Michael Golann/News The Spin Art Dip.

If you ask any Binghamton local or Binghamton University student for restaurant recommendations, Lost Dog Cafe & Lounge is sure to make the list. Located on the intersection of Water Street and Henry Street in Downtown Binghamton, the cozy cafe is beloved by community members of all kinds. Despite the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses, the Lost Dog Cafe & Lounge is still up and running, participating in the biannual Restaurant Week.

Lost Dog Cafe & Lounge is a small restaurant in Downtown Binghamton, founded by musicians and Binghamton natives Marie McKenna and Elizabeth Hughes in 1994. Once part of an all-female band in New York City called the Derangelles, McKenna and Hughes sought to bring their love of cafes back to their hometown after performing in New York City for over a decade. Along with two other friends, they decided to open Lost Dog Cafe & Lounge after noticing the lack of comfy, homey eateries in the Binghamton area. The cafe’s name and logo were inspired by Elizabeth’s 2.5-pound chihuahua Clarese. What started in an old garage on Main Street in 1994 became a full restaurant and bar operation by 1997, moving into an old cigar factory on Water Street where it continues to host performers and serve the Binghamton community to this day.

This year, Lost Dog Cafe & Lounge is offering a three-course lunch for $12 as well as a three-course dinner for $20, both of which include an appetizer, entree and dessert. When my photographer, Michael, and I entered the restaurant, the homey cafe vibe was unmistakable. With its fairy lights, colorful paintings and circular lanterns hanging from the ceiling, Lost Dog Cafe & Lounge makes sure patrons feel warm and welcome. Although there was notably less indoor seating due to social distancing measures, the establishment was still full with groups of both students and adults. There is also a significant amount of outdoor seating with picnic tables set up in the street. The staff was professional and sanitary, wearing gloves and reusable masks of various prints. The friendly staff paired with the upbeat music and quirky decor ensured a hospitable and pleasant experience for Michael and I.

For starters, I ordered the Warming Chicken & Rice Soup, while Michael got the Spin Art Dip, the cafe’s take on spinach and artichoke dip. The soup was warm, brothy and filling, with the chicken, vegetables and rice making for a good winter day dish. Unlike many chicken soups, this one was not too salty or greasy. It was very light, yet still warm and comforting. Michael’s spinach and artichoke dip came served with tortilla chips. He noted that the appetizer exceeded his expectations.

“I expected the dip to be very thick,” he said. “[B]ut it’s actually a nice creamy texture that worked well.”

For entrees, I ate the shawarma bowl with chicken. The diced tomato-cucumber topping and the garlic-lemon sauce came in small plastic containers, most likely to accommodate COVID-19 safety measures. The charred chicken and onions were served on top of brown rice, providing a smoky flavor. The dressing was tangy and creamy, and the lemon flavor paired with the crisp vegetables added some freshness to this take on this street food. The meat was tender and flavorful despite being chicken breast, and the brown rice was warm and cooked to the perfect texture. The dish was simplistic, fresh and light, yet still packed with flavor.

Michael got the tenderloin filet tips with woodland mushrooms, baby carrots, leeks and a rosemary demi-glace over mashed potatoes. He talked about the complex flavors and textures of the main course.

“The meat is perfectly seasoned,” he said. “The mashed potatoes are creamy and chunky at the same time, which is kind of weird.”

Lastly, this fall’s Restaurant Week dinner menu offers a selection of three desserts: gingerbread cake, cappuccino brownie and vanilla rainbow cake. Michael and I both chose the cappuccino brownie. We were both served a generous piece of brownie topped with whipped cream, powdered sugar and espresso ganache. As a dense, chewy brownie fan, I was initially suspicious of the dessert’s cake-like appearance. However, the brownie was both fluffy and moist, not too rich but very flavorful. The ganache on top added a nice, dark flavor to cut the sweetness, and the chocolate chips at the bottom added a contrasting texture to the soft brownie. Michael agreed, expressing enthusiasm for the dessert.

“The brownie is very creamy, and the texture of it is very good,” he said. “It’s not overwhelmingly sweet.”

Overall, Lost Dog Cafe & Lounge kept up its reputation this fall season, creating a relaxed and cheerful experience with their delicious food and outgoing, yet professional staff who made patrons feel safe despite dining in a pandemic. Make sure you stop by for the cozy ambiance and warm, filling food before the Restaurant Week deals end next Thursday.