2.27.2013

Endicott Downtown Bounty

My skin is dry, my hair is frizzy, and one of my gloves has a hole in the index finger. Is winter over yet? As we trudge through the last dregs of February, sitting upon us here in Upstate NY like cold schmutz in the bottom of a cup of coffee, it’s hard to imagine sunny days, those first wisps of warmth in the air, or crocuses peeping through the mud. But hopefully, in a few weeks, signs of spring will appear, and we will rejoice by shedding our coats on still-chilly days, and making our way out and about at lunchtime, just to feel the sunshine on our pale, worn faces.


Last week, roughly 1,000 colleagues and I moved into a new building on our Endicott campus. Well, the building isn’t actually new, but they’re gutting and remodeling the floors one-by-one, and outfitting them in sparkling, shiny cubes and offices for us. Not only is it pleasant to be in freshened work spaces, our new spot on the grounds orients us closer to Washington Avenue, with its myriad choices for lunches out. And that’s a good thing, because they haven’t provided food service in our new building as yet, and woman cannot live by vending machine alone.


Endicott’s Main Drag

Across Oak Hill Avenue, we also have the Price Chopper Plaza, which sports China Garden, Shawn’s and my Chinese restaurant of choice since I moved here in 2000. I love China Garden’s won ton soup, pork egg rolls, lo mein, and moo shu pork, while Shawn likes the general tso’s chicken made extra spicy, and Little Lisa likes the hunan beef. China Garden always manages to deliver reasonably well-flavored food that’s not too greasy, though it’s not the best Chinese food in the whole world or anything. Also in this plaza is Sushi Sakura, which has sushi that’s just OK, but a really fabulous little house green salad, with a soy/sesame dressing I could eat on its own.

Peering down Washington Ave, we get an international amalgam of mom and pop-owned eateries. I actually haven’t hit a couple of the sketchier outlets – this is still downtown Endicott, after all - but places like Los Tapatios and Original Italian Pizzeria, or OIP, for those in the know, are longtime favorites. I like Los Tapatios, but I know plenty of people who don’t, and let’s be honest with ourselves, if you’ve ever been to San Diego or Austin, this Mexican food is not cutting the jalapenos for you. But it’s close by, it’s the only one around, and they have carnitas. So I make peace with my inner snob and eat the pork. Just eat the pork! OIP, on the other hand, has become a standby staple for LL and me. My favorites are the Italian sub, which is ham and salami on a roll made from their delicious pizza dough, and the Stromboli, packed with ham, gobs of mozzarella, pepperoni, and even veggies if you ask for them, encased in that wonderful dough. It’s massive, and hangs over the edges of your plate. One other standout is the garlic knots. They’re not quite at Mama Guiseppe’s garlic knot echelon, but very delicious. Even the cheesesteaks, which are nowhere near Philly-authentic, but are gargantuan and unique, are delectable.


OIP’s splendid sammie

Also adorning the avenue is a relative newcomer since my company moved to Endicott: Baked Euphoria Café. This is the kid-sister operation to Endwell’s Baked Euphoria bakery, which is where I’ve been buying my cakes for the past few years, loving their Mexican hot chocolate cake with Kahlua crème filling. At the Café, they have sandwiches, soups, and salads, but the can’t-miss attraction is still the baked goods, which outshine everything else. They even make a maple bacon cupcake, with a little fondant piggy decoration on top. All of their cupcake and scone flavors are imaginative and well-executed. Bonnie, the owner, solicits ideas each week for new cupcakes, from their Facebook followers. I am still waiting for them to bring back the epic carrot scone I had a few months ago that combined the fine, crumbly moisture of a perfect scone with the spicy warmth of carrot cake. Having this place so close to work is dangerous, and really fun.




Further down the street, past OIP, is the former anchor of the block, which moved its location a little over a year ago: Thai Basil. The new spot is bigger, fancier, and quite attractive inside. I got take-out from there this week, and was really mad I’ve gotten talked out of having lunch there sometime in the past year (Ahem, LL). The crispy Thai rolls are as good a place to start as any, sporting the requisite thin, crispy, fried skins with no hint of grease, and crunchy, crisp cabbage and carrot innards along with the glass noodles and a good punch of white pepper. They were satisfying on their own, and even better when dipped in the sweet chile sauce served alongside.


Next up, one of my favorite Thai dishes: drunken noodles with pork. I should state for the record that I am not an Asian food expert, and I have no idea what’s “drunken” about drunken noodles. They could call them acid trip noodles, or coke crazed noodles, or even crystal meth tweak noodles, and I would still eat them. Thai Basil’s are less overtly spicy than Thai Time’s, and less saucy as well, but no less complex or good. All the veggies were crunchy, and there were a good variety of them: green beans, mushrooms, broccoli, baby corn, carrots, onions, bell peppers, and basil. The noodles were dressed in a brown sauce packing the latent heat of Thai chiles, more white pepper, and the licorice-y flavor of fresh basil. Each bite tasted a little bit differently than the last, which is the sign of a homemade sauce, and a well-seasoned dish. The pork was very tender, with no gristle or fat, which is a pet peeve of mine in some Asian places.


The noodles are drunken, not the eater
Thai Basil’s menu also features pho, that seductive noodle soup which I will be trying soon, and duck, which, yum. And if you’re shy about Thai, they have fried rice, which I really like. It’s lighter, less greasy, with more vegetables than you get in Chinese versions. I think you’ll like it. This may have been the best lunch I’ve had in Endicott in the last year or so, save for the continuing excellence that Joey’s serving up on Oak Hill. You just can’t beat his eggplant parm or terrific sandwiches, but I will say this: the service at Thai Basil and Baked Euphoria beat Joey’s any day of the week. Joey’s one crabby dude.

The Neopolitan at Joey’s. Served with a complimentary side of snark.

Coming soon to Washington Avenue are a brew pub and this place:



…which is teasing exotic sandwiches made with house baked bread and local, organic foods on its Facebook page. I’ve been stalking it for a week already, and I haven’t seen any progress inside, but you know I’ll be on it like white on rice when they open, especially if they have the promised bahn mis and Cubans. Rumor has it Get Forked will open in March, so stay tuned for that review. Meanwhile, if you work with me on the Huron Campus, make sure to patronize our local restaurants. There’s something for every taste within just a few blocks of our buildings, and we’re nearing the season when walking at lunchtime isn’t such a drag. Get out there and eat local! My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

PS: A shout out to Jill over at Paleo Pantz for helping me dream up this week’s blog topic! If you’re of the real food or crossfit or paleo persuasion, you should check out her blog. It’s full of recipes and burpees and stuff I don’t really understand, but she writes about them so well, I’m hooked.

Thai Basil on Urbanspoon

Joey's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Original Italian Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

6 comments:

  1. I love having a bounty of lunch places around my office, even though I don't often eat lunch out.

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    1. Do you have mostly chain places or mom and pop shops, SMD?

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    2. Loved the Thai Basil drunken noodles with pork...spices were just right and veggies not over cook...pork was very tender and lean...Salad was nothing great..iceburg and veggies...thai peanut dressing could have had more flavor fo my taste; but, not horrible.

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  2. Hole in the index finger of my glove. hee

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  3. Hi honey! How cool that you are on Washington Ave. brings back memories :) I'm so impressed with your blog!! You rock! Love you! Val

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    1. The Southern Tier misses you, Val! I still think of our little band of prom-crashing misfits when I drive by BU;) Thanks for reading!

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