ITHACA EMERGES AS A CULINARY MECCA

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TA S T Y T O W NITHACA EMERGES AS A CULINARY MECCARestaurant Row: In warm weather,Aurora Street is a bustling diningdestination.ITHACA/TOMPKINS COUNTY CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAUSvante Myrick ’09 has a beer named afterhim—which seems fitting for a mayorwhose city is increasingly renowned for itsfood and beverage scene. It’s calledSvante’s Legislative Session IPA, and it’s on tap atBandwagon Brewpub, a North Cayuga Streeteatery that not only makes beer but cures its ownbacon and sources more than a third of its ingredientsfrom local producers. “The dining scene here isalmost too good to be true,” says Myrick, sitting inhis City Hall office just steps from a veritableUnited Nations of culinary options both casual andfancy, from Mexican to Italian to Asian to MiddleEastern to a new Ethiopian joint. “You can’t throwa stone in this town without hitting a world-classrestaurant—no exaggeration.”So, Mister Mayor, what’s the official word: Is the local culinarysector on the rise? “My waistline thinks so,” Myrick says with alaugh. “If that expansion matches the expansion in our restaurantscene, then we’re doing about fifteen pounds better.”In many ways, it’s been a tough couple of years for downtown Ithaca. A massive renovation of the Commons has beenongoing since spring 2013, turning the city’s once-lively pedestrian mall into a dusty, fenced-off construction zone for a fullyear longer than planned. A dreadful winter kept shoppers away.And most tragically, a tractor-trailer crash last summer not onlytook the life of a pregnant woman but partially destroyed a locallandmark: Simeon’s restaurant, a fixture at the east end of theMay June 201533

ITHACA ALE HOUSEFELICIA’S ATOMIC LOUNGEincluding one on food truck cuisine that’s setfor this summer. “It’s a whole different animalthan when I arrived in 1980.” In mid-April, theDaily Meal website put Ithaca at number sixon its list of America’s top twenty collegetowns for dining.Just as culinary options have expanded—echoing a national trend that has seen the riseof the Food Network, “Top Chef,” and more—SUZANNE FINE REGIONAL CUISINEso has the beverage scene. Craft cocktails are derigueur at many restaurants and bars, with spots like Felicia’sCommons for decades.Atomic Lounge (located on a stretch of West State Street that’sBut things are looking up. The 15 million Commonsfast becoming a second Restaurant Row) even using libationsrenovation—which Myrick calls “the most complicatedto showcase local produce. “People care what they’re puttingpublic works project the city has ever attempted”—is set to bebehind the bar and on the wine list, which is very exciting,”completed at the end of July. The owners of Simeon’s have filedrebuilding plans, and the restaurant could reopen this fall orwinter. And spring has finally come to Ithaca, a seasonal changeheralded downtown by the first intrepid diners filling theoutdoor tables on Aurora Street’s Restaurant Row.Even during the grim days of winter, the city’s dining scene remained a bright spot in the localeconomy. On any given weekend, Ithaca’s barsand restaurants are hopping—from familiar venues like the popular tapas bar Just a Taste and thevegetarian mecca Moosewood to newer venues including theFrench bistro Le Café Cent-Dix and Coltivare, an upscalefarm-to-table spot that doubles as a vocational training facility for the local community college. “For Upstate New York—especially for rural Upstate New York—there’s nothing evenclose to it,” Bruce Stoff, director of the Ithaca/TompkinsCounty Convention & Visitors Bureau, says of the area’sdining options, which his agency chronicles at ithacafork.com.