From spiedies to salt potatoes, New York state’s culinary landscape has a wide range of regional quirks. While most Binghamton University students hail from New York City and its surrounding suburbs, many are from other New York cities and towns, where these unique terms simply roll off the tongues of so-called “upstaters.” If you’re part of BU’s “downstate” majority and you’re curious about what the rest of the state has to offer, check out Pipe Dream’s guide to New York state’s regional delicacies.
Binghamton is known for its carousels, First Friday shows and “The Twilight Zone,” but also for its beloved spiedies and city chicken. Marinated in oil, vinegar and herbs for one to three days, spiedies are lamb, venison, beef, chicken or pork sandwiches served on Italian bread. Additionally, city chicken is a playful misdirect for Binghamton residents who know very well that this dish is not chicken. Marinated, deep-fried and then baked, this mixture of pork and veal is a town favorite. Found in many Binghamton delis, restaurants and homes, these dishes are an integral part of Binghamton culture.
Donna Seidel, 54, of Johnson City, first tried a spiedie when she was 5 years old and explained that cooking this dish came “right down the line” from her family, becoming a generational delicacy.
“My mother used to cook all the time and that would be what she would make,” she said.
If you want to try a spiedie, head right down the road on Vestal Parkway to Spiedie & Rib Pit, a restaurant Seidel praises for its great spiedies.
A little further north in the city of Utica, wholesome greens are a local delicacy. The dish, known as Utica greens, contains breadcrumbs, prosciutto, cheese and hot peppers. Mio Sakai, a third-year graduate student studying business administration, said the greens have a salt-like taste, but are very good. Along with prosciutto, Sakai said the dish can be cooked with pork or chicken and pairs very well with soul food. If you’re looking for some Utica greens, Sakai suggests you head to Italian delis and pizzerias in Utica.
In Albany, you’ll find a peculiar application of the sweet tooth by pairing melba sauce with mozzarella sticks. Melba sauce is a combination of pureed cranberries, currant jelly and cornstarch. This sweet concoction, usually used for desserts, has found itself the love of Capital District residents as the go-to mozzarella stick sauce. Although it may seem like an odd pairing, Mia Sager, ‘19, said the contrasting tastes complement each other.
“I think it’s the sweet and salty that attracts people, because cheese and fruit are often appetizers that are served together,” she said.
Sager said she grew up eating melba sauce and that it’s a lot more common in New York’s upstate areas. If you want to try melba sauce and mozzarella sticks, Saratoga suggests an Irish pub called The Parting Glass where you can order this savory delight.
If you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, don’t worry — Syracuse, the home of the salt potatoes, has you covered. The dish was first created in the 1800s when local salt miners made an inexpensive dish for lunch by soaking small potatoes in salt brine. Fast forward a few centuries and you can now easily spot these Syracuse favorites at state fairs and barbecues. Maddie Murray, a sophomore studying business administration, said she is shocked more people haven’t heard of the Syracuse staple.
“[It] seems like such a normal thing,” she said.
Murray describes salt potatoes as a summer food that you eat at barbecues right alongside your hamburgers, hot dogs and corn. Murray suggests people try the dish at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que or any Syracuse diner. Ripley Hoffman, an undeclared sophomore, was born in Syracuse and said she most likely had salt potatoes when she was a baby.
“People make them at family gatherings like you’d make mashed potatoes,” she said. “Sometimes they’re mashed themselves.”
Hoffman said she was surprised to know salt potatoes were specific to Syracuse and always thought they were a norm everywhere. If you can’t wait to try salt potatoes, Hoffman said you can find them at Wegmans.