The Place: CyberCafe West, 176 Main Street, Binghamton
The Rundown: Seeing as it’s been over a month since Restaurant Week ended, I think it’s safe to say that this review’s been a long time coming. That kind of delay shouldn’t happen again, and I apologize for it.
At any rate, as part of my “mission statement”, so to speak, I promised to talk about things that were familiar to me. However, up until this point I have failed to do so. I’ve been a loyal patron of the CyberCafe for six or seven years now; it’s something of a ritual for my friends and I to meet there once a week. We tend to opt for drinks when we’re there, though, not food. Why? Probably a few different factors–we were all broke college kids when we started going there, and drinks are cheaper; the seating arrangement where we tend to hang out there doesn’t really lend itself to eating; the fact that they don’t have a deep fryer…(Edit: They do, but the only fried foods on the menu are Sweet Potato Fries and Veggie Eggrolls. Planning on trying the latter sometime soon!)
That last bit should kind of clue you in as to what type of food is being served here. The establishment that proudly boasts of its 22 beers on tap does not serve your typical bar fare–I’d hesitate to really classify them as a bar at all. They’re much more like a coffeehouse, with the eclectic decorations, live music most nights of the week, and the very relaxed, bohemian vibe of the place. Likewise, their food options are mainly limited to sandwiches, salads, wraps and soups, though they do have some other options that don’t fit into those categories. Most of the menu is very vegetarian/vegan friendly, however.
For Restaurant Week, they, like Binghamton Hots, opted to run the lunch menu all day, with the items being ones that were already on the regular menu. For my courses, I chose a side salad, the California Club Wrap, and Bethany’s Lemon Bar. I also got a Huckleberry Lemonade, which was a featured drink that night. If you’ve never ordered food here, don’t bother waiting for table service–they don’t have any. You go up to the bar in the front and order there. They will then bring your food to you when it’s ready (just let them know where you’re going to be).
As you can see from the picture, everything was arranged together on the same plate. It’s hard to tell from the photo (the salad is hiding behind the chips), but the salad itself was made from mixed field greens, diced tomatoes, and cucumbers. I opted for the Oriental Sesame dressing (which I don’t think is made in-house; if I had to guess, I’d say it’s Ken’s brand). The salad itself was good; everything seemed fresh, and I’m a total sucker for that dressing. It’s sweet (though a little syrupy), with a hit of ginger.
The California Club Wrap might also be called a Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap; it has those three ingredients, plus lettuce and tomato. The chicken itself was a little dry, and did not taste like it had been seasoned. This isn’t a new observation, mind you–I noticed the same thing when I had a Mushu Wrap some years ago, which also features the chicken. My guess is that they’re trying to make it a bit of a blank canvas, but it can be distracting if there are no other ingredients that take center stage, as is the case with the Mushu Wrap. Bacon and ranch can hide a multitude of sins, though, and those ingredients were spot on. Everything was crisp, not soggy, and the wrap was enjoyable overall. The wrap itself was also served with tortilla chips and two wedges of smoked gouda, which were also tasty.
Bethany’s Lemon Bar, though very good, was not what I was expecting. Lemon bars, in my experience, tend to have a lemon layer similar to a lemon meringue pie; almost jelly-like in its consistency. This was not at all like that. Instead, it was rather light on the lemon flavor, with a fair amount of cream cheese–quite a bit, actually–and a graham cracker crust. Though the creaminess was rather nice, it could have used a bit more lemon to it.
The only aspect of the meal that I didn’t care for was the drink. Though I’m usually a fan of their flavored lemonades, I didn’t really like the Huckleberry Lemonade. It was very tart–too tart, even for a lemonade–and kind of gritty. My guess is that the huckleberry flavor came from a powdered mix, instead of a syrup like their other flavors.
The Verdict: The CyberCafe probably functions a bit better as a lunch spot, given the “lightness” of their food. That said, if you’re craving an alternative to the usual greasy bar fare, this should definitely be on your radar.