77 Free St., Portland
Are you ready for some football? I’m not, but after a brief trip out of state last month, during which all my meals came from a drab salad bar, I was salivating for the kind of red-blooded American fare served at sports bars like Binga’s Stadium, on Free Street in Portland. If you’re a sports fan, then you’ve got another good reason to hit Binga’s — there are more TVs in there than Best Buy, including small sets in every booth.
My husband and I went for dinner before catching a movie at the Nick (if you’re in the mood to be smothered by a suffocating blanket of existential anxiety, I highly recommend Anthropoid). We caught the last 15 minutes of happy hour (weekdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.), which was fortuitous. Normally, the sour Zuurzing from Foundation that I ordered and my husband’s Hobo Life IPA, from Lord Hobo Brewing Company, would be $7 and $5, respectively. Instead, they were both three bucks — a ridiculously good deal for craft beers of this caliber.
Binga’s is famous for their wings (called “wingas”), so we obligingly ordered a half dozen ($7.99), but there’s a solid selection of starters, sandwiches, salads, burgers and barbeque, too.
Though I’d been daydreaming about pastrami, and Binga’s offers their own house-smoked pastrami and Swiss sandwich ($8.99), I opted instead for the Jewish Texan ($8.99), partly because the odd name made me momentarily wonder, Is that offensive? It’s not, and neither was the sandwich: house-smoked brisket in a brioche bun, topped with slaw, Swiss and Thousand Island dressing. The brisket was tasty, and overall I’d declare the sandwich decent, though nothing to write home to your bubbe in Houston about. I would’ve preferred a chewy marbled rye to the soft brioche bun.
My husband was equally ambivalent about his pulled pork sandwich ($7.49), topped with slaw, pickles, and barbeque sauce. It was serviceable, but nothing special. The side of mac and cheese ($2.99) was ho-hum: a pile of penne tossed in a gooey (Velveeta-based?) sauce with some shredded Colby-Jack cheese. Mac fans can liven up this dish by ordering the dinner portion topped with pulled pork ($11.99) or Buffalo chicken ($10.99).
The Binga’s Wedgie ($4.99) has an unappetizing name and isn’t easy to eat, but it was kinda fun. You get a quarter of a huge head of iceberg lettuce topped with “blanch” (a cross between bleu cheese and ranch, leaning heavily on the latter) and about half a pig’s worth of crumbled bacon. The pickle chips ($4.99 for a huge basket) may have been the most successful item we ordered. They were pleasingly tart and perfectly fried, served with a side of blanch.
As for the wings, we ordered them traditional-style (fried), though you can also get them smoked. Binga’s offers over two dozen sauces that range from the heat (Chernobyl) to the sweet (PB&J) and from Thailand to Buffalo. We chose Buffalo garlic and, again, were neither disappointed nor overwhelmed.
Price-wise, it’s hard to beat Binga’s. Even after another round of beers, our tab (before tax and tip) was under $50, and we took home a lot of leftovers. It’s a popular place, especially during football season, so if you go on a Sunday, get there well before kick-off, or touchdown, or whatever it’s called.
— Hannah Joyce McCain