“I don’t know what city near us even compares for thequality and variety of food. It’s somewhere between unusualand unprecedented.” Hotel school lecturer Cheryl Stanley ’00,who has traveled far and wide, says: “Whatever you want interms of food and beverage, Ithaca has it.”In a 2008 travel piece, the New York Times called Ithaca“a liberal, cultural, and gastronomic oasis.” And in fact, Stoffsays, the downtown dining and shopping scene is the thirdleading draw for out-of-town visitors, after Cornell and natural areas like waterfalls and gorges. “The food here is gettingbetter and better,” says veteran local chef Dave D’Aprix, whoteaches popular Cornell’s Adult University cooking classes—34Cornell Alumni Magazine cornellalumnimagazine.com‘Whatever you want interms of food andbeverage, Ithaca has it.’— Cheryl Stanley ’00says Stanley, a beverage expert who teaches Intro to Wines.“It’s not just, ‘Let’s throw together some wines.’ It’s, ‘Let’sthink about what’s on the list, how the wines pair with thefood being served.’”Unsurprisingly—given that Cornell has a world-class hotelschool—numerous players in the local food andbeverage world are alumni who returned to town or neverleft. They include Hotelies Greg Norkus ’77, MS ’87, and hisson Lindsey Norkus ’05, who operate Le Café Cent-Dix andthe upscale Italian restaurant Mercato, both located onRestaurant Row. “During the summer months, it’s packed,”Greg says of the scene on Aurora Street. “It’s like goingto the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. There are people everywhere, overflowing the sidewalk. It’s really quite a sight.”Why does Ithaca have such a vibrant food scene? In aword: Cornell. Students, professors, and staff comprise acritical mass of people with broad and refined palates—andthe disposable income to keep restaurants in business.“The scale of Cornell, and the international draw of theinstitution, make for a very worldly audience of diners here,”says Stoff, “and they demand great food.”

BILL OF FAREA GASTRONOMIC TOUR, FOR EVERY TASTE AND BUDGETFor alumni coming back forCommencement, Reunion, orjust a vacation, CAM offers adining guide, featuring somefour dozen local andstaff favorites.PRICE RANGESDesignations are estimated,based on the cost of atypical entrée: under 10 11 to 17 18 to 29 30 and aboveWhat’s NewED DITTENHOEFER Bar Argos The Argos Inn is a boutique hotellocated directly across the street fromCAM’s offices on East State Street, andour staff got a bird’s-eye view of itsstem-to-stern renovation a couple ofyears ago. Its handsome bar hasbecome a favorite with locals, offeringlive music and creative cocktails.argosinn.comIthaca Beer Co. Long a favorite of hops aficionados,this beverage mecca off Route 13recently renovated to add a taproomwith a full menu, dining area, andoutdoor patio. Some of the fare, likecheddar ale soup, incorporates thehouse brews. ithacabeer.comColtivare One of the newest arrivals to the downtown dining scene is an interestinghybrid: a farm-to-table restaurantmarried to a vocational training facility.Run by Tompkins Cortland CommunityCollege (TC3), Coltivare boasts aseasonal menu as well as a bar popularwith the after-work crowd.coltivareithaca.comGola Osteria Located in the historic Quarry Armsbuilding off East State Street, Gola Osteria offers a modern take on Italiancuisine, featuring imported ingredientsas well as fare from local farms andwineries. Its chef formerly worked atBabbo, Mario Batali’s Michelin-starredrestaurant in Greenwich Village.golaosteria.com KRISTIAN REYBOLDSPROVIDED Le Café Cent-Dix Styled as a classic French bistro, thisaddition to Aurora Street’s RestaurantRow is the latest effort from Mercatoproprietors Lindsey Norkus ’05 andGreg Norkus ’77, MS ’87; their chef decuisine is Kevin Curley ’13. It featurestypical dishes like steak frites and friséesalad with lardons, as well as rotatingplats du jour. lecafecentdix.comMay June 201535

