Sasha Hupka/News Editor Rigatoni alla vodka with fresh basil and grated cheese.

With its chic, modern decor and loft-style interior, Lost Dog Cafe & Lounge has established itself as a staple eatery in the heart of Downtown Binghamton not only for its unique variety of comfort foods, but also for its inviting atmosphere. Marie McKenna and Elizabeth Hughes, two Binghamton natives and the owners of Lost Dog, aimed to create a low-key space in their hometown for locals to meet with friends, grab a drink and eat good food.

Now open for over 20 years, the cafe’s popularity has only increased, as there are typically long waits around dinnertime even on weekdays. To beat the evening crowd, my photographer, Sasha, and I showed up at 3:30 p.m. for a late lunch, and to our content, the restaurant was almost completely empty. Right when we walked through the front doors, a welcoming waitress greeted us and led us to a seat by the window. She immediately informed us of their house-made soup of the day and gave us an ample amount of time to think about our orders. The Restaurant Week menu offered an appetizer, entree and dessert for the fair price of $12. The appetizer options included a glass of house chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon or pale ale, the house-made soup of the day or the dog house salad. Although the drinks sounded tempting, Sasha and I settled with the salad for a healthier option before we indulged ourselves with carbs and desserts. Salad typically isn’t high up on my list of favorite foods, though this salad was simple yet tasty. It consisted of mixed greens, onions, tomatoes and garbanzo beans with dressing on the side. We both chose the balsamic dressing, which had the perfect balance of sweet and sour.

For entrees, the menu offered their classic rigatoni a la vodka, chicken gyro salad, tamarind roasted pork loin sammie and grilled cauliflower crust flatbread. Although there was a diverse range of unique dishes, all of which are gluten-free, Sasha and I couldn’t resist ordering their famous rigatoni a la vodka, especially since we’ve both been dreaming of the creamy pasta for months now. As soon as our entrees were placed on our table, we immediately started digging in. As usual, the rigatoni was cooked to perfection, and the sauce was warm, creamy and delicious. If you’re lactose intolerant like me, make sure to take a lactose-intolerance pill before devouring this dish. Trust me, your stomach will thank you. Even though the other entree choices seemed equally tasty, I always find myself going back to this staple Lost Dog entree, and it definitely did not disappoint.

With both of our stomachs nearly at their capacities from the food, we still somehow made room for dessert. The options consisted of a PB&J cupcake, chocolate chunk cookie and white chocolate raspberry bar. While all the options seemed inviting, Sasha chose the chocolate chunk cookie and I decided on the PB&J cupcake. To our surprise and excitement, the waitress came out with a plate of all the dessert options so we could try them out. We first tried the white chocolate raspberry bar, which wasn’t hard like a candy bar like I expected, but instead soft. My first bite was met with a warm, non-artificial-tasting raspberry filling and the crunch of sweet and salty almonds. The chocolate chunk cookie was less exciting but equally as tasty. The cookie wasn’t too hard or too soft and had the right amount of chocolate chips stuffed inside the dough. Lastly, we ended with the PB&J cupcake, which tasted identical to a PB&J sandwich. The vanilla cake was moist and didn’t crumble like most cupcakes I’ve eaten. The best part was the peanut butter frosting and rich strawberry jam filling, which had the perfect amount of tartness and sweetness.

If you’re looking for a chill atmosphere, attentive and polite waiters and delicious and diverse options of food, Lost Dog Cafe on Water Street is the ideal place to dine. Just make sure to come completely starving, because you’ll most likely be leaving with a stomach filled with more food than you originally anticipated to eat.