Dining Out: It's all about the 'experience' at Number 5

By Dave Greber

June 25, 2014 Updated Jun 26, 2014 at 10:40 AM EDT

Binghamton, N.Y. (WBNG Binghamton) When you have a reputation as being one of the best restaurants in upstate New York -- and the history to go along with it -- there are no days off.

And Number 5 delivers in a big way.

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"We decided many many years ago that we were going to be an upscale steakhouse," said owner Jim McCoy. "We wanted to be the best at that."

What's now the famous south side restaurant was in the late 19th century the fifth fire station for Binghamton.

McCoy chose to keep those aspects as part of the decor.

"How many 1897 fire stations out there that you can make a restaurant out of? I mean, it was a no-brainer," he said. "This gave us some uniqueness that we've been able to take advantage of."

Every meal at Number 5 is a performance, and every dish, like a fine-tuned instrument, courtesy a kitchen and wait staff with decades of service under the belts.

Experience pays off at Number 5, but every day, owner Jim McCoy is working to improve on the food -- not an easy task when it's this good -- and the impression a meal leaves on his guests.

"What I get really excited about is to stand at the bottom of the stairs and see a busy restaurant, the upstairs being busy, hearing the clank of the dishes, hear the customers talking that they're having a good time," he said. "That's really important to us."

Michelle and I couldn't have been more impressed with what Jim and Executive Chef Joe rolled out for us: A mix of signature dishes, like the Greek tenderloin, and new items, like the cajun, pan-seared swordfish.

We started with another signature, the barbeque shrimp. They're wrapped in bacon, grilled and smothered in a BBQ sauce whose secret ingredient is bacon fat. They're a must try.

Another summer favorite is the yellow, beefsteak tomato and sweet onion salad with a blue cheese crostini. It's a plate of huge, bright flavors, and the perfect compliment to the warmer months in the Southern Tier.

"I want my customers to be thrilled," McCoy said.

These other dishes come highly recommended: Linguine and white clams with colossal shrimp and roasted cherry tomatoes, garlic and shallots. What a great marriage of flavors.

The Berkshire pork chops are pan seared and juicy. They're also bone in, so they're big on flavor. And it's served with homemade apple sauce and sweet potato pie, something McCoy calls Thanksgiving on a plate.

Among the dishes that that literally bring people to Number 5 and keeps them coming back is the Greek tenderloin. It's a filet dusted with lots of oregano, lemon butter and garlic. It leaves quite an impact.

The toasted sesame seed encrusted ahi tuna with kissemmee red ginger and wasabi mousse was cooked to perfection and full of flavor. It's also one of the nicest dishes on the menu at which to look. Consider it food art.

Even if his customers come hungry, though, McCoy says that's only a portion of why they show up.

"People don't come here because they're hungry. They come here because there's a reason to come here. It's an anniversary, it's a birthday, it's I'm going to treat you to something special. It could be a job promotion, maybe new in the community. There's a reason they come here. And we want them to experience service like none other in this community."