Binghamton celebrates its sandwich of marinated meat cubes at a yearly hot air balloon festival.
Locals in Binghamton and the surrounding counties in New York’s Southern Tier (just above Pennsylvania) know and love spiedies, but few others do. Immigrants from Italy likely gave this savory skewered meat its name (spiedino means “skewer”), but today, spiedies are synonymous with one particular region of the Empire State.
These kebabs can be made with marinated cubes of chicken, pork, beef, or lamb. Cooks char-grill the skewer, then serve the tender meat in a hoagie roll. Fans distinguish spiedies from other meats-on-a-stick due to their distinct marinade. The zesty sauce—an herbed mixture of oil, vinegar, and lemon that’s likened to Italian dressing—gives each cube a tangy, caramelized exterior when grilled. Cooks leave their selected cubes of raw meat in the marinade for at least a day (often longer). The lemon and vinegar denature some of the meat proteins, tenderizing and saturating each piece with flavor.
Locals held a Spiedie Fest Cooking Contest in 1983 and 1984. The next year, they added a hot air balloon rally to the event lineup. The 1985 event attracted approximately 4,000 attendees and featured about five balloons. Today, the annual Spiedie Fest and Balloon Rally draws more than 100,000 people to Binghamton’s Otsiningo Park. Celebrants enjoy concerts (often put on by noteworthy musicians), hot air balloon rides, and a wide variety of fresh spiedies, all shrouded in a cloud of zesty, seasoned meat smoke.
Where to Try It
Sharkey's Bar & Grill56 Glenwood Ave, Binghampton, New York, 13905, United States
In operation for more than 70 years, this old-school eatery offers a variety of nostalgic dishes on its expansive menu.