Quick trip to Binghamton for great BBQ at Food & Fire

This week we’re taking 14850 Dining on a road trip and stopping at Food & Fire in nearby Johnson City. This homegrown BBQ joint has great food and a killer beer selection.

Why don’t more restaurants have Tots du Jour? 14850 photo.

Just outside Binghamton near the Oakdale Mall, Food & Fire focuses on slow-smoked and grilled meats, though they have more than the bare minimum of vegetarian offerings, too.

Start with excellent, meaty wings, smoked with an excellent dry rub, and the tots of the day. More like hush puppies than tater tots, these deep-fried morsels on our visit had brisket, cheddar, and jalapeños cooked right in.

We were surprised at the price on a classic iceberg wedge salad, until we saw it — overflowing with toppings like grape tomatoes, bacon, and crumbled bleu cheese, and a meal in itself. It’s one of several salads on the menu.

Our server even asked how lean I’d like the brisket! In between, please.

Choose a sandwich, or BBQ chicken or a rack of ribs, or get a combo plate, such as succulent, slow-smoked brisket and a quarter chicken. The brisket didn’t need much help flavor-wise, but it was fun to explore the variety of BBQ sauces on the table — and our excellent server, Karly, brought out a couple of super-spicy sauces for us to try.

Each entree or BBQ plate comes with a choice of two sides, with options like smoked gouda mac and cheese, mustardy cole slaw, Utica greens, veggie quinoa, and of course rustic-cut fries.

Burgers start at a reasonable 11 bucks and head up to a $30 triple-decker Tower of Q burger featuring brisket, pulled pork, bacon, and plenty more ridiculousness.

Among the vegetarian choices, there’s a grilled veggie flatbread, black bean burger, and a smoked veggie melt sandwich.

The beer selection changes constantly, with frequently printed menu updates that offer not just a list, but thoughtful descriptions of the beers on tap. Some recent winners include Shiner Strawberry Blonde, Citradelic Tangerine IPA, Peak Organic’s New York State of Mind, and 21st Amendment’s Blah Blah Blah. (That’s really the beer’s name.) A computerized display over the bar offers not just a rotating tap list, but, in a clever touch, a view of recent customer check-ins on the Untappd beer app.

Food & Fire has weekly specials, too, like $8 all-you-can-eat chicken and fries baskets on Tuesdays, and half-price pints and wine on Wednesdays. They’ve also just added brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, with brisket and sweet potato hash, chicken and waffles, huevos rancheros nachos, even maple brulée oatmeal.

Right now, Food & Fire has two locations, with a second just opened in Moosic, Pennsylvania, and we’d love to imagine they could expand into Ithaca someday! Find Food & Fire at 560 Harry L. Drive in Johnson City, near Binghamton, or at foodfireBBQ.com, or call them at 607-296-0010 and tell them you heard about them here.

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