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cornell university/ithaca visit with son need rec's

Visiting Cornell University with my son this weekend for four days. Any rec's would be appreciated. My son wants to try out some great local places so no chains please. He pretty an open eater, but doesn't want to go to a stuffy 3 hour meal. He's heard from his friend that Ithaca has a vibrant Asian dinning scene. He'd like to try places that he might be going to when he goes to school in the fall. Good food, good value. If possible he would also like to try places that are different from Los Angeles so no Mexican or Sushi. We have a car. I've looked at older links and came up these restaurants. I just don't know if they are still good and more importantly if they are still open.

For Breakfast:
Hope's Way
Carriage House Cafe

Lost Dog Cafe
Nines ( for the pizza and the "corn nuggets")
Glenwood Pines (best burger?)

Taste of Thai (best Thai?)
Dijon Bistro
Maxies Supper Club
An old post described an Vietnam Restaurant on Dryden Road
The Antlers

For Dessert
Cornell Diary (to try the raspberry truffle ice cream)
Purity Ice Cream

Looking forward to this College Road Trip with my son.

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  1. My son is a sophomore at Cornell. He like Mahagony Grill. It's in town not far from the Hilton Garden Inn, but don't have the exact address. I have taken him there for lunch a number of times. Good burgers and salads.
    Not sure if the Thai place you are talking about is the one that is just outside of town in a strip mall, but if so they had the best Pad Thai I have ever eaten.

    1. I'm a townie, so I'm not too familiar with collegetown places, but as for the rest of town...
      Ithaca Bakery on Meadow st has the best bagels, soups, and sandwiches in town (better than Hope's way, in my opinion). Great croissants, coffee and such for breakfast as well. Collegetown Bagels is owned by the same people but has a more limited selection. I was never a big fan of the pizza at the Nines (heresy, I know). Try Pizza Aroma on Cayuga St if you want pizza. Totally agreed about Taste of Thai on the Commons - best Thai in town. Glenwood Pines has a gret burger but not much else - pretty setting though, great views of the lake. Lost Dog is fun, excellent spinach-artichoke dip, and great live jazz Wednesday nights. Just a Taste is my favorite fancy-ish dinner restaurant (mostly tapas/small plates). Patisserie Renée Senne in Cayuga Heights has the most amazing pastries - her chocolate mousse iis one of the best I've ever had. Diamond's has good Indian, nothing particularly special. Skip the Antlers, it's pretty mediocre. Moosewood is also worth looking at, if a college-age guy is willing to eat at a vegetarian restaurant. If you drive on Dryden Rd up the hill through College Town you'll pass several Japanese, Korean, Thai, etc places. And it night be a little early yet, but if you're there on a Saturday or Sunday morning, you should definitely go to the Farmers' Market - there's all sorts of vendors selling everything from Cambodian food to ribs to crepes to macrobiotic/vegan to Cactus Heads' chile relenos and killer belgian waffles. It's my favorite place to go for breakfast - just be sure to bundle up.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Emmmily

        And if you're coffee drinkers, you have to stop by Gimme! Coffee. Great hot chocolate too.

        (I'm stuck on front desk duty doing basically nothing for the next 2 hours, so I'm sure I'll keep coming up with things...)

        1. re: Emmmily

          thanks for your help. great ideas.

        2. re: Emmmily

          Where is Patisserie Renée Senne? The only patisserie I've been too is the one in Community Corners, which is called Sarah's Patisserie (VERY good, and lovely people who work there.)


          1. re: 4Snisl

            Sarah's was formerly Renee's patisserie. I think Sarah was a protege of Renee. Regardless, both incarnations are very good.

        3. My daughter actually likes to be taken by us to the restaurant at the Statler on campus to be wined and dined, as a break from the relentless quesedila and cup-a-soup diet she deals with there on her own. Beautiful view of the sunset.

          1. Been around here awhile, hope I can help. Coming from LA, you can obviously skip the Mexican. I would say skip all the Asian -- not that there isn't some good stuff -- it won't be better than what you have, but if your son is looking for local eats it might be worth the research.

            Some comments:

            Lost Dog Cafe is decent, not amazing, but friendly vibe and good enough food for 'college crowd' eats.

            Nines: Bleh, but a seminal college experience, so might be worth it for that.

            Glenwood Pines: I wouldn't go out of my way for their burger -- I like the burger at Boatyard Grill much better, if you like your burger "pure" (i.e. "about the beef" rather than unusual toppings). Boatyard isn't the best value across their menu, but the burger is pretty solid.

            Dijon Bistro: Very excellent French bistro fare, odd location in a fringe part of town strip mall beside the DMV.

            Just a Taste: Tapas -- very good, but order a lot if you don't want to leave hungry. Still, excellent quality.

            Maxies: Love it. Go there.

            Vietnam: It's a nice Collegetown staple for the students, but it's not gonna blow you away coming from LA.

            Antlers: More of an 'early bird special' type crowd.

