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Fill that whole in your stomach with Whole in the Wall

Eliot Fiks has a simple philosophy when it comes to food: It should taste great. Combine that with a little innovation, perseverance and open-mindedness, and you get Whole in the Wall, a hidden gem of an eatery nestled on 43 South Washington St.

Whole in the Wall offers a variety of all-natural, locally sourced, one-of-a-kind dishes that taste great and are great for you. Founder, owner and head chef Fiks believes that natural food doesn’t have to taste like “rabbit food”; it should be hearty and flavorful, and made with the freshest ingredients around. From gluten-free enchiladas and vegan/vegetable stir-fry to good ol’ classics like burgers and pizza, Whole in the Wall has something for everyone.

The quaint little restaurant is easily identifiable by the famous “hole”-shaped window and brightly colored exterior. Fiks and friends restored the century-old building in 1978 using wood scraps from demolished houses, including Binghamton’s famous Rose Mansion.

“There’s an interesting story behind the ‘hole’ window,” Fiks explained. “Back when we were building this place, there was a big crack in the front window. It was too expensive to buy a huge new piece of glass, so we worked with what we had and used the extra wood to build around the crack. We ended up with that circular shape, and it’s funny how we became Whole in the Wall that way. It wasn’t a name we started out with.”

Once inside, you get to experience their handiwork firsthand. The vertical wood paneling is at once rustic and inviting, like the inside of a cozy cabin. The freshly varnished tables are made from repurposed wood from mansion floors. A piano and a wall decorated with local art give it that artsy, cafe-type atmosphere. A pleasant mix of Neil Young, classical music and smooth jazz plays softly in the background.

Although Whole in the Wall is usually only open Wednesday through Saturday, they’ll be open every single day of Restaurant Week. The specially crafted Restaurant Week menus give you the opportunity to sample the best of what Whole in the Wall has to offer. $12 gets you a three-course lunch with a Mediterranean twist. Your choice of entrées include a whole-wheat pita pocket stuffed with falafel, hummus, baba ghanoush or batter-dipped chicken, or a pita pizza made with Whole in the Wall’s famous pesto sauces.

Whole in the Wall is the self-proclaimed “home of the best pesto in the universe.” While we can’t claim to have tried every pesto the universe has to offer, we can attest to the fact that Whole in the Wall makes some damn good pesto.

“We go out of our way to use the freshest ingredients possible,” Fiks said. “For our pesto we use actual pine nuts, pure olive oil, fresh parmesan and fresh basil right from Syracuse. We have seven different flavors and make them all right here in the restaurant.”

The $20 four-course dinner menu offers some miniature versions of Whole in the Wall favorites, including the must-try, insanely delicious garlic ball appetizer. The mini whole-wheat roll is served piping hot and soaking in a garlic-butter sauce that’ll have you savoring every buttery bite.

For dessert, we recommend the extravagant raspberry chocolate chip big tease brownie sundae. This seven-word dessert has a big name to live up to, but oh does it deliver. This dessert-lover’s dream comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with homemade raspberry sauce, topped with fresh whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon, served atop a warm, gooey, chocolaty brownie.

“Think earth science when you eat it,” Fiks recommends. “Get a nice cross section of everything on your spoon. And it’s OK to lick the bowl when you’re done.”

We’ll admit it: We did. And it was delicious.