the walls. When we arrived we were the only patrons there, although as time went on, others eventually filtered in. The lack of other customers helped in the sense that we received mostly excellent service throughout our meal.

Both of us ordered entrees from the list of daily specials. I decided to give the pesto a second chance, opting for the Spinach Parmesan on my friend Tom's recommendation. Megan ordered a dish called the Indian Summer Lasagna, featuring bell peppers, whole wheat pasta, and various cheeses. Both of us tried out the Creamy Mushroom Soup and a house salad as starters. My pesto dish came with a complimentary Garlic Ball, an absolutely delicious whole wheat bread bowl style concoction doused in buttery garlic.

The soup came out first and was pretty awesome. I'm not typically that big a fan of mushrooms, but this was quite tasty. It's a very thick, cream-based soup that both of us enjoyed immensely. We would order it again in a heartbeat. Salads would follow, but the thing that interested me most was the main course.

The Spinach Parmesan pesto was good. Again, not great. I was expecting (and would have preferred) a creamier pesto with the emphasis on the parmesan rather than the spinach. Presentation was nice with the greenness of the pesto being offset by some half-slices of cherry tomato. I'm still not convinced this is the best pesto in the universe, but I did like it, and ate it up in short order.

Megan's lasagna was a little less successful in our opinion. We both found it to be a little on the bland side, with a butternut cream sauce providing the most dominating flavor (and not a flavor typically associated with lasagna). In the end, I am still not 100% pleased with Whole in the Wall's main courses, but the best was yet to come.

We made sure to save room for dessert and decided to split the Raspberry Brownie a la Mode. Served with fresh raspberry topping, ice cream, and whipped cream, this was incredibly decadent and insanely delicious. Definitely one of the best desserts I've had in the area and when we make it back to Whole in the Wall for another visit, this dessert will be part of the agenda for sure. Hard to believe that a dessert this good is made from organic ingredients.

Overall, this was a much better visit than our first, and I look forward to heading over to Binghamton's South Side again soon for a third visit. I still have some reservations about the main courses since neither of us were blown away, but I think this is a case of simply not having found the entree I'm destined to love. After all, the soup was great, the garlic ball was delicious, and the dessert was heavenly, so obviously this is a restaurant capable of delivering excellent food. Service was top-notch and ambiance is charming. And once again, if you have reservations about trying out a "vegetarian" restaurant such as this (they do have several entrees with meat, by the way), toss those concerns aside and give it a chance: you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

Grade: B+

Whole In the Wall on Urbanspoon

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