It’s true that some people really do like this town. I would go so far as to say that some people love it here, and have decided to spend their entire live in this tiny, sunless place that god has forgotten. I am not one those people. But if you find yourself stuck here, then you’ll need to know all the places where you can get a good meal to bulk up for the epic winter that is in store for you.
Just A Taste—this is my favorite restaurant in Ithaca. It’s a wine and tapas bar with an intimate dining space & bar that fills up fast after 7 o clock, so be prepared to wait. They’ll call you if you have a cell phone, and you can wander around the corner to get a drink. Their menu changes frequently and they rotate wines about once a month. I recommend getting a wine flight—my favorite: the big red. What to expect: homemade focaccia with roasted garlic, deep fried potato wedges with spicy aoli, braised greens with stilton, fried pork with jalapeno salsa, homemade sausage, warmed brie and melon.
The Ithaca Ale House—a relatively new addition to Ithaca, they have a good selection of beer on tap (around 20) ranging from local Ithaca and Syracuse brews, to imports like Hooegarden and Pilsner Urquell. Recommendations: the hot wings, the mini-burgers, and the French dip. Best place in town for a burger.
The Smart Monkey Cafe—this organic café is also a more recent addition to Ithaca, and has fantastic sandwiches and breakfast all day. They are a little pricey, but the quality of the food is impressive, and of course, organic chow is expensive. Recommendations: the Yepwich (chicken, brie, and artichokes), buffalo chicken sandwich, any of their omelets or crepes, the warm chicken salad wrap, and yes, cheeseburgers!
Felicia’s Atomic Lounge--best place for a cocktail, and I’m not just saying that because I used to work there. Lots of new and exciting drinks in a friendly, relaxed and - dare I say- classy atmosphere. They have live music on Sundays and Fridays and an outside seating/smoking in the alley where you can enjoy a cigar with your Old Fashioned. Recommendation: the Countrypolitan, the Horny Gingerita, and the Strawberry Basil cocktail, if it’s in season.
Maxies Supper Club—is a New Orleans style restaurant and oyster bar. It is the closest thing to authentic Southern food you will find in this area. They serve dinner late, and on weekends the kitchen is open until midnight. Recommendations: fried green tomatoes, sweet potato fries, pulled pork sandwich, fried chicken po boy, and for dessert, banana chocolate coconut cream pie.
Four Seasons—this Korean restaurant is hidden in College Town and has fantastic food. The service is occasionally slow, but the staff is always incredibly friendly and accomodating. I will miss their kimchi that has no detectable fish sauce and is perfectly spicy. My favorites: Bibimbap with beef and the Bulgogi (BBQ beef) that they serve on a dish shaped like a cow.
Wok Village—out of the downtown area, this little place is tucked away near Triphammer Mall. They have both Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, and have a great lunch buffet that does not make you sick for days afterward. Next door is Ithaca Tofu, a wee-tiny Asian market where you can stock up on dumplings and pork buns. Recommendations: hot and sour soup, chicken wings (plain), cold noodles, and vermicelli.
Ned’s Pizza—the best pizza around Ithaca, though I prefer them for pick-up rather than eat-in. The Nines in College Town seems to be a local favorite, but I think more for the atmosphere and bar than pizza alone. Beware of picking up your order late; when Ned says 20 minutes, he means it. Don’t go down to grocery store first, thinking that you have time to pick up beer. You will get a call from Ned personally to remind you that your pizza is getting cold.
Madeline’s—the best place for dessert and they also have an impressive bar that boasts 63 scotches and 24 cognacs. Recommendation: scotch flight and crème brulee.
Pause for a snack...I did.
Outside of Town…
Dano’s— an Austrian restaurant located on Seneca Lake, a 45 minute scenic drive from Ithaca. Chef Dano Hutnik prepares Viennese food that diners order a la carte, and offers some very tasty dessert options, as well. Reccomendations: the schnitzel (obviously), the goulash with knodel or spatzle, and the amazing sauerkraut. Alles schmeckt gut!
The Hazelnut Kitchen—if you happen to be in Trumansburg, you should stop here for dinner. Their menu changes frequently, but is always fantastic. On our last visit Beta Wife and I split the wine braised beef short ribs with stilton polenta, and their giant cheeseburger served with yucca fries. We took no prisoners, and I very nearly died from overeating. I recommend a doggy bag for the ultra-rich leftovers.
Samrat—yes there are two Indian restaurants in Ithaca, and no, neither of them is any good. If you are willing to drive to Syracuse for your naan craving, it is the way to go; if not, make an excuse to go there and try it anyway. Their food is cheap, and the portions are huge. Be warned they are located on the second floor of a building that looks less than appealing—don’t be deterred. My favorite: chicken makhani, sag paneer, and the garlic naan.
Hamilton Bed and Breakfast--If you are visiting Ithaca because you have plans to move here, I’m very sorry for you. If you’re visiting friends or wine touring, I’m sure you’ll be quite charmed (unless you stay for more than 3 days). Regardless of your reasons for being in town, check out the Hamilton Bed and Breakfast located off the beaten path in a quiet Ithaca neighborhood. The owners are friendly, accommodating and most importantly, great cooks. We breakfasted with the Alpha Family during their stay here, and feasted like kings. Piles of fresh fruit, coffee, and the main event: cream cheese and strawberry stuffed French toast served with bacon and sausage. That’s right kids, I said two breakfast meats. Bacon and sausage links—as though it were Christmas.
Whew. That's it--that's all I got. Oh yea, good luck finding a decent burrito.
Peace out, Ithaca.