New Republic 

Midtowners mourned when Republic Coffee, located at 1999 Madison, closed about three years ago. The independently owned neighborhood coffee bar drew crowds with its coffee drinks, vegetarian and vegan food, artworks, and pool tables.

"Somebody was interested in buying the Madison property, and I decided to go ahead and sell it," explains owner Chris Conner.

Now he has reopened Republic Coffee, sticking to the same concept in a different location. The dark-red building on the corner of Walnut Grove and Racine is an impressive yet unusual spot for a coffee shop. Most recently occupied as office space, the building used to be a Carousel restaurant in the 1960s.

"We are part of the Binghamton community renewal program, and I really like this location," Conner says. "So many people drive by here in the morning on their way downtown, and they typically all come back this way at night. They can stop in for their morning coffee on the way to work, and, when we start offering food in a couple of months, they can stop in on their way home and pick up take-home dinner."

Food will again be an important component of Republic Coffee. The focus will be on local ingredients with an emphasis on vegetarian and vegan dishes that will be available for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and "blue-plate-like" wholesome options for dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. The shop will be open every day from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Republic Coffee roasts most of its own coffee and uses only "single-origin" beans from small estates.

"That has a huge impact on how your coffee tastes, because the beans are typically only available in small batches and stem from one estate in one region rather than beans from different growers that are blended together," Conner says. The coffee shop also offers premium loose-leaf teas served in French presses.

Although the former Republic Coffee did have a drive-through, the new location intentionally doesn't.

"It takes time to make a great cup of coffee. Some people spend 10 minutes in a drive-through line in the car by themselves when they could get their coffee in the same amount of time while checking out what's going on inside," Conner says.

Inside Republic Coffee, customers will find booth seating, a back room with two pool tables, free wireless Internet, and meeting space for groups. What visitors cannot miss, however, is the large coffee bar, which is the centerpiece of the room.

"We want to convey a European feel, and in a lot of coffee shops throughout Europe the bar is the centerpiece. That's where guests order their coffee, spend a few minutes to chat with friends or the barista, drink their espresso, and move on. It's really the heart of the coffee shop, certainly at Republic Coffee."

Republic Coffee will celebrate its grand reopening on Saturday, April 5th, from 7 to 10 p.m., with an art exhibition and silent auction. Part of the auction's proceeds will benefit the DeNeuville Learning Center for Women, which offers education classes and counseling for women who want to make positive choices for themselves and their families.

Republic Coffee, 2924 Walnut Grove (590-1578)

If you are looking for a chance to celebrate the end of the 2007 tax season, try Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. Just for the occasion, the steak house has put a new spin on the classic wine dinner.

With its "High/Low" dinner on Friday, April 18th, at 6:30 p.m., Fleming's invites diners to test their palate, tasting a total of eight wines during a five-course meal. Some wines will be almost twice as expensive as their menu counterparts.

Dinner includes Medjool dates wrapped in bacon, a 49-hour marinated rib eye with spinach mashed potatoes, red onion confit, and truffle jus, and a frozen lemon-gingersnap pie for dessert.

Wine selections include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, and Napa Valley.

Cost for the dinner is $95 per person plus tax and gratuity.

Fleming's, 6245 Poplar (761-6200)

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