A Binghamton classic and community favorite, the Lost Dog Cafe & Lounge approaches its 30th year of serving delicious meals alongside a vibrant atmosphere. As a senior whose go-to restaurant has been the Lost Dog for four whole years, I’ve been to a handful of the cafe’s Restaurant Weeks. I’ve indulged in their lengthy menu, I’ve (legally) enjoyed their classic cocktails and I am certainly on a first-name basis with the iconic life-sized chihuahua painting hanging on the back wall. Despite my steadfast commitment, it wasn’t until my final Binghamton Restaurant Week when I learned the significance of the restaurant’s name.

According to the cafe’s website, Elizabeth Hughes, co-founder of the Lost Dog Cafe with Marie McKenna, had a curious chihuahua named Clarese who was known for frequently running off. Notably, no matter the length of Clarese’s venture, she would always find her way back home. Hughes and McKenna hoped for their restaurant to emulate Clarese’s loyalty, so in homage to the faithful chihuahua,​​ the Lost Dog Cafe would become a Binghamton staple that community members could always come back to.

From my first Downtown meal as a freshman to my last Restaurant Week on Pipe Dream, I, like Clarese, find myself frequently returning to the Lost Dog Cafe. This spring, my photographer, Lia, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to indulge in the restaurant’s biannual special menu. For just $30, customers are guaranteed a three-course meal with an array of options to choose from.

The first-course meal selection presented a diverse range of possibilities, with dishes like crab rangoon dip with fried wonton chips or the doghouse salad with fresh vegetables and vinaigrette. Lia and I split the asparagus cakes and the doghouse salad, which complemented each other delectably and started the meal off strong. The asparagus cakes were especially appetizing, as the sriracha and creamy herb sauce paired brilliantly with the soft patty.

The second-course dishes were emblematic of Lost Dog’s valuable portions. From hearty meals like the braised cherry hoisin beef to the roasted tomato pesto linguine, you’re sure to get a bang for your buck. As a pasta lover myself, I was incredibly torn over whether I should order the restaurant’s famous rigatoni ala vodka or expand my horizons and go for the roasted tomato pesto linguine. After an arduous few moments of back and forth, I stepped out of my comfort zone and opted for the linguine. While I will always be a Lost Dog rigatoni enthusiast, the linguine was absolutely worth it. With a creamy sauce mixed with spinach, fresh mozzarella bocconcini, asparagus and peppers, the dish married very well with the light linguini and baked chicken. I will have leftovers to last at least two days — a busy college student’s dream.

Lia ordered the grilled bone-in pork chop, which included mashed potatoes and a palette of utica greens such as cherry peppers and braised escarole. I tried some of the mashed potatoes and they were as creamy and comforting as mashed potatoes should be and more. While I didn’t try the pork chop, Lia described it as tender and perfectly seasoned, making for a delicious, home-cooked-esque second-course meal.

The third and final course offered three desserts — mexi-coco tres leches cake, rainbow funfetti vanilla cake and black raspberry ice cream. Having partnered with the Lost Dog for many Restaurant Weeks, the staff so graciously brought us all three to try. Thank goodness this was the case, too, because I wasn’t originally going to order the tres leches but it was by far one of the best desserts I’ve had in a while. The cake was soft yet held a palatable texture, and the frosting melted in our mouths with its sprinkle of cinnamon flavoring. The black raspberry ice cream was Lia’s favorite and a close second for me, as it was a sweet and refreshing end to our dinner.

Full from a delicious three-course meal with a side of nostalgia, I can’t help but tip my hat to Hughes and McKenna — not just for their trusty, satiating menu, but for creating a place in Binghamton that holds just as many memories as patrons. The Lost Dog Restaurant Week menu has once again demonstrated the cafe’s unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction, and I know with confidence that even after graduation, I have a place and a reason to return for Restaurant Weeks to come.