Moving to Ithaca from LA--any eats out here?
- Yummy Sound Apr 26, 2006 02:51 AM
Hi! I am a chowhound from Los Angeles and like great fresh ethnic food, good diners, and funky spots for desserts and coffee. Any recommendations for good eats out around Ithaca--sorely appreciated! I am moving in early summer. I also hope to visit NYC at least once a month.
Well, I haven't lived in the area for many years, but it is a great area for restaurants (especially considering it's rural setting). IIRC, there was some sort of statistic that used to be thrown around that Ithaca had more restaurants than anywhere in NY state outside of NYC.
BUT, for diners in the area (my forte), get down to Horseheads for a breakfast at Sullivan's- a beautiful, well-kept Silk City that has great food. (I used to like to stop in for dinner if I was going to an Elmira Suns minor league baseball game, too.) I think I read that the diner was sold by the Sullivans but is still run the same (hopefully). Maybe one of my all-time favorite diners.
In Owego, there's a nice funky diner, Harris Diner, sort of a cement, barrel-roofed affair with a great, cheap breakfast. There's a similar "home made" diner around the corner, with barrel-roof and brick front.
Also, the beautiful Red Robin Diner in Johnson City and Danny's Diner in Binghamton (you'll pass thru the area on the way to NYC). Both can be found on http://www.roadfood.com/Restaurants/ search for New York state + diners.
There was also this neat little diner on the main drag in Waverly, NY- only a few stools and no tables, it may have been a Valentine diner. Worth checking out- the whole town used to feel like stepping back in time (some interesting bars, as well).
In Penn Yan, try the Penn Yan Diner.
Hopefully, all or most of these places still exist (unlike my home state of New Jersey, where many of the classic diners I used to visit are destroyed, "re-modeled" or shipped out of state.)
Haven't been to Ithaca in about 10 years, but it is known for excellent restaurants. One obvious recommendation is the famous Moosewood Restaurant. Vegetarian and run by a "collective", Moosewood has published several good cookbooks. You can take a look at them in any bookstore. Also, read through their website, which I think is moosewoodrestaurant.com . Apparently, Bon Appétit magazine named the Moosewood one of the 13 most influential restaurants of the 20th century.
Don't worry, you're not in a bad place... especially given the rural nature of the area, you're within an hour radius of a surfeit of decent to excellent food. Definitely LOTS to choose from in terms of funky little coffeeshops/dessert places in Ithaca... I haven't been in a while, and there tends to be some turnover (it *is* a college town), but just do some exploring and I'm sure you'll find something in short order.
We'll definitely have to wean you off california wines (ps., even though they changed the laws, you still can't get wines in our grocery stores here)... the Finger Lakes region really doesn't produce anything I'd call good red wine (possibly with the exception of cab franc), but some of the better producers in the area produce the best rieslings in the US.
I HIGHLY reccomend one of your first stops on moving out there is doing a saturday morning/lunch at the Ithaca farmer's market down on the south end of the lake when the weather is nice. There's some really great unique stuff to be had there, both in terms of foods, plants, and crafts, and you can get a good cheap ethnic lunch to eat on the lake, and then chase it down with some homemade baked goods, or gourmet cider.
You're not very far also from Skaneateles, which has one place -- Mirbeau -- that sounds like something you'd really love, and also Syracuse, which has a few very good ethnic places if you know where to look (quicklist: kyoko in fayetteville for sushi, lemongrass, little thai house, or erawan for thai, tokyo seoul for korean, china road for chinese, and of course, the non-ethnic but friggin' awesome dinosaur bbq).
I hope you enjoy your time out there... ENJOY THE SUMMER AND FALL!!! Seriously. It's gorgeous out there, the sunsets are incredible, and when the season's over you're going to experience a winter so dreary and long and miserable you're going to wish you were back in LA sitting in a traffic jam on the 101. ;-)
All of the Thai restaurants in Ithaca are fabulous. Some say even better than the best in NYC.
Against popular opinion, I would say that Moosewood is hugely overrated, terrible, in fact. The food is very bland and over-priced. Last time I walked in there (and subsequently turned around) the special was "rice and beans" for $10. There are too many cooks stirring the pots who now have kids at college age, so I guess they decided it was time to make a profit.
re: Pat P
You are correct about Moosewood as a place whose time has past. There are lots of other places where you can get some good food: the recommendations for the farmers market and Thai restaruants are right on. On my last visit we enjoyed a very good meal at Pangea and Just a Taste is a decent wine bar with good small plates. Gimme Coffee pulls a great espresso shot.
No need to travel all over the countryside to find great food- - there ARE many good places right in Ithaca. Plus, winter is pretty harsh and I wouldn't risk those hills for a meal in Binghamton or Syracuse (at least not Dec-March).
Moosewood is not so bad, but I agree that it is overrated. I also agree about the Thai- all good, but I think the place across from Wegmans is the best. Hit Stella's for coffee & pastries. Collegetown bagels and Ithaca bakery for sandwiches. Manos and State Street diners are pretty standard greasy spoons (good), open all night! There are also some pretty good NY style pizzarias (far better than what you probably would get on the west coast). I hear Joe's restaurant has reopened- got good reveiws. And start hitting those wineries!! Some of them have attached restaurants/cafes that are good. The Farmers market IS great- Ithaca is a very GREEN town. Also- new places open and close in a heartbeat in the Commons and Collegetown, so you have to take your chances. Sadly- there isn't really any good Mexican around. But Wegmans has lots of ethnic and hard to find ingredients- make your own! Good luck.