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Jul 23, 2007 09:44 AM

Need Restaurant Recs for Ithaca and Skaneatales

Going up to the Finger Lakes at the end of next month and seeking chowish places for everything - breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. I found some spots on Road Food: Doug's Fish Fry, the Ithaca Farmer's market, Glenwood Pines but need additional info and a few healthier options too. On here, the most recent posts I've found are a few years old already so would appreciate new/updated info.

All suggestions welcome from very casual and take-out to the more "serious" dinners. We'll be up there four nights, staying in Skaneateles two nights and in Ithaca two nights. It's just husband and I so no kid issues to consider.

Thank you!

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  1. The Sherwood Inn at the foot of the lake right in the village is very good (food and service). At lunch try the tavern; it is open to a view of the lake and the menu choices are light and tasty. I haven't eaten in the more formal dining room but I anticipate an over night there down the line and will report back.

    1 Reply
    1. re: feelinpeckish

      The pub grub in the bar is OK at Sherwood, but I have found the main dining room to be consistently mediocre and overpriced.

    2. IMO, John Thomas Steakhouse is the best restaurant in Ithaca by far (went to college there)....It is pricey, but worth it for sure...mmm....

      1. This comes up a lot so do a search. Just as an aside, we recently ate at Glenwood Pines for the first time and it was nothing special at all (even in the context of bar food).

        2 Replies
        1. re: jmoryl

          Did the search here but found more info on wineries than on restaurants.

          1. re: laylag

            Oh, well here is a quick summary:

            My faves: Pangea, Just a Taste (winebar/tapas), Taste of Thai (on commons; bar next door has lots of good microbrews), Madeline's (for dessert, especially). There are likely some others that will come to mind after I hit the post button. Oh, the farmers market is worthwhile as is Purity for ice cream and Gimme! for coffee.

            Outside of town, Trumansburg is nice and has a great new place called Hazelnut Kitchen. Also the Pourhouse on the main street does very nice bar food and has lots of good beer.

            Overated: Moosewood, Maxie's and maybe Thai Cusine (locals? how is this one doing?).

        2. I can't help with Skaneateles, but here's my two cents on Ithaca (as a local, I've visited most of these places several times):

          Moosewood, Maxie's, and Thai Cuisine are indeed all overrated. The service at Moosewood is terrible, and the food bland. Maxie's is hit or miss--though it's fine for a drink and appetizer, I'm often not excited by my food there. The sandwich side of the menu tends to be better, and cheaper, than the entrees. Try the blue cheese burger or the sausage po boy. The gumbo is also reliable.

          For Thai, go to Taste of Thai on the commons (not Taste of Thai Express on State Street, which is wholly unrelated). Taste of Thai is as good as any Thai I've had in a big city, if not better. Call for a reservation on weekends, otherwise prepare to wait.

          I want to like Pangea more than I do. The staff is wonderful, but I've had one too many sad $20 entree to really recommend it. Desserts are also just ok here.

          Willow is a more consistent find--the bar is great for a cocktail, the desserts are lovely, and the hangar steak is always spot on. Also try the mac n' cheese here--it's a dressed-up comfort food kind of thing, and always wonderful.

          Madeline's is overpriced and snotty. Come here for cocktails, but don't expect them to show any interest in your business unless you're expensing a meal. I also don't love their Italian sister restaurant, Zaza's Cucina--but I'm a snob about Italian food.

          I've only been to Heights Cafe twice--it's quite pricey--but I've loved my food both times. This is a formal, take your mom kind of place.

          Dijon Bistro is a new French place over by the DMV. The exterior is unpromising (it's in a strip mall) but the food is excellent: good french preparation, great wines, mostly good service. Wonderful house-made pate, and the best roast chicken I've had ever. A little on the expensive side, but well worth it. (This would be my first choice for a big night out in Ithaca).

          At the farmer's market, try the burrito guy, or if you can't survive the wait, the noodle salad at Jung Ching Foods (usually next to Macro Mama's). Both are great. I always add chili oil to the noodle salad--yum!

          For a non-farmer's market breakfast, my secret favorite is Hope's Way in the Triphammer Mall. Unlike the town-dominating Collegetown Bagels (also overpriced and overrated), Hope's Way will make an egg sandwich the way God intended: well-toasted bagel, griddle-fried egg over hard, real cheese or bacon on the top if you wish. I'm an addict. (At CTB, you'll get *microwaved* scrambled egg on an undertoasted bagel, and pay more for it). Hope's Way is also great for lunch sandwiches and salads. They do a lot of catering at Cornell, and their stock is always fresh.

