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.