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Sharkey's

56 Glenwood Ave., Binghamton, NY - (607) 729-9201
Posted By Michael Stern on 4/13/2007 6:28:00 PM
Sharkey’s is home of the spiedie. Other upstate New York restaurants sell them; and you can even buy spiedie meat in supermarkets in and around Binghamton, but if you want to eat the best, in a proper neighborhood setting, this family-run tavern is the place to go.

Larry Sharak’s father started making spiedies at a cookfire in the window by the bar over fifty years ago. Skewered, marinated hunks of lamb were cooked on a charcoal grill and served with broad slices of bread. The custom was to grab the bread in one hand and use it as an edible mitt to slide a few hunks off the metal rod, thus creating an instant sandwich. Spiedies are still served and eaten this way at the bar and tables of Sharkey’s. Lamb has grown too expensive, however, so today’s spiedies are made from either pork or chicken. When you bite into a piece, it blossoms with the flavorful juice of a two-day marinade that tastes of garlic and vinegar, peppers and oregano and, according to Larry Sharak, for whom the recipe is a family heirloom, “a lot of pinches of many spices.”

Sharkey’s city chicken is served on a skewer, too. City chicken is, in fact, not poultry, but pork; in this case, it is a juicy roll of meat packed into a tubular shape on a wooden stick then steeped in something similar to the spiedie marination, after which it is quickly fried crisp, then baked until thoroughly done. The result is a crusty hunk of meat with insides as juicy and rich-flavored as the darkest dark meat. Like a spiedie, city chicken comes bedded on a slice of bread.

Beyond skewered things, Sharkey’s serves fantastic Eastern European fare made by experts: holupkis (stuffed cabbage rolls) are the work of Larry’s sister-in-law, Marie. Around Easter and Christmas time, the menu features homemade kielbasa sausages. And you can always count on buttery pierogi filled with seasoned mashed potatoes.

Sharkey’s is a local institution to which families have come for generations. Old-timers know to enter through the back door rather than the front. Here, you walk into a dark dining room outfitted with ancient wooden booths and long family-style tables formed from pushed-together dinettes. Between courses, the young folks get up to play a few lines on the old Tic Tac Strike game, a pre-electronic diversion that seems at home in this historic tavern.

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5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
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A trio of spiedies: de-skewer them by grabbing a slice of Italian bread and wrapping it around the meat like a mitt.  Then slide 'em off the skewer.  No vegetables, no condiments.
"A trio of spiedies: de-skewer them by grabbing a slice of Italian bread and wrapping it around the meat like a mitt. Then slide 'em off the skewer. No vegetables, no condiments."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle





A stuffed cabbage appetizer.
"A stuffed cabbage appetizer."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


We always think of spiedies in sets of three (similar to Sheboygan brat tradition - you can order a single, but a double just seems right).  The Felix Roma
"We always think of spiedies in sets of three (similar to Sheboygan brat tradition - you can order a single, but a double just seems right). The Felix Roma "Italian" bread is just the right shape for removing the meat from the skewer."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


In this close up view it's easy to see the flecks of spice on the meat.
"In this close up view it's easy to see the flecks of spice on the meat."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


To eat a spiedie, you grab a slice of soft, pre-sliced Italian bread, wrap it around the skewered meat, and then yank the skewer away.  Voila!  You have a spiedie sandwich ready to eat.  Condiments?  Nope, eat it as it comes off the skewer, bread and meat only.
"To eat a spiedie, you grab a slice of soft, pre-sliced Italian bread, wrap it around the skewered meat, and then yank the skewer away. Voila! You have a spiedie sandwich ready to eat. Condiments? Nope, eat it as it comes off the skewer, bread and meat only."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


A bowl of twelve pierogies sits in puddles of butter and melting soft diced onion.
"A bowl of twelve pierogies sits in puddles of butter and melting soft diced onion."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


There's a wooden skewer in the middle of city chicken, but the meat adheres to it.  Best strategy is to eat around it until enough is exposed to pull it out.
"There's a wooden skewer in the middle of city chicken, but the meat adheres to it. Best strategy is to eat around it until enough is exposed to pull it out."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Although it is best known for its spiedies, Sharkey's serves an abundance of great old-world dishes, such as this buttery pierogi, with a mantle of soft, sweet chopped onion.
"Although it is best known for its spiedies, Sharkey's serves an abundance of great old-world dishes, such as this buttery pierogi, with a mantle of soft, sweet chopped onion."
Michael Stern


Use the bread to pull the charcoal-cooked meat off the skewer and you have an instant sandwich.
"Use the bread to pull the charcoal-cooked meat off the skewer and you have an instant sandwich."
Michael Stern


Children of Sharkey's patrons play a game of
"Children of Sharkey's patrons play a game of "Tic Tac Strike" in the dining room."
Michael Stern


Anyplace that has an old time bowling game is all right by us.
"Anyplace that has an old time bowling game is all right by us."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The boss shows a picture of Sharkey's Tavern way back when.
"The boss shows a picture of Sharkey's Tavern way back when."
Michael Stern


You can enter through the front door, off the street, and no one will look askance.  But most people enter through this back door, off the parking lot.
"You can enter through the front door, off the street, and no one will look askance. But most people enter through this back door, off the parking lot."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Customers who come for take-out clams know to park in back and enter through this small door that leads right into the dining room.
"Customers who come for take-out clams know to park in back and enter through this small door that leads right into the dining room."
Michael Stern


Where locals have eaten for half a century
"Where locals have eaten for half a century"
Michael Stern



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