Cornellian FavoritesCollegetown Bagels &Ithaca Bakery In addition to the College Avenue location, this localmainstay has outposts downtown, on Route 13, atTriphammer Marketplace, and in East Hill Plaza. While itoffers a wide variety of baked goods, prepared foods, andother fare, the centerpiece of its menu is a huge roster oftasty, creatively named sandwiches for both vegetarians andomnivores alike. collegetownbagels.comPROVIDEDPurity Ice Cream While Ithaca’s Ben & Jerry’s store didn’t survive, this localfavorite has been around since 1936. Recently renovated,it boasts dozens of flavors, including originals such asFinger Lakes Tourist (chocolate with chocolate chunks andhazelnuts), Sleepers Awake (coffee with chocolate swirl andchunks), and Bulldog Crunch (praline with caramel swirl andchocolate-covered pecans). purityicecream.comMoosewood The Dewitt Mall’s venerable vegetarian mecca—which haswon three James Beard awards for its restaurant and cookbooks—is still going strong after more than forty years. Ago-to spot for both tourists and locals, it features a changingmenu of creative-but-comforting vegetarian fare, plus somefish entrees. Over the years, the collective that runs it hasincluded numerous Cornellians. moosewoodcooks.com The Nines They’re still sending pizzas down the dumbwaiter from thesecond-floor kitchen at this deep dish diehard, located nextto Collegetown’s Firehouse Number Nine. If you’re in themood for a slice—a quarter of a deep-dish pie—you canpick one up for around 4, plus toppings.theninesithacany.comRulloff’s Newly reopened, this College Avenue fixture—establishedin 1977 and named after a notorious nineteenth-centurymurderer—is now under the management of the owners ofthe Collegetown Bagels empire. In addition to lunch anddinner, it hosts weekend brunch and a late-night menu.rulloffs.comSouvlaki House Greek and Italian fare are served up in this popular,unpretentious spot on Eddy Street. Highlights includepizza, Greek salad, and Parmigiana dishes such as eggplant,chicken, and meatball. (No website, but the menu isviewable on sites like grubhub.com)Taverna Banfi Featuring a Tuscan-inspired menu, the Statler Hotel’srestaurant has been feeding Cornellians (and their visitingparents) for many years. The lavish lunch buffet is particularlypopular with faculty, staff, and visitors. tavernabanfi.comPROVIDEDShortstop Deli This downtown sandwich stalwart, where diners turn in theircustom orders by checking boxes on preprinted slips, isopen 24/7/365. The owners purchased the Hot Truck fromits founder, and its beloved PMPs (Poor Man’s Pizzas) arenow part of the menu. shortstopdeli.comLOCALWIKI.ORG/ITHACA36Cornell Alumni Magazine cornellalumnimagazine.comTRIPADVISOR.COMGlenwood Pines With a prime location overlooking the western shore ofCayuga Lake, this unpretentious roadhouse has attractedgenerations of Cornellians craving what local surveysroutinely name the best burger in town: the famedPinesburger. glenwoodpines.comURBANSPOON.COMThe State Diner Following the recent closing of Manos on Route 13, thisdowntown favorite stands as the last of Ithaca’s old-schooldiners. Founded in 1936, it (naturally) serves breakfast allday, and its hearty fare (like fries with cheese and gravy) hasbeen sustaining Cornellians for generations.thestatediner.com

UpscaleThe Antlers Established in 1982 by Bill Openshaw’70 and Toby McDonald ’71, theAntlers calls itself the oldest restaurantin Ithaca to boast sole proprietorship.Located on Route 366, it has a homeydécor and a heavily carnivorous menuwith specials on prime rib, lobster, andmore. antlersrestaurant.comMercato Bar & Kitchen Run by the same team as Le CaféCent-Dix, this Aurora Street spotspecializes in what it calls “Italianinspired, seasonally conscious cuisine.”Like its more casual cousin, it alsofeatures a welcoming bar with asophisticated cocktail menu.mercatobarandkitchen.comPROVIDED ZaZa’s Cucina Northern Italian cuisine is on the menuat this downtown spot—located inwhat alumni of a certain era mightremember as the Video Ithaca buildingon Route 13—which features freshpasta like spaghetti, ravioli, andgnocchi. The owner, who also runsMia, formerly operated the nowdeparted Thai Cuisine and foundedthe still-popular Just a Taste andMadeline’s, which he later sold.zazascucina.comPROVIDEDThe Heights Restaurant and H Bar This elegant spot, located at CommunityCorners in Cayuga Heights, is popularwith the professorial crowd. It hasa seasonal menu of Mediterraneaninspired American cuisine and a winelist running to more than 400 