If you’re a Binghamton University student who hasn’t been to the Lost Dog Cafe, do you really go to school here?
Almost everyone knows this popular Downtown Binghamton establishment, and my meal there this Restaurant Week only reinforced its in-demand image.
I came to the nonconformist eatery with Pipe Dream’s photography editor, Rebecca. She and I chose the vegetarian route for our three-course lunch, which came at a fixed price of $12 for lunch and $20 for dinner. The restaurant is known for its eclectic assortment of comfort food, but stands out for its delicious vegan and gluten-free options.
We both started with a cup of the housemade soup of the day, either cream of mushroom or quinoa curry. We chose the curry, which came with chunks of quinoa, carrots, celery and onion. The broth and vegetables complemented each other well, as the vegetables took flavor from the smooth coconut milk and spices.
Other appetizer choices included a glass of the house chardonnay, house cabernet sauvignon, a pint of the Lost Dog Pale Ale or the Dog House Salad.
The restaurant’s fan-favorite dish is the rigatoni ala vodka, but the Moroccan vegan “meatball” tagine caught my eye. After witnessing us struggle to decide on our orders, our accommodating server, Elaine, surprised us with each of our own pastas — I got mine “old school” with a pinch of cayenne pepper — and a tagine to share.
While I had tried the Lost Dog’s vodka sauce before, the heat from the cayenne brought the dish to new levels, heightening the flavor of the sauce and the creaminess of the cheese. As Rebecca pointed out, the cheese flavor of the dish is a bit stronger than you would find at other places, but that’s part of what makes it unique and enticing.
The “meatballs” were well-flavored and hearty, hardly alluding to their soy base. They were served over turmeric rice with golden raisins, which added the perfect amount of sweetness to the savory dish. I could’ve preferred stronger flavors from the saffron tomato sauce, but the meatballs and rice made up where the sauce lacked.
For meat-eaters, the house offered a roasted red pepper-pesto chicken sandwich and barbecue short rib sliders with a choice of fries, salad or macaroni and cheese.
While we were certain that we couldn’t manage another bite after our filling entrees, we couldn’t say no when Elaine brought out all three desserts on the lunch menu, as well as an additional sampling from the dinner menu.
The array included an Oreo-stuffed brownie, the great pumpkin cookie, a butterscotch blondie and a slice of the maple cake with bourbon-maple cream cheese frosting.
We agreed the maple cake was probably one of the best things we’ve tasted in our lives, but I think my favorite of the four was the butterscotch blondie. It wasn’t as sweet as the others and was denser than the cake, but the butterscotch chips were melt-in-your-mouth good and served as the perfect conclusion to our meal.
With a variety of maple and pumpkin flavors, the orange hue of the curry and the warm spice of tagine, fall Restaurant Week at Lost Dog Cafe serves as a testament to the season. For those staying in Binghamton for fall break (or through the rest of Restaurant Week), I encourage you to make yourself at home among the relaxed decor of lanterns and string lights, generous waitstaff and comfort food.