If you and I worked together previously at Lockheed Martin, then the title of today’s post might bring a smile to your face. People who work in big corporations love acronyms; they can’t help it. It’s beaten into them in onboarding/orientation, and the MARCORSYSCOMs and JLTVs never really leave once they’re in your head. So today’s missive is about BLDs: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Since I steered our road trip this month to my adoptive hometown, I thought I would give you a BLD tour up and down the I-81 corridor, so whenever you’re traveling between Binghamton and Watertown, you have options. Or, at least your stomach will have options. Your car simply has the option of going either 55 or 65, and your eyes are going to have to contend with the boredom between Parish and Kellogg Hill any way you slice it.
For breakfast, we’re starting at a place I’ve already mentioned in passing a couple times on BHS (there, I did it again!). Now that summer is rearing her hazy, hot and humid head, I’m dying to get there – Koffee Kove in Clayton. The allures of Koffee Kove are numerous. First of all, Clayton is a vacation-y kind of town in summer. So, even if you just drive up there from Watertown for breakfast, you feel at one with the cottagers, fishermen and boaters lazing around outside on the sidewalk, waiting for a table. At the same time, the old townies have decidedly chosen the Kove as their own breakfast hang-out, so once inside, you instantly feel like you’re part of the normal Clayton scene. The entire wall to the right of the door, in banquettes made from the hulls of old wooden boats, will be the men who all know one another and their waitresses. Don’t try to get one of their tables, ‘cause they are not moving until well into lunchtime. You know, I think it’s not even the food that’s so crave-able at Koffee Kove – it’s the hustle and bustle, the nautical décor, the proximity to The River and the general atmosphere.
KK also serves fantastic coffee. They may spell it wrong, but they serve it right, in limited edition mugs that are different every summer and for sale at the cash wrap. The breakfast fare here is pretty basic, but it’s all done well. The homefries are superb. One of my breakfast pet peeves is when hashbrowns or homefries don’t have any flavor – but Koffee Kove sautés them up with plenty of onions, seasoning salt and butter, resulting in crispy brown bits, soft potato-y bits and the right amount of salt. When you order corned beef hash here, while the hash itself is standard, the treatment is the same. They must flat-top it, because you get those crispy edges…yum. The specials board in the back of the house nearly always purports “buffalo sausage.” I’ve never tried this, but maybe I’ll have to this summer. You know me, I’m always hung up on getting bacon with my breakfast. I can’t help it. I was drawn this way.
Mom and Dad at KK, awaiting delicious homefries
Now, pretend teleportation is possible, and let’s zip down to Apalachin, NY for lunch. Apalachin is a little town stuck between Owego and Vestal. In 1957, a bunch of NYC mobsters thought it would be genius to hold a summit in rural Apalachin, at the home of gangster Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara. The Apalachin Meeting was raided and more than 60 crime bosses were indicted as a result.
If you’re feeling not-so-gangster but a little more ladies who lunch, Apalachin is now the home of Chat-A-Wyle, a charming old farmhouse turned lunch spot on Rt. 434. Chat-A-Wyle serves eight homemade soups daily, plus killer quiche, insane INSANE insane desserts and the fun little oddity of fondue. They also have salads and sandwiches, but I’ve never figured out the appeal of them when you can have this soup, which is manna from Heaven. The potato cheddar soup, served in a bread bowl, is the sentimental fav. Don’t get the large, or you won’t have room for dessert! I also enjoy the chicken and biscuit and the turkey veggie, and my friend Laura digs on the taco soup. Every single soup is homemade with love and consistently great, and the bread bowls are transcendent. I don’t know if they brush them with butter and then pop them in the oven when you order, or what, but the outside is faintly crunchy and oh my god, I don’t even know what else to tell you about the combo. It will make you happy in your soul.
But mark my words, save room for dessert. Cobblers are the scene here…pumpkin, raspberry, chocolate, etc. I also like the chocolate fudge cake, which is gooey and packed with enough dark, rich chocolate to make you groan. They’re all served warm, with vanilla ice cream and real whipped cream. I don’t know if angels inhabit the kitchen, blessing each bowl and plate with their scepters of gold, or if owner Pam is practicing practical magic back there, but I hope they keep it coming.
Chat-A-Wyle is a bit idiosyncratic in its hours. I can’t tell you exactly when it’s open, and they don’t have a website. Weekdays at lunch seem to be a safe bet, and I believe Saturday lunch is a go, but maybe they need a rest from all the fabulousness on Sunday? I don’t know, but if you like soup and you love dessert, it’s worth the gamble on a driveby to see if the neon OPEN sign is gracing us with its presence that day. All around, Chat-A-Wyle is a don’t miss.
So, assuming that you’ve just had breakfast in Clayton, and a huge, heavy lunch in Apalachin, the next logical step is dinner in Syracuse, right? Well, logic was never my strong suit. Just roll with it.
We’re zipping off the Mattydale exit and hitting up my favorite spot to eat in Syracuse, Zebb’s Deluxe Grill and Bar. Now look, I’m aware that Syracuse has lots of great places to eat. In fact, I have a trip planned there to review Gentile’s for this very blog, and I won’t be able to wait long before I tell you all about Dinosaur BBQ. But Zebb’s has a few things going for it that make it my favorite, and one of them is the convenience. It’s literally right off the highway and I like that. Plus, great chocolate chip cookies and the genius inclusion of one of my favorite foods in the galaxy: fries with gravy!
So obviously, when I stop by Zebb’s, I’m having a half order of their wet fries all to myself. These are not frozen French fries – the hand cut them on-site and double fry them, the right way. Then they douse them in gravy, which makes Big Hungry Shelby very happy, indeed. Along with my wet fries, I’m having a chocolate Coke. What, pray thee, is a chocolate Coke? Oh, my darling, order it and you shall see. It’s simple, really, a huge Coke Classic with Hershey’s chocolate sauce in it. Sounds gross, tastes awesome. Trust.
My friends and I at Zebb’s last year. We ate all the food before taking pictures so we would look extra jolly.
Whatever else I have is just really icing on the cake. But that icing will probably consist of a bacon cheeseburger, for which they have a toppings bar, so I will add tons of pickles and tomatoes. They also have some pretty inventive sandwiches, yummy fajitas, and their “Diner Dinners,” which used to be called their Blue Plate Special. Don’t know why they changed the name, but I love a good hot turkey sammie completely drowned in more luxurious gravy…so I would recommend this, too.
Zebb’s has a full bar, but also is just fine for families. It’s casual, dark and a little noisy, but totally fun. Unlike the other two restaurants I’m sending you to this week, Zebb’s is a little bit corporate, like acronyms. They have five locations, in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica. That means that just about anywhere you are in Upstate NY, you can get your hands on wet fries. And thank God for that.