1.02.2012

Spiedie Gonzalez

Western New York has its beef on weck; Central New York has salt potatoes; Northern New York has Croghan Bologna; and the Southern Tier has spiedies. Down here, spiedies are non-negotiable. If you are throwing a summer BBQ, you’d better pick up a package of Lupo’s and have some Italian bread or rolls on hand, or you’re in trouble. Since moving here 10 years ago, I’ve skewered more tiny cubes of slimy marinated chicken than I can count, and as a resident, I’m not allowed to stop now.

The invention of spiedies is most often attributed to Sharkey’s Restaurant, over in Binghamton. The little cubes of vinegary, herbaceous, marinated meat served straight up plain in Italian bread are a Greco-Italian tradition, and over the years, there has been heated debate here about which purveyor is the original and the best. Originally, the meat was lamb, but the specialty has evolved into a mainstay of chicken kebabs, grilled and served up in an Italian sub roll as its most frequent incarnation. Whether you favor Lupo’s or Salamida’s sauce, there is no denying that spiedies are a phenomenon in this area. You can buy multi-packs of Salamida’s products at the airport! Kebab skewers are marketed in our stores as “speidie skewers!” Local caterers will make them for your events! And of course, we have several dining establishments around town that serve everything from the traditional lamb or pork spiedies on plain Italian bread, to spiedie pizza and (I’ve heard it rumored) fried spiedie nuggets.

My personal fav as far as making spiedies at home is Lupo’s, because you can buy the meat pre-marinated. The prices on the Lupo’s meats (they also sell sausage and stir fry kits) have gone up drastically in the last year or so – but what food hasn’t? But as far as at-home products in the overall spiedie universe, I prefer Salamida. They make a variety of sauces (I can never be without State Fair Chicken BBQ sauce in my pantry, but that talk is for another day), as well as a great little spice blend called Pinch that’s completely addictive and fabulous on pizza or caprese salad. Lupo’s also sells bottled sauces, although I think Salamida has a better variety. That said, the convenience of popping open a package of pre-marinated Lupo’s spiedies, threading them generously on metal skewers, and grilling them up is hard to beat. Wegmans also peddles its own variety, and most other grocery stores around here also sell their own pre-marinated products.

I’m going to admit a deep, dark secret to you, my Little Hungries. Spiedies are not really my favorite thing. I appreciate the idea – it’s all white meat chicken, in most instances; it’s healthy, it’s easy, it’s summery. But most of the time, when you make them at home, the well-meaning fellow manning the grill cooks the ever-living life out of those little 1-inch cubes of flavorful divinity. What you end up with is dried-out chunks of vinegary blah on a plain, dry, Italian sub roll. I’m a girl who likes bacon! Mushrooms! Cheese! Tomato! Give me umami (it’s the fifth taste, doncha know) or give me death!

However, I’ve now had several readers ask for a spiedie installment of BHS. As your intrepid eater, how could I refuse this call to action? My lovely friend Carly, who lives near Ithaca, but was born and bred in Broome County, informed me after my post about Jreck Subs a few months back that Lupo’s also makes great subs. So earlier this summer, Melinda and I took a break from sunbathing on a Saturday to pop on over to Endwell for lunch. I got a turkey sub; she got a chicken spiedie. We also got fries and onion rings, because I wouldn’t want to leave you with a less-than-complete snapshot of an eating establishment. Now, I guess the Endwell Char Pit is technically not a Lupo’s? It’s like, run by someone in the Lupo’s family, but not branded Lupo’s? Jeez, the inner workings of the spiedie dynasties in this town are akin to some of the most historic feudal disputes in medieval Europe. Anyway, I will say, the turkey in my sub was really, really good. It tasted like actual turkey, not some supermarket shelf, meat-adjacent slice like you get at Subway. And Melinda’s spiedies were moist and flavorful. The fries were not good – a frozen product and pale with no flavor, and the onion rings were so bad, I didn’t even finish them. Me. Big Hungry. I didn’t finish something. Blasphemy! So, we felt a little flummoxed about what the big deal was. I mean, the Char Pit is nothing fancy – you drive up, run in, order your food, and take it with you. There’s no dining room, just some picnic tables outside. And the food was OK, but nothing inspirational enough for me to write a whole post about. Maybe I need Carly to take me and help me order? Or maybe I need to haul my cookies all the way into Binghamton to the real Lupo’s Char Pit? I don’t know. I feel like I didn’t fully experience whatever Carly was pointing me towards, and like I’ve disappointed her. I’m so sorry.

