Whenever I travel to a new area of New York, I always try to sample the foods that are unique to that area. From beef on weck and Buffalo wings in Buffalo to garbage plates in Rochester and chicken riggies in Utica, I love to sample these dishes that are popular in one corner of the state.
So, on my first trip through Binghamton, I knew I had to try a spiedie.
For those that are as ill-informed as I was, a spiedie (pronounced “speedy”) is a sandwich primarily found in and around Binghamton and Broome County, New York. It is thought to have originated sometime in the 1920s, though the history is a bit muddled.
The sandwich is typically served on a long roll and consists solely of meat (usually chicken or pork, though it was first made with lamb) marinated in a special spiedie sauce before being cooked and placed on the roll. While you might think a spiedie needs more than that, that’s all there is to it.
Having never had a chance to try a spiedie before, I decided to stop at not one, but two local institutions: Lupo’s S and S Char Pit and Sharkey’s Bar and Grill.
My first stop was at Lupo’s S and S Char Pit a short distance north of downtown Binghamton. Of all the restaurants in the Southern Tier that serve a spiedie, nowhere is more synonymous with the sandwich than this spot.
Lupo’s definitely won’t be winning any awards for their appearance. The outside and much of the inside of the shop reminded me of an old 1980’s fast food restaurant, while the food counter itself looked more like an old deli. That being said, it seemed clean and like a perfectly fine place to eat.
Shortly after ordering (I opted for a pork spiedie), the sandwich was ready.
My spiedie was served on a large roll that seemed fresh, but a bit too large for the amount of meat. Inside the sandwich, there are close to a dozen small cubes of grilled pork meat (roughly chicken nugget size). Lupo’s marinates their meat in a special blend of Italian spice and oils for 24 hours before grilling, so I knew the meat would have great flavor.
Upon biting into the sandwich, my initial hunch was proven correct. While the bread was good, the ratio of bread to filling was way out of whack. Definitely too much bread.
Trying the meat separately, it definitely had great flavor, but was on the drier side. Of course, that could have also been simply because of when I ordered it or the cook preparing it.
While the flavor of the meat was quite good, the sandwich overall was rather dry because of the dry meat and the large amount of bread. A bit of extra marinade on the sandwich like a condiment would have really made it pop.
Despite being slightly disappointed in my first spiedie, I decided to press on and try another one at Sharkey’s Bar and Grill on the western side of town.
In contrast to Lupo’s, Sharkey’s is best described as a dive bar with darker decor and both bar and table seating.
I decided that since I had ordered a pork spiedie at Lupo’s that I would do the same at Sharkey’s so I could best compare these two spots to get spiedies in Binghamton.
At Sharkey’s, my pork spiedie came three to an order. The sandwiches here were decidedly different, coming with roughly half-a-dozen pieces of pork wrapped between a piece of white bread. The meat here is marinated for two days, again in a secret blend of spices and oils.
My first impression of the spiedie at Sharkey’s was that the regular white bread here worked much better for the sandwich. While the quality of the bread at Lupo’s was clearly higher, the smaller amount of bread at Sharkey’s made more sense for the amount of filling.
My second observation was that the marinade was again very good, though probably not quite as good as the one at Lupo’s. The meat was also much drier at Sharkey’s, though again, that could come down to when and who cooked it, so it’s hard to say for sure regarding that without eating at each a few different times.
Overall, if I’m being perfectly honest, I came away underwhelmed by the spiedies in Binghamton, NY that I tried. For both, the sandwich seemed like it was screaming for a sauce or a condiment. Given how good the flavor was on the meat, I think a little extra marinating sauce on the sandwich would have gone a long way.
As for which I preferred, I’d probably say Lupo’s S and S Char Pit. Despite there being way too much bread for the amount of filling, the quality of the bread and the meat seemed better and tastier to me.
So, while I wouldn’t necessarily say you need to go way out of your way to get a few spiedies in Binghamton, New York, it’s worthwhile to try this unique local food if you find yourself passing through the area.
Do you have a favorite spot to get spiedies in Binghamton that I need to try on my next visit? Let me know in the comments below.
Looking for more places to visit nearby? Check out Waverly Falls, our favorite Ithaca waterfalls, Fort Stanwix National Monument, the Northeast Classic Car Museum, and some of the best breweries in Syracuse.