When a new restaurant comes to either Watertown or Binghamton, I get excited, but I also never want to go there too near the opening. I just don’t think it’s fair to review a place when it’s too new. The front of the house and the kitchen haven’t figured out how to communicate yet, the line hasn’t gotten into their groove, and it’s usually so packed, it’s not even enjoyable. That’s why I waited a couple weeks when Zona & Co. opened last winter, and one of the reasons I’m just now getting you a review of Galaxy Brewing Company, also in Binghamton. Galaxy opened in the early Fall, I believe, but the first chance I had to eat there was during Restaurant Week, which is not a full representation of the menu, and my second visit was just this past weekend, when Shawn and I went with Big Hungry Melinda and her man friend BLD.
I’m pleased to report that Galaxy has great beer and good food, and slightly less enthusiastic to tell you about the service, which I wasn’t crazy about during either visit. To be fair, we had the same waitress both times, and it’s possible I just find her irritating – and while I won’t name her, I will describe some of her shenanigans, and you can tell me in the comments if you’ve had the same experience there.
Melinda and I had our Restaurant Week Lunch at Galaxy back in September. We both liked our beers, chosen from the top of the menu, indicating they’re on the easy end of the micro-brewing scale. I particularly liked the white dwarf whit, a Belgian brew with coriander and orange hints. It was light enough to go with food without being so bitter as to overwhelm my relatively conservative beer palate.
Melinda and I both ordered the BC burger off the RW menu, which was supposed to come with balsamic onions and bacon. It was one of only three options on the RW lunch menu, but I was genuinely excited about the balsamic onions – too bad neither of our burgers had them or the bacon promised. The hamburger itself was juicy, cooked correctly, and pretty tasty, but when we told the waitress ours weren’t made correctly – which took some time, she was not a frequent visitor to our table – she shrugged and said she’d let the kitchen know. No offer to get the right burgers for us, or even an apology, and we were charged the full price for our meals. That…is not a great way to make a first impression on a food blogger, which I had happened to reveal myself to be when the owner, Michael, stopped by our table before the entrees arrived.
The macaroni and cheese I ordered as a side to my burger was delicious, though. Clearly a homemade cheese sauce, with lots of good, sharp cheddar and al dente macaroni. It didn’t have a ton of personality to make it exciting or different from a standard macaroni and cheese – but I didn’t need that in order to enjoy it alongside a juicy burger.
We also ordered dessert as part of the RW experience, but the choices were not fully described to us. I chose the carrot cake, which is my favorite of all the cakes, and was surprised to find the frosting had curry in it. That was a cool twist, and an interesting choice, but the waitress should have told us this wasn’t a traditional carrot cake with cream cheese frosting – a lot of people dislike curry and would not have been as pleasantly surprised as I was with the spice. In addition, the cake slice had been pre-cut, probably that morning, so the exterior of the cake was completely dried out and tough. Good flavor from the carrots and the spices, but some mistakes were made here.
As you can tell, while we mostly liked the food during that first visit, our service left a lot to be desired. So imagine my disappointment when the same waitress breezed up to our table last weekend and introduced herself – I was less than enthused to see her. And again during this meal, the food was mostly pretty great, with a few caveats that could have been easily remedied by a server more willing to, well, serve.
We started with the crispy pork belly, because we are smart people who know what’s good for us. Actually, Shawn, bless his heart, tried to offer a voice of reasoned health, to dissuade me from ordering it. What a silly, silly man! The rest of us gladly ate his share, and reveled in the crispy exterior, unctuous, and the almost melted, porky interior. This was masterfully cooked, with a pleasing textural difference between the crunchy crust and oozy fat. The whole grain mustard served with it countered all that luxurious fat perfectly, offering tang and heat right where it was needed. The apple and fennel slaw on top was crisp and clean, a second great foil to the rich meat. We adored this dish.
Melinda and Derek selected the beer moules frites, or mussels and fries. The bi-valves were adorned in a broth packed with almond slices, gorgonzola cheese, green onions, more pork belly, and lemon. I don’t groove on mussels, but I always appreciate when others order them, because the sauce is invariably delicious with bread. But instead of bread, Galaxy is serving theirs with a small bowl of fries. The fries are hand cut and double fried – in other words, done right – but are just not enough to sop up all of the sauce, which in this case, was indeed exemplary. When we asked for some bread, our waitress, naturally, snottily informed us that that’s what the fries are for. Yeah, thanks Lady. I’m not an idiot – I know frites means fries, but I’m the customer, and I’ve asked for some bread. Could you rustle some up for us? She finally sent some, but not until our entrees were brought to the table, by which time we were over eating the appetizers. I did not appreciate that treatment, and this served as her second demerit in my book.
Derek had the bone-in pork chop, and loved it so much, it was almost gone before I had a chance to steal a taste. It was thick, juicy, and not at all overcooked like the pork chops of your childhood. The tender meat was very well seasoned, as well, so I bet it was brined before grilling. The white bean ragout served with the chop was savory and earthy, the beans cooked al dente, and also well seasoned.
Melinda and I both chose the hanger steak. Apparently, we like the same things at Galaxy! So, the issue here is that the steak was undoubtedly rested after coming off the grill, but they rested it so long, it was ice cold. As in, there was a tasty compound butter with lemon and tarragon served on top of it, but the steak wasn't even warm enough to melt it. So we had sliced steak and a big glob of cold butter on top of it. What’s the point of that? While cooler food, in and of itself, doesn’t bug me, Melinda can’t stand for her food not to be hot, so then she had to play the waiting game for our waitress to return so she could send the dish back to the kitchen. It was a long wait, and Melinda’s dinner was effectively ruined. Not surprisingly, there was no apology from our lovely server. The potato cake that came with the cold steak was well seasoned, though a bit overcooked. I liked it more than a lot of other potato cakes I’ve had in restaurants, and it wasn’t greasy at all, but just a little tough on the outside due to excessive browning. The bacon jam served with the steak, though terrific in theory, was really too sweet for me, which I hate to report. Maybe the lemon butter would have balanced that, had it melted properly over the dish? I don’t know. There’s no way for me to go back and get that butter melted – but the quantity of the jam was too much, and the sweetness of it was overwhelming, giving the whole dish a sugary punch that was unwelcome on my palate.
Shawn went for the chicken jambalaya, at my recommendation. He likes spicy food, and I thought this would be. It was tasty, alive with the assertive, fresh flavors of bell peppers, tomatoes and onions, but not spicy, and lacking the depth that a proper Cajun roux and seasonings would have lent. Usually Andouille sausage really brings the chile spice, but maybe the balance of that ingredient was off, or something – this just came up short on fire for me.
Melinda and I are very excited to be trying out another new Southern Tier restaurant, Food and Fire, tonight, and next week, be sure to stop back and check out The 2013 Big Hungry Awards, a round-up of my favorite sips, bites, and places this year. Hope you’re having a grand holiday season, and that you’re keeping warm during this cold snap! My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!