A Binghamton Breakfast Sojourn

At this point, in my late thirties, a post-party, morning-after scavenger hunt for a really amazing breakfast is not something that happens with much frequency. There were many times in the past 20 years that finding the nearest McDonald's for a magical fountain Coke and a McMuffin, or a similar odyssey for the perfect carb-packed breakfast foods seemed as much a survival tactic as a foodie mission. But these days, the level of partying has settled down a bit, and cooler heads usually prevail.

But last weekend was an annual Christmas party with good friends, and the after party ended up at the South Side Publick House in Binghamton, which is now occupying the space South Side Yanni's used to inhabit. We parked across the street in a small strip mall lot - that strip mall houses Manni's, a little diner that I long have heard makes some of the best donuts in the Southern Tier. We could smell fried dough in the air even at that late hour, and vowed to return in the morning for a taste.

Saturday morning dawned bright and chilly, and Big Hungry Melinda and I trekked from her house to Manni's to get our fix. When we walked into the cramped cafe, it was immediately clear that we were not the only locals in the know about the the great donuts at Manni's. The line was to the door, and every seat in the place was full. As we waited to get up to the counter intending to augment our donut order with some breakfast sandwiches, we heard one of the waitresses telling a customer that it would be a full half hour for any food orders from the kitchen, they were so backed up. That a good sign that this place is legit, but we were not in the mood to wait around that long. So we quickly adapted our sandwich plans and ordered only a half dozen donuts to go.

We next scooted over to Glenwood Ave to complete the rest of our breakfast goals. The Bagel Factory also was busy - a line formed by townies and BU students gearing up for some sort of Santa-themed bar crawl - so we joined the fray. We procured breakfast sandwiches and home fries, and were on our merry way back to Melinda's house.

Let's first talk about these donuts, which run the gamut from fruity glazed cherry cake donuts, to filled peanut butter and jelly and boston cream varieties. Did I mention they're made from scratch, in-house? I tried two powdered sugar-covered flavors: bavarian cream and vanilla angel. The fried yeast dough was airy but also toothsome enough not to collapse into a ball of sugar the instant you bite into it. So you had a slight chew giving way to a not-too-sweet, but very light yeast dough, filled with a rich, vanilla pastry cream, and coated in tons of powdered sugar, in the case of the bavarian cream flavor.

The vanilla angel donut was crafted from the same dough and sugar coating, but was filled with vanilla buttercream frosting - way too sweet for the likes of me, but for those people who only eat the frosting off pieces of cake would love this sugar bomb.

The bagels from The Bagel Factory were pretty great - the crust on the outside didn't have that sheen and slightly harder surface I associate with bagels that have been boiled before they're baked - the truly proper method for making them - but the interior was very chewy, instead of bready, and the seeds and spices on my everything bagel were plentiful and fresh.

The American cheese, bacon, and egg, were all flavorful, with the bacon cooked crispy. We plowed through these savory sandwiches with abandon, but not without pauses for the Factory's excellent potato wedge home fries, served with spicy ketchup. Melinda guessed that this concoction is just ketchup and sriracha sauce mixed together, but good golly, was it delicious on the fried, seasoned taters. It was spicy, but not overwhelmingly so, and the salt level in both this and the bacon, egg and cheese perfectly countered the sweetness from the donuts. This is breakfast heaven, you guys. I'm not suggesting that it's imperative that you run all over Binghamton to gather up this epic meal, but a stop at either of these local favorites will fix you up right after a night of partying, or a blissful winter slumber. My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!