Even at a glance, it is clear that something has been lacking in Downtown Binghamton. While the district is home to coffee shops, bars and restaurants, the area has been missing a proper café space. Filling this void is Strange Brew, the latest addition to Washington Street.
Serving food, along with a variety of coffee and espresso beverages, Strange Brew opened earlier this month and has since been providing a much-needed atmosphere for people to meet, eat and converse. With refreshingly accommodating hours seven days a week, Strange Brew wants to be much more than just your early morning coffeehouse. As such, they stay open as late as midnight on Friday and Saturday. While the breakfast menu only lasts until 11 a.m., their lunch menu is served until close.
“We want to be a place that walks people through their day, from early morning to late at night,” said owner Alexey Bartashoff.
Born in the former Soviet Union, Bartashoff, 28, has spent most of his life in Brooklyn, New York. Over the last eight years, Bartashoff began coming to the Binghamton area more frequently to visit family. Last September, he had an epiphany.
“This seed just sprouted in my mind,” Bartashoff said, “What if you opened up a place here? What would it look like?”
Over the next few months, Bartashoff began to draw up a business plan, and within a year, he relocated to the Binghamton area and Strange Brew was born. A family operation, Bartashoff co-owns the business with his wife, Emiliya and brother-in-law, Pavel Shindyakov.
Serving food that is appetizing, clean and refreshing to the taste, Strange Brew’s strategic approach to its menu has allowed the owners to offer variety while keeping costs low.
“I wanted to be able to cross-utilize as many ingredients as possible,” Bartashoff explained. “None of our ingredients are specific to any one [dish], for the most part.”
Across their soups, salads and mac and cheese, Strange Brew uses the same base ingredients with remarkable success. Each menu item feels and tastes unique, in keeping with Strange Brew’s theme of creating variety through non-typical combinations. The brisket they use for their brisket melt sandwich is the brisket they use for a brisket mac and cheese. The hummus that accompanies their California club sandwich is the hummus that goes with their power pack breakfast. At Strange Brew, everything is put to use to keep waste at a minimum.
Perhaps the best part of Strange Brew’s menu is that they keep as much of the food preparation as possible in-house. Strange Brew bakes their own breads, pastries and even makes their own herb mayonnaise.
“Having the control in doing it yourself — it changes the game,” Bartashoff said. “You’re keeping the ingredients fresh and, at the same time, you’re consistent with what your sandwiches and soups taste like.”
In addition to serving customers during the day, Strange Brew is also trying to foster a new kind of scene at night. Besides going to the bars, Binghamton nightlife can sometimes feel limited. One of Bartashoff’s main objectives is for Strange Brew to become a hot spot for late-night shows. Anything from local music to stand-up comedy, Bartashoff is booking, supplying a new venue for the city.
“We’re reaching out to musicians, we’re reaching out to all kinds of local acts,” Bartashoff said. “We’re opening up our doors and keeping them open late to accommodate late night venues for live shows.”
Although it has not yet been open two months, with a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, Strange Brew brings so much more than a cup of coffee to the table.