We got up late and had a bite at the Red Oak, a seriously inexpensive diner on Front Street that we pass on the way to my Dad’s place. The Red Oak is, in my opinion, a better value than the Spot. Lunch specials at this working class establishment are rock-bottom and quite decent. I had a hot pot roast sandwich, cup of chicken orzo soup and onion rings for $4.99. The onion rings were actually onion rings — not chopped up onions pressed into a circle. Matt had, surprise!, a gyro. The large dining room to the right when you enter is rustic and comfortable. Go there and avoid the tight booths at the opposite end of the building. After the chowdown we went to my Dad’s for a few hours for some strategic planning and goodbyes, as Steven was leaving later in the day and Matt and I were heading out tomorrow. At about 3:30 p.m. we drove Mr. Man the 8 miles or so to the Binghamton airport (Edwin A. Link Field, officially). He had no problem getting through security, thank God, and Matt and I headed back to the city to rustle up some grub. After a bad Marty routine (“Where do you want to go, Matt? I don’t know, Mom, where do you want to go?”), we settled on The Bulls Head, which looked from the outside at some distance like an Irish pub. It was in an almost deserted strip mall on Front Street, which did not give me lots of confidence. After I parked in that sad lot, Matt got out to see if there was any there there. He gave me the high sign and we were soon in the place. It was incredible — a total non sequitur. We walked into a crowded fine dining establishment, more or less a steak and seafood affair. We were too late for the early bird and somehow did not notice their weekday special of all-you-can-eat Alaskan crab legs when we ordered my steak and Matthew’s tilapia. How the hell did we miss the crab special? When it comes to food, we are on the stick. I do not know what to attribute this lapse to. Even now, several days later, this really makes me mad. That’s not to say that what we did order was not top-notch. First off, I had the best baked potato soup of my life. It was not the pureed stuff with chives that gets hawked in most places, rather a chicken stock based soup with chunks of tasty and firm baked potato throughout, and topped with a large dollop of sour cream that insinuated its way down into the broth, giving the whole thing just a bit of creaminess. My sirloin steak was cut thick and cooked to perfection — rare, the only way to cook a steak to perfection, as far as I’m concerned, and so tender the interior tasted like steak tartare. Matt’s tilapia had been lightly breaded and then baked with butter and spices, somewhat reminiscent of a Dore preparation in texture. He loved it, and there was more than enough for him, which is saying something. The twice-baked potatoes on the side added to the meal. They were served blisteringly hot, meaning creamy rather than congealed inside. It was nice to have had a serendipitous meal to soften the mood brought on by those difficult moments earlier in the day.
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