South City Publick House has been a familiar spot ever since I moved to Downtown Binghamton. Just across the street from Number 5 and Whole in the Wall, the family-friendly gastropub is the perfect place to try some New American dishes at a cozy Binghamton staple.
This South Side gastropub — a bar that has an equal emphasis on food and drinks — has universal appeal. When I went, the dining room was filled with the quiet buzz of chipper conversations between students, families and locals at the bar. My photographer, Kelly, and I went for dinner and sat at the front of the dining room, atop the stage where they sometimes host live music performances. The atmosphere provides a perfect place to sit back and relax with friends or to dress up to celebrate a birthday.
For Restaurant Week, South City Publick House offers a $12 three-course lunch and a $25 three-course dinner, each with a diverse sampling of the eclectic menu. For the appetizer, you can order the housemade French onion soup, the pub salad or a flatbread with avocado and bacon. I ordered the French onion soup and Kelly ordered the flatbread. The soup was a run-of-the-mill French onion soup, but a classic starter nonetheless. While the flatbread sounded good on paper, it was bland and fell short of expectations.
For the main course, South City offers up a hearty lineup: shrimp or chicken and chorizo tortellini marinara, Greek chicken, seafood paella, Brazilian steak kebabs or eggplant parmigiana. Each comes with a choice of six sides. Kelly ordered the shrimp chorizo tortellini marinara, which our waitress said is Mayor Rich David’s favorite dish, and I ordered the Brazilian steak kebabs. The waitress enthusiastically recommended the sauteed spinach for a side, so we both opted to try it. The Brazilian steak kebabs were majestically plated — it looked like one of those dishes you see go by at a restaurant and think, “Oh, what’s that?” The kebab was stacked with steak, green peppers and onions, all cooked to perfection, on top of wild rice. While the plating was beautiful, this also tasted very plain and basic. On the bright side, the generous portion of steak, rice and vegetables left me enough to take home for lunch the next day. The shrimp chorizo tortellini marinara had a perfect pasta-to-sauce ratio, and the sauce packed a delightful and surprising kick. The spinach was perfectly seasoned with garlic and salt, making it a pleasant pairing to complement both of our meals.
For dessert, we had the choice between a cheesecake parfait, peanut butter pie and gluten-free rice pudding. Kelly, being a big fan of cheesecake, ordered the parfait and I ordered the rice pudding. The rice pudding was a perfect, sweet ending to the savory dishes we’d been enjoying all night without being overbearingly sweet. The pudding was topped with a feathery whipped cream and sprinkled with cinnamon. The light cheesecake parfait complemented the hearty meals we’d had before, offering a familiar sweet taste without being quite as heavy.
After polishing off our desserts, wrapping up our leftovers and thanking our waitress, we walked around to get a closer look at the snapshots lining the exposed brick in the dining area. The frames held snapshots from the city of Binghamton during the early 20th century. They depicted the construction of the building that now houses the restaurant, an advertisement for a 1911 carnival and other pieces that highlight the rich local history of the city. The atmosphere and friendly service is by far the best part of South City — while nothing was incredibly disappointing, there were no standout dishes that left me wanting more.