          Happy travels!

          1 Reply
          1. re: vitapilcher

            We don't live in or near Ithaca -- in fact, we live in NJ -- and we have not been to Dijon Bistro. However, I am very familiar with the cuisine served at DB because before they moved to Ithaca, Chef/owner Mark Papera and his wife, Courtney, owned a French bistro in Montclair, NJ, called Epernay, which was a big favorite of ours.

            Looking at DB's website, I see that Mark has pretty much replicated the menu he served at Epernay. You are right! The man can cook, and his food is delicious! Plus, he was always extremely generous with portions.

            Mark and Courtney are lovely people, so we were sad when they sold Epernay and moved away. You are truly lucky to have them -- and, of course, Dijon Bistro -- in Ithaca.


          2. Quick report on Skaneateles and Ithaca:

            Skaneatales: We had dinner at Mirbeau where we stayed two of the nights in Skaneateles. It was wonderful and expensive but worth it. We did Doug's Fish Fry for lunch - twice! Everything we tried: fish and onions, scallops, oysters were great including the fresh blueberry frozen custard sundae. We also ate at Joe's Pasta Garage and some things were quite good, others okay. I really didn't like the pizza - very thick, bread-y type of pizza. Not good. The garlic knots were also not made the same dough and it's not what I consider to be pizza dough - again white-bready - so not to our liking. I will say the pasta chip nachos the next table had looked amazing in a trashy, kraft cheesy kind of way. It borders a little bit on Olive Garden style of Italian in my opinion but it was a decent casual option.

            In Ithaca we ate at Taste of Thai on the Commons - better than any Thai I've had in Westchester - I know that's not saying much considering our Westchester options for Thai but Taste of Thai was really, really good and our first night there we at Taste. Flights of wine were really nice and all our tapas with one exception were wonderful.
            Next time we visit Ithaca we're going to try The Heights though. We just weren't in the mood for high end stuff the night we were planning to go there. We also walked in and shortly thereafter out of Pangea. The menu that night wasn't that compelling and the very loud French music (special thing on Thurs. I think) was annoying and distracting. My husband also was not thrilled with the atmosphere - not sure why as he couldn't put his finger on it but he just wasn't happy there. Lots of people there including our innkeepers and other guests raved about it.

            Overall, had a great time and lots of great meals thanks to all of you.

            3 Replies
            1. re: laylag

              My own report on Ithaca: dined tonight at Dijon. It is impressive, especially given its location in a strip mall near a vet and a gas station. This place could prosper on any main street in a town that appreciates French bistro food.

              Every table was full by 7:45 and the Saturday night special, coq au vin, was gone by 8:30. The portions are huge. I don't eat much red meat but had a craving for steak frites, and both the steak and the frites were terrific. I had not ordered a starter, but the kitchen sent me a salad any way. There was about three times more food than I could handle. All around me, people were tucking into mussels, poached salmon, pate, and a variety of desserts, from profiteroles to tarte tatin to chocolate souffles. It brought back memories of Balzac in Paris.

              One quibble: the wine glasses. Dijon has an excellent bistro wine list, a selection of good whites and reds for $7 a glass. But it's a big pour in something that reminded me of the 12-in-a-box glasses at Target. (They use the same glass for white and red, so it's too big for white and too small for red.) Along with my very nice cotes-du-rhone, I got a lipful of brim, and it took almost through my meal for the wine to get enough oxygen to fully open up.

              If they'll just spent a little more on glasses, they'll have all the important details right.

              1. re: brendastarlet

                While visitng my father in Ithaca, we went the night after Christmas to Dijon. Didn't expect much during the school off-season, and that time of year. Although they ddin't have about 1/3 of their normal menu, there was still plenty to choose from. I had the steak tartare as an app, and Duck Confit w/ Pumpkin Risotto & Blue cheese. One of the five best meals I've had in a restaurant ever. I'd never had tartare and was thrilled with it. The Duck was perfect. The pumpkin risotto mixed so well with the blue cheese that my plate looked like it had come out of the dishwasher after the meal. I also tasted some of the mussels my father had as an appetizer. Brilliant! A wonderful place that I wish was closer to me!

              2. re: laylag

                The only Thai place in Westchester that I've tried is the one in Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown, the name escapes me at the moment, so I'm not well versed in Westchester Thai although I used to live there...but Taste of Thai was definitely better. I think there is more Thai in the southern portion of the county and I lived in the northern portion. I love Just a Taste. Oh, how I miss Ithaca restaurants!