selections.To enjoy the ambience in more modestfashion, try the bar menu. (Hint: if youorder coffee, it comes with such tastyaccompaniments as whipped cream,rock candy, and chocolate chips.)theheightsithaca.comJohn Thomas Steakhouse This classic steakhouse on South Hillfeatures hand-turned, dry-aged beef.Popular for special occasions likeCommencement and for entertainingvisiting dignitaries, it offers typicalaccompaniments like creamed spinach,clams casino, and Caesar saladalongside its prime cuts.johnthomassteakhouse.com Fine Line Bistro With its owners stepping down tospend more time with family, Fine LineBistro is for sale, and its future may bein doubt. That would be a blow to itsmany fans, who laud the West StateStreet eatery as one of Ithaca’s mostconsistently satisfying spots forinteresting American fare.finelinebistro.comPROVIDEDMay June 201537

PROVIDEDMaxie’s Supper Club &Oyster Bar New Orleans-style cuisine is on themenu at this festive spot, located onIthaca’s west side. There are raw barspecials during happy hour, frequentlive music, a late-night menu, andCajun standards like jambalaya,gumbo, po-boys, and shrimp ‘n’ grits.maxies.comPROVIDEDPROVIDEDCarriage House Café With brunch served six days a week,this Stewart Avenue spot is popularwith the University crowd. Look forcreative takes on standards like Frenchtoast (theirs is stuffed with brie),breakfast sandwiches (the “sconewich”),and the BLT (they use cured salmoninstead of bacon). Voted best brunchin the Daily Sun and Ithaca Times.carriagehousecafe.comJust a Taste Another stalwart of Restaurant Row,this wine and tapas bar is alwayshopping. While the menu changesfrequently, perennial favorites includefocaccia with roasted garlic, friedpotato wedges with chipotle aioli, andhousemade sausages. just-a-taste.com Agava Located next to East Hill Plaza, thisSouthwest-inspired spot is named forthe cactus that tequila comes from. Awood-fired oven produces a variety offlatbreads, and condiments like salsa,ketchup, and hot sauce are housemade. The cocktail menu featuresnovel takes on such standards asmojitos and margaritas.agavarestaurant.comIstanbul Turkish Kitchen The Turkish cuisine makes up for theless-than-ideal location, in a tiny,isolated shopping plaza next to theDepartment of Motor Vehicles.Offerings include a variety of meatkebabs and vegetarian dishes likechopped salad and stuffed grapeleaves. istanbulithaca.com ModerateCiao! A wood-fired oven produces the piesthat, the owners boast, earned a spoton an industry magazine’s list of thetop 100 independently ownedpizzerias in the U.S. Located in Lansingnext to the Ithaca Mall, the restaurant—which also serves pastas, salads, anda variety of entrées—draws overflowcrowds, especially on the weekend.ciaoithaca.com38Cornell Alumni Magazine cornellalumnimagazine.comPROVIDEDMia Tapas Bar & Restaurant This pan-Asian spot on the IthacaCommons features the cuisines ofThailand, India, Vietnam, China, Japan,and more. The bar offers exotic twistson classic drinks, like a MonsoonMargarita and Thai Basil Negroni.miaithaca.comNorthstar Located in the Fall Creekneighborhood downtown (next to theformer location of Fall Creek Pictures),Northstar offers novel twists onpub-style fare, like kimchee poutine,smoked organic chicken wings, and avegetarian reuben. Many ingredientsare sourced from New York State.northstarpub.comSumo Guests can opt for hibachi—completewith the traditional showmanship—orthe regular dining room at thisdependable Japanese option, in ashopping plaza across from the IthacaMall. A wide variety of sushi rolls areon the menu, including more unusualones like oyster tempura and avocadowith honey-roasted peanuts.ithacasumo.com

