With the sweep of a revolving door, patrons at Number 5 are transported from the lights and sounds of Vestal Parkway to a subdued, classic interior. We were led upstairs to a cozy dining room complete with candles on each table and ladders hung from the ceiling, a decoration harkening back to the building’s history. Guests at Number 5 are actually dining in a former firehouse, which served Binghamton’s South Side for 75 years and now serves all of Binghamton — through its kitchen. Engine House Number 5, built in 1897, is a local and state landmark, and ever since it became the restaurant we know today over 40 years ago, it has remained a staple among the many newcomers of the current Binghamton restaurant scene.
This Restaurant Week season, Number 5 offers a $15 lunch menu and a $30 dinner menu. We opted for the dinner. We started out with drinks, and though they are not included in the Restaurant Week menu, guests looking to round out their meal will find a selection from their list of diverse wines, beers and cocktails a reasonably priced addition.
Next was a sourdough loaf, paired with homemade cherry chocolate butter. The butter flavor is on a constant rotation, one of the restaurant’s unique touches. A subtly sweet addition to the regular whipped butter, it was a perfect start to a well-composed meal. The bread was crispy on the outside, yet soft and warm on the inside, giving us our first introduction to Number 5’s simple sophistication.
After pondering our options, we decided on the prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe and the wedge salad as appetizers. Every ingredient at Number 5 seems to be carefully picked to bring out the best in a dish without overpowering. Stars from this round included a balsamic glaze and fresh, creamy goat cheese sprinkled over the melon dish and crisp lettuce and bacon in the wedge salad. Tasty and lightly satisfying, the appetizers did a perfect job of packing flavor into smaller dishes and keeping us hungry for more of what was to come from the kitchen. Heartier dishes like French onion soup or shrimp bruschetta are also offered.
For the main course, we ordered the petite Greek tenderloin and a parmesan-encrusted salmon. Each was cooked perfectly, the medium-rare steak well-seasoned and prepared in a lemon, butter and oregano sauce. The salmon barely required a knife, and the parmesan introduced another layer of texture and flavor. Mashed potatoes full of butter, garlic and pieces of potato skin were a perfect complement, and we were left feeling so full we almost had to consider taking our desserts to go.
The dessert options, however, were so tempting that we found a way to keep on eating. The chocolate decadence, a flourless chocolate cake, was a must and true to its name, so rich that we could only take small bites at a time. We also chose the blueberry zucchini cake, topped with a buttercream frosting and complete with sugar crystals for a slight crunch. Hints of lemon balanced out its sweetness, tying together the ideal ending to our meal.
Number 5’s Restaurant Week menu is but one more example of the ways that owner Jim McCoy, the waitstaff and the chefs here have perfected the art of creating a special dining experience for every guest. It’s not exactly at a student-friendly price range, but for students looking to splurge on a special meal, Restaurant Week is the time to do it. As a pair of graduating seniors, having dinner at Number 5 was appropriate for our last Restaurant Week as students. You can find a steakhouse in any city, but the charm and comfort of this old firehouse makes it something you can only find, aged to perfection, here in Binghamton.