            Mediterraneo: ?? Must be gone.

            Cornell Dairy: Fun to visit and try things!
            Purity: Our de facto old fashioned ice cream parlor. Ithaca claims provenance for inventing the ice cream sundae. Purity's product is fine but not especially special.

            A few more candidates to toss in the ring:

            Smart Monkey Cafe south of town is a new-ish organic cafe. It is a tad pricey, but the selection and quality is good, interesting, creative, different. (Alas, they don't serve monkey.)

            Aladdin's in Collegetown is a solid middle eastern/natural-ish foods joint. Like a lot of places here, it's not the best of its kind you're going to find, but it is a college staple and is good for what it is.

            Echo recommendation of food at the Farmer's Market -- lots of very good stalls there, besides the produce and crafts. The burritos, macro mamas, sticky rice thai, jung ching, the wood oven flatbread guy...

            Pizza Aroma is good but it isn't really "NY style" if that's what you're after. If anything, it is more west coast in terms of eclectic toppings. While we don't have "true" NYC style pizza in Ithaca, close approximations include Ginos and Napolis.

            Among higher-end meals (such as Pangea), my pick is actually The Heights. Perhaps the best, or at least among the 2 or 3 best, in town. Dress up food.


            1 Reply
            1. re: thebordella

              my son will love these food ideas. You've been a big help.

            2. Live in Westchester and was in Finger Lakes on vacation this summer. Ate at Taste of Thai this summer and it was so good I still think about it. Do go.

              Purity was very good too as we enjoyed Taste quite a bit.

              1. Hi Ryoray,

                There's a new Thai place in town that people have said is pretty good: Tamarind, on North Meadow St. I think it's got a "hipper" vibe to it, but the food is allegedy decent as well. Can't speak from personal experience, but word is from somewhat discerning palates.


                Also, have had secondhand reports that Ned's Pizza by Community Corners (right next to the Cayuga Heights police department) has good pizza. Reasonable prices and something other than the typical chain pizza slice.


                And I don't think it was mentioned here- Willow is a pricier venue, but they have a decent deal where for $28, M-Sat, 5-6 PM you get a movie ticket at the theater next door plus a 3-course meal. Food is very good (actually HAVE been here :)......


                My personal favorites on your list are Taste of Thai, Just a Taste, Dijon Bistro and Pangea....in no particular quality order, but approximately ascending in how much you might spend per person on food.

                Enjoy the trip!

                3 Replies
                1. re: 4Snisl

                  A few months ago, a different thread asked about Olivia & Stella's - any recent reports on these two? Btw, instead of Glenwood Pines, head a little further to Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg.

                  1. re: Sop

                    +1 for Hazelnut Kitchen. Trumansburg is a nice little town to take a walk in - even has its own branch of Gimme! Coffee.

                    1. re: Sop

                      Olivia's advertises "local meat", which has always struck me as sounding a little creepy, but I did find their local roast chicken entree to be rather amazing. I would almost never recommend ordering chicken in a restaurant, but in this case, absolutely.

                      That said, I'm not as enthusiastic about everything else our party of four ordered. The price/performance ratio seemed dubious, besides the local chicken.

                  2. My father moved to Ithaca four years ago and has really tried to hit everyplace imaginable. When I visit, we usually go out at least once. I've never had a bad meal. Taste of Thai is very good. There's also a Chinese restaurant that is excellent, but sadly I can't remember the name. Very upscale environment, but relaxed, and attentive service. I prefer Colllegetown bagels to the Ithaca Bakery, but they are close. Pines is a busy place, so you know they must do something right. The burgers are very good, but some of the specials they have can be quite a surprise. My favorite place is Dijon. I had the best meal I've had in a long time there. A brilliant steak tartare for an app and Duck Confit with pumpkin risotto w/bleu cheese. Absolutely dazzling. Great service too. My father raves about Zaza Cucina. Says it's a friendly atmosphere and the food is to die for. Still haven't been. I have hear great things about Moosewood, and I know one of the owners and have tasted her desserts, which I believe are featured at the restaurant. Unreal!

                    1. I wish I saw this sooner, not sure if you'll read it before you leave. I assume you're going up for Cornell Days! I graduated from Cornell 2 years ago and miss it very much, as well as all the wonderful food options in the Ithaca area.

                      For breakfast, I have never tried the Carriage House but I really want to. I also have never tried Hope's Way. Collegetown Bagels is good for a quick breakfast. The DeWitt Cafe, in the DeWitt Mall near the commons, is delicious for breakfast, they have many interesting options. I forget if they are closed on Sundays or not, so I'd call for hours (607) 273-3473, but I highly recommend it.

                      Do lunch at The Nines, it's a popular spot among the students and the corn nuggets are great! The deep dish pizza is good too. If you are going to eat on campus, I'd suggest Terrace at the Statler (really good wraps and salads), or the Ivy Room (basement of Willard Straight