Casual Ithaca Ale House Twenty craft beers are on tap at this Restaurant Row grill,beloved for its burgers plus hearty fare like wings, fries, andnachos. Lighter options include a variety of salads, andmenu items come with suggested beverage pairings.ithacaalehouse.comSaigon Kitchen The owners of Wok Village, a modest and dependable Chineserestaurant that operated out of Lansing’s Small Mall fordecades, closed it several years ago—and opened this popularspot on Ithaca’s burgeoning restaurant corridor on WestState Street, showcasing the cuisine of their native Vietnam.saigonkitchenithaca.com PROVIDEDPROVIDEDSpicy Asian A relatively recent addition to Ithaca’s many Chineseofferings, this spot in a strip mall on Route 13 is knownfor its fiery Szechuan dishes. spicyasianfood.comViva Taquería & Cantina At the corner of State and Aurora streets downtown since1995, this Mexican favorite is divided into two sides: asit-down restaurant and a counter-service operation. Likemany of its neighbors on Restaurant Row, it offers outdoorseating in good weather. vivataqueria.comVisit Ithaca (or Don’t)A TOURISM JOKE GOES VIRALOn a typical day, the website of the Ithaca/TompkinsCounty Convention & Visitors Bureau (visitithaca.com)gets about 1,500 hits. Over two days last February, itgot 150,000—and then it crashed. The reason for thetraffic jam? A jokey post in which the agency threw inthe towel, admitting that Ithaca is a terrible place tovisit in the winter and advising travelers to head to theFlorida Keys instead. The doctored homepage—complete with a tempting photo of sea, sun, andsand—became one of the nation’s top trending newsstories, reaching an audience of 75 million people viabroadcast media and 590 million online, says agencydirector Bruce Stoff. “It was honest,” Stoff says, whenasked to account for the post’s massive popularity. “Itwas what people were thinking. And it was so crazy fora visitors’ board to say, ‘Don’t come here.’ But wetimed it for a week when there is virtually no visitortraffic in Tompkins County, so we had nothing to lose.”Posted the Sunday of President’s Weekend, thecyber version of a white flag raised the city’s profileThat’s it. We surrender. Winter, you win. Key West anyone?Due to this ridiculously stupid winter, Ithaca invites you to visitThe Florida Keys this week. Please come back when thingsthaw out. Really, it’s for the birds here now.(Still want to Visit Ithaca? Are you sure? Ok, click here.)P.S. Send us a postcard.around the world. But will it translate into tourismdollars during more congenial weather? The jury’s stillout. “We did it to plant the seed for spring, summer,and fall, so we’ll know in the next three seasons if itworked or not,” Stoff says. “It was clearly not intendedto make people come in February. In fact, it promptedone local hotel person to book a trip to Key West.”May June 201539

Coffee, Desserts & CocktailsGimme! Coffee One of the two giants of the localcoffee trade, Gimme! now has sevenlocations, including three in New YorkCity. Its many kudos include beingnamed the state’s best coffee shop in2014 by Business Insider.gimmecoffee.comCorks & More This cozy spot on the West Endwaterfront is a wine bar whosecomputerized machines dispenseportions (a taste, half glass, or fullglass) bought through prepaid cards.A tasting menu includes housemadecrostinis and a variety of small plates.corksandmore.com PROVIDED Felicia's Atomic Lounge Co-owned by Amelia Sauter ’92 andher wife, Felicia’s is another denizen ofWest State Street, which is emergingas the city’s second Restaurant Row.It’s known for its “locavore cocktails,”with ingredients provided by localproducers. It now serves brunch andbakes its own cupcakes, and has plansin the works for a second location inTrumansburg. atomicloungeithaca.com Ithaca Coffee Company The other local caffeine enclave, IthacaCoffee distinguishes itself with twolocations—one downtown, the other inTriphammer Marketplace—that alsooffer gourmet food items and a varietyof craft beers. CAM staff can often bespotted in the East State Street store,located next door to our offices.ithacacoffee.comSarah’s Patisserie While their Cayuga Heights locationclosed recently, the downtown storeon Seneca Street is still sellingdelectable desserts. Its chef, analumna of the French CulinaryInstitute, trained under pastry legendJacques Torres at Le Cirque s A hybrid operation on CollegeAvenue, Stella’s operates a coffeehouse next door to a restaurant