This past weekend, I was in Vestal looking (in vain) for a mailbox post so that Shawn can finally install the mailbox my parents got us for Christmas last year. I decided to stop for lunch at the Spiedie and Rib Pit, right by BU campus. In the interest of research, and because I was alone, I just ordered a pork spiedie, straight up. As soon as I sat down, I was mad at myself for not getting some sides. People around me were eating golden fries, tawny chicken tenders, and spiedies packed with extras and yummies! But I ate my pork spiedie, and it showed me who’s boss. Now we’re talking – moist, flavorful, with a punch of vinegar and a really fresh Italian roll with sesame seeds on top. I thought it might be greasy, as the wrapping was slick when I unsheathed the sandwich, but neigh, good people, that was actually just juices and flavor! This fulfilled the promise of what spiedies are supposed to be! I was full, but I needed more.


Hello, handsome

So, like a good Big Hungry, and in a move that’s now becoming a habit, I dragged Melinda back there yesterday. Poor Melinda, the light eater; the svelte and lovely girl whom I constantly force food down the mouth of! She should get some kind of medal. But hey, a girl’s gotta eat sometime, and we have fun. Now, at this Spiedie and Rib Pit, they not only have the old school spiedie classics, but variations on a theme. Melinda got the buffalo spiedie, which is chicken spiedies in wing sauce, plus lettuce, tomato and blue cheese dressing. The spiedies were spicy, but not so hot they overpowered the taste of the spiedie marinade itself, which is key in spiedie cookery. She wished there had been a slice of cheese on the sandwich, which I’m sure they would have done if she had asked. I got the spiedissimo (love the name!), which is chicken spiedies, provolone, onions and peppers. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the spiedie sandwich for which I have been waiting! It was juicy and full of the traditional spiedie flavor, but the onions and peppers added a whole other dimension which is exactly what I’ve been missing in all these years of Southern Tier-enforced spiedie eating. We also split fries, chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks, because we’re gluttons. Ok, I’m the glutton. But Melinda is happy to be led down my primrose path of saturated fats and cholesterol. All of these fried items are of a frozen nature, but the good folks in Vestal are doing something right. The fries were golden and well salted, the chicken tenders were moist and flavorful, not greasy at all, and with good breading (beating TGI Sucks-A-Lot any day of the week), and the mozz sticks were pretty standard, but again, flavorful. We were not unhappy with a single bite.


A feast, I say! The spiedissimo is at 8 o’clock, and there, to the East, are the fabulous chicken tenders!

As I post this, I admit, I have not scooted my booty all the way over to the true Lupo’s Char Pit in Binghamton, so I haven’t explored the entire spiedie landscape of Broome County - yet. I promise, I will get there. But in the meantime, The Spiedie and Rib Pit has become my go-to lunch spot on the Vestal Parkway. Sorry, Moe’s and Panera! I’m going back for the Greek Spiedie and the Endwell Spiedie, and I want to get Shawn there to try the ribs. Parents, if you’re bringing your son or daughter back to Binghamton University in the next few weeks, make sure to stop by here for taste. You won’t regret it.

And before the summer’s over, I’m taking a cue from my new favorite spiedie joint and adding onions, peppers and cheese to the mix when I serve spiedies at home. This is an addition I was never taught when initiated into the Binghamton Spiedie Scene, but it’s one I’m embracing with my heart and stomach. Plus, Shawn has onions and peppers coming out of our garden right now in proliferation, so how can I resist? So, come on over for a BBQ at my house, we’re serving spiedissimos! My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!

Spiedie & Rib Pit on Urbanspoon

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