Eliot Fiks has been buying local since before it was cool, or as he likes to say, since “before ‘shop local’ was spelled with a capital L.” He opened Whole in the Wall in 1980 at the age of 22 soon after graduating from Binghamton University in 1978.
Whole in the Wall prides itself on its reputation as a farm-to-table, all-natural and organic restaurant. Located on South Washington Street within walking distance of Downtown Binghamton, the colorful exterior of the restaurant stands tall next to the famous Number 5 Restaurant.
For Restaurant Week, the options offered at Whole in the Wall are more expansive than those at some of the other eateries. They offer options of a three-course meal for $25 or four courses for $30.
For appetizers, diners have the option of starting with a glass of wine, a bottle of beer or a small dish. The Mini Garlic Ball is a singular giant garlic knot bathing in a garlic-butter sauce. It lives up to its description in the menu as “insanely delicious.”
The hummus and baba ganoush appetizers both come with warm pita wedges. The hummus gets the most hype, but the baba ganoush should not be skipped, even if it is not something you would normally order.
The second course consists of soup or salad. While it is nice to have locally sourced vegetables in the salad, it was somewhat plain. Instead of the salad, go for the signature creamy mushroom soup. The giant mushroom chunks make the heavy and chunky soup taste comforting.
Third comes the entree dishes; we tried the pesto pasta and pierogi lasagna. Both were worthwhile.
Pesto is the signature dish of Whole in the Wall — it sells it by the jar online and to more than 100 other restaurants.
The pesto pasta is a rigatoni dish with imported pasta from Italy. The dish comes with with basil or sun-dried tomato pesto, but more flavors are available by the jar for purchase. The pasta dish is light with some oil at the bottom. The oil can be overwhelming, but easily runs off the pasta if one wants to avoid it. The pesto is as delicious as you would imagine.
The pierogi lasagna was shaped like lasagna and stuffed like a pierogi. The noodles are covered in onions, white sauce and ricotta cheese and are a solid comfort food during a cold day.
For dessert, the obvious option was the raspberry chocolate-chip brownie sundae teaser. The homemade raspberry sauce tastes fresh and is full of seeds.
“You have to act like an earth scientist to eat this,” Fiks said.
By that, he meant you have to dig in from the top in order to get every flavor in one bite. From the top, there is whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, the gooey raspberry sauce and then a hot brownie, which melts everything that sits on top of it as you eat it. There is some cinnamon topping on top, but most won’t remember anything about that after tasting the brownie.
Whole in the Wall may be known for its vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, but meat eaters will have a great time as well, all while supporting a great local business run by a BU alumnus.