andlounge. The items on the coffee menuare divided into “freshmen,” “upperclassmen,” “graduates,” “professors,”and “townies.” stellabar.comMadeline’s While this Commons favorite is a fullservice restaurant, it’s especiallypopular for cocktails and desserts.With an eye-popping pastry case,Madeline’s is routinely cited in localreader polls for having the bestdesserts in ETGIRL.COMOn the MarketLOCAVORE FAVORITE IS STILLGOING STRONGFounded in 1973 (and operating at its current locationat Steamboat Landing since 1990), the Ithaca Farmers’Market hosts upwards of eighty vendors on a typicalsummer Saturday—purveyors of crafts, produce, andprepared foods ranging from baked goods to burritosto Cambodian curries. This season will see someinfrastructure improvements, including tripled bathroomcapacity. (That may not sound like much, but regularsare rejoicing.) There’s also a new kayak launch area,aimed to encourage watercraft as alternativetransportation—both promoting sustainability andrelieving congestion in the often-packed parking lot.Asks market manager Aaron Munzer: “What’s coolerthan arriving at the best farmers’ market in the countryin a kayak?”40Cornell Alumni Magazine cornellalumnimagazine.com

Out of TownHazelnut Kitchen Another farm-to-table favorite,Hazelnut Kitchen is about twentyminutes outside Ithaca in the Village ofTrumansburg. Its simple but elegantfare has many passionate fans, and themenu changes regularly.hazelnutkitchen.com Cayuga Lake Creamery A scenic drive about half an hour upthe west side of the lake brings you tothe ice cream shop that USA Todaynamed the best in New York State. Ifyou’re having trouble deciding fromthe dizzying list of flavors, opt for thethree-scoop bowl and share it (or not).cayugalakecreamery.comPROVIDEDDoug's Fish Fry This old-school, family-friendly fish fryhas been a favorite for locals andtourists for more than three decades.Its menu of seafood and grill items isavailable at two locations, in Cortland(about half an hour away) or in scenicSkaneateles, the lakeside resort townthat hosted Chelsea Clinton’swedding. dougsfishfry.comRed Newt Bistro Located about half an hour west ofIthaca in Hector, this bistro is part ofRed Newt Cellars, a Seneca Lakewinery. Lunch is served daily, withselect items available until the winerycloses at 5 p.m. rednewt.comRongovian Embassy After an extended closure, thisTrumansburg icon has reopened undernew ownership. The revamped menufeatures local ingredients such as porkproducts from Ithaca’s Piggery, andthere’s live music regularly.rongovianembassy.com330 Days of sunshine per year207 70 610 125 50 1208 287 100s Area golf coursesResorts and hotelsRestaurantsArt museums, galleries and studiosResort and Day spasDaily flights: Sky Harbor AirportMiles of hiking trailsVacation and secondary homes1 Cornell agent awaiting your call. .Mary Ann Kelley - Class of ’84Private Client GroupAssociate Broker(602) [email protected] Café Located in Hector, Stonecat offerslunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, plusa Sunday afternoon happy hour. Themenu details the local sources formany of its products and suggestsbeverage pairings. stonecatcafe.comPROVIDEDDano’s Heuriger on Seneca Relocated and expanded from itsoriginal home near the IthacaCommons, Dano’s Heuriger(pronounced “hoy-rig-er”) is anotherof Seneca Lake’s culinary highlights. Itserves Viennese-inspired cuisine suchas spätzle, wiener schnitzel, andsmoked trout. danosonseneca.com SHAI EYNAV Suzanne Fine RegionalCuisine A special occasion spotabout an hour’s drive fromIthaca, Suzanne operatesout of a picturesque 1903farmhouse overlookingSeneca Lake. Its chef was asemi-finalist for a regionalJames Beard Award in2011. suzannefrc.comMay June 201541

rebuilding plans, and the restaurant could reopen this fall or winter. And spring has finally come to Ithaca, a seasonal change heralded downtown by the first intrepid diners filling the outdoor tables on Aurora Street’sE Restaurant Row. ven during the grim days of winter, the city’s din-ing scene remained a bright spot in the local economy.