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DINING: Binkley's Kitchen & Bar reclaims former drug store site

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Dining - A&E

Binkley's Drug Store occupied the corner of Kessler and College from 1928 to the early 1970s. Its namesake now occupying the same spot, Binkley's Kitchen & Bar (5902 N. College Ave., 722-8888), seems equally built to last—a friendly neighborhood joint that glances back without wallowing in nostalgia and stays progressive without being trendy.

Twice before I'd been there for lunch meetings, both times feeling comfortable and never rushed. The open dining room isn't overstuffed with seating, the bar not overpowered by TV screens (they are there, just not conversation-squelchingly so) and the deck along College a viable outdoor option.

We stayed inside this time around, starting our meal with Binkley's Mini ($6.95), the name given to the plate of similar slid ers that have slid onto many an appetizer menu. Decked out with cheese, sauteed onions and a mild chipotle sauce, Binkley's version was unremarkable and didn't leave me craving a fuller burger. A simple House Caesar ($3.99 or a $1.99 upgrade from a sandwich side) fared better, although I wouldn't necessarily recommend ordering it to replace either the fries or house-made kettle chips that are piled on most plates.

The dinner menu features an extensive lineup of hand-tossed thin-crust pizzas, seafood entrees and steaks, but we had only lunch appetites. Fortunately, there's a wide range of sandwich and salad offerings on the dinner menu.

There was no shortage of veggies—julienned carrots, big chunks of cucumbers, red and green onion, juicy tomatoes, and more—in the Thai Chicken Salad ($9.99). And it was topped with an ample portion of Thai pepper-sauced chicken strips. It just took a bit of slicing and dicing at the table to make the whole thing fork-able.

The Fish Sandwich ($8.99), described as "grouper-like whitefish," is offered grilled, breaded or blackened. Sometimes the healthiest choice is the least interesting, as we found with the good-enough grilled. A plus was the house-made tarter sauce—and the fact that the sandwich was already cut in half, making it, unlike many fish sandwiches, actually almost edible on a bun.

More satisfying was the the Crab Cake Sandwich ($7.99), the first bite leading us to push aside the lettuce, tomato and onion to better savor the raison d'etre. Next time, perhaps we'll forgo the sandwich and order the two-cake appetizer version ($11.99) for starters then move on to, well, there are still lots of possibilities I'm looking forward to trying.

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Second in our month-long series of reviews of "possessive" restaurants.

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