Thursday, April 21, 2011

South Side Yanni's

Name: South Side Yanni's
Location: 1200 Vestal Ave., Binghamton, NY 13903
Phone: (607) 723-1403
Cuisine: Pub food/American/Greek
Price: Inexpensive. Less than $20 for two.

South Side Yanni's is an institution on Binghamton's (you guessed it) South Side, serving its role as a neighborhood bar & grill for many years. I'm always skeptical about places like these since I'm always worried the emphasis will be more on the "bar" than the "grill," and I'm notoriously picky when it comes to bars. Plus, it's the South Side, not an area of town I get to very often. Additionally, the place looks a little sketchy from the exterior. All of these factors contributed to my being a little less than enthusiastic about giving Yanni's a shot.

A friend of ours who lives on the South Side has been championing the Yanni's cause for a couple of years now and when we were trying to coordinate an outing this past weekend, he suggested Yanni's. I hoped that the place would help to brighten our mood on a dismal, rainy Saturday, but had doubts as to whether they could deliver the goods.

I was astonished by what we found upon entering the place. First, I was surprised at how spacious it was. The bar takes up the right side of the place when you enter, but there's a relatively large dining room off to the left. Wooden tables and chairs and wood-paneled walls give the restaurant an old-fashioned, homey vibe. On looks alone, I immediately liked Yanni's and found it to be a comfortable place to hang out.

The menu features standard bar fare (fried appetizers, wings, burgers, sandwiches) with some Greek options as well (gyro, souvlaki, Greek salad, and a Greek Burger covered with tzatziki sauce and feta cheese). Our friend encouraged us to try the wings, which he claimed were the area's best, and so I started with a dozen hot garlic wings, and ordered the aforementioned Greek Burger for my entree with a side of fries. Megan went with the old pub food standby, a cheeseburger with fries.

The wings were first to arrive, and sure enough, they were the best I've had in the area, narrowly surpassing those of Kelly's in Endicott. They were a little smaller than those you find at Kelly's, but were less fatty and had much more flavor.

My Greek Burger was perfectly cooked to order (medium-rare) and had a great charbroiled taste. I'd never really considered tzatziki sauce as a possible burger condiment, but I thought it worked very well. With diced tomato and onion on top, this was an excellent burger and I'd order it again in a heartbeat. Megan was equally pleased with her burger, and both of us enjoyed the fries. Overall, this was a winner of a meal.

A couple minor drawbacks to Yanni's: they are sticklers when it comes to splitting checks (they don't do it), so be cognizant of that if you're going with a large party. Also, the beer selection features the usual standard macro (Bud/Miller/Coors/Yuengling) options, so if you like something snootier, this is not the place to find it.

I'm told that Yanni's offers specials each night of the week (ranging from meatloaf to chicken & biscuits to prime rib) that are quite good, so I'll be sure to check them out and will report back if I find anything particularly tasty.

Where I grew up in the Harrisburg, PA area, there's a bar & grill a little off the beaten path called the Eagle Hotel. It was a little rundown shack of a restaurant, positively nothing to look at from the exterior, but there was a line out the door to get a seat just about every night of the week because the food was excellent (especially the wings--to date, the best I've ever had by a mile). South Side Yanni's reminds me of the Eagle Hotel in a number of ways. It's a comfortable place that serves good food at completely reasonable prices. It's no surprise to me that Yanni's has become an area institution: of the local bar & grill places I've tried, Yanni's is the best of the lot.

Grade: A-

South Side Yanni's on Urbanspoon

Rolando's Diner

Name: Rolando's Diner
Location: 140 Court St., Binghamton, NY 13901
Phone: (607) 723-9058
Cuisine: Diner
Price: Dirt cheap. Less than $15 for two.

I feel like I'm doing this a lot lately, but sorry, readers, for taking so long between reviews. Life gets in the way sometimes, but fortunately we haven't stopped trying new places in and around the Binghamton area and you can expect some new reviews over the next few days.

Today we finally made it down to Rolando's Diner, a mainstay in Downtown Binghamton since 1971 that is well known for its simple charm and low prices. As diner fans, we were hopeful that Rolando's could deliver a quality breakfast, and off we went to check it out.

Rolando's is located on Court St. in a nice, central location. There's plenty of metered parking located out front and we had no trouble finding a spot. The inside of the restaurant features the classic diner layout of some booths lining both sides of the restaurant with a coffee counter along the left side toward the back. I'd imagine the place has not changed much since it opened forty years ago. Which, in my opinion, is not a bad thing.

When we arrived around 11:15 I was hopeful that I could still order breakfast. I was a little discouraged to find that each table had only lunch menus, but when a waitress came by she asked us if we wanted breakfast menus. Big win. A quick glance at the menu showed the usual wide variety of eggs, bacon, sausage, corned beef hash, omelets, and pancakes in various combinations. We each ordered a cup of coffee, and Megan ordered two eggs with bacon and homefries with toast ($4). I decided to be an absolute glutton and got three pancakes, two eggs over-easy, home fries, sausage, and coffee included for $6.15. A ridiculously good value, I thought, and it would give me a chance to try out the bulk of the breakfast menu at a low price. Plus, I was really hungry. A win-win situation if there ever was one.

Service was really quick and no-nonsense; our breakfasts arrived in less than 10 minutes. And sure enough, both of us were really pleased with what we got. Megan is tough to please in the bacon department, but it was exactly how she wanted it here. The only complaint she had was that the toast was a little crispier than she would've liked, but overall, she said she liked Rolando's about as much as Danny's Diner (one of her favorite area diners).

As for me, I had no complaints with my breakfast at all. It was exactly what I wanted. The pancakes were golden, fluffy, and most importantly, tasty. The syrup served with the pancakes was the crappy corn syrup variety, but hey, for the price, I'm not expecting real maple. The eggs were cooked exactly to order, the sausage was really tasty, and the home fries were among the best I've had in the area.

If there's one disappointing thing about Rolando's, it's that we didn't visit sooner. Its combination of low-key charm, dirt-cheap prices, huge portions, and tasty food really won me over. This is one of the best diners in Binghamton, and if you are a fan of diner fare in general, Rolando's is pretty much a must-visit.

Grade: A-

Rolando's Diner on Urbanspoon
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