If you’ve ever stepped into 168 Water St., we wouldn’t blame you if you were fooled into thinking you had been transported into a dimension where Binghamton, New York is a thriving middle-class city with a vibrant cultural scene.
Intimately lit — even at 4 p.m. — and playing smooth jazz music, Water Street Brewing Co. certainly gave the impression of a small brewery sticking to its microbrewery principles.
The wait staff was friendly and had us seated right away. The only decision we had to make to begin our meal was if we wanted seafood or if we wanted vegetables.
The three courses were, confusingly, Mexican — not the American pub food that we were expecting — but nevertheless intriguing. The appetizer, or “Primero,” was a choice between a tempeh ceviche and a scallop ceviche. Whether you selected the Indonesian soybean product or the mollusk, the seasoning was the same: tomatoes, lemon juice and chilies over lettuce.
We chose the scallops, and found that they were certainly tasty. However, the seafood itself was a bit overpowered by the strong flavors of the lemon and chili. The salad leaves were entirely too large for the small bowl in which they were served, and we found ourselves struggling to not spill anything as we cut the lettuce into more manageable pieces.
Along with the first course came any of the six beers they had on tap. We opted for the Hefeweizen, which was both smooth and creamy. A typically sweet wheat ale, its color was reminiscent of Blue Moon albeit more saturated. The taste too was like a Blue Moon’s, instead with a smoother finish.
We continued onto the “Segundo,” with a plate of carnitas tacos. On the side was a portion of black beans and sazon rice. The pork, which was braised in its own juices and Water Street Brewery’s ale, carried a smokey wood flavor. The cayenne pepper or chili powder dusted over the dish added a nice kick.
The rice and beans were perhaps a little bland. Our recommendation: Take a bite of the taco, a bite of rice and beans and then wash it all down with the Hefeweizen once you’ve swallowed. You could go one step further and turn the taco into a small burrito for further and faster enjoyment. What we couldn’t recommend is eating the rice and beans on their own — frankly if it wasn’t for the chili powder, they wouldn’t really taste like much at all.
Their other main dishes included shrimp tostadas and a vegetarian chimichanga option.
Finally, the “Tercera,” was a traditional Mexican horchata and churro. Our server suggested that we drink the horchata through a cinnamon stick, but it was entirely difficult to really sip it that way. Despite the fact that we are two Spaniards, we had never had horchata before, and we were excited. Unfortunately, we found it to be completely undrinkable. It was uncomfortably thick and grainy, with a flavor hardly worth the strange texture. The churro didn’t fare any better, slightly burnt and too oily. Of all the courses, the dessert would have benefited the most from another option on the menu.
Still, going two-for-three is a success in baseball, and we were happy with our experience. It was disappointing to open the door to the Binghamton rain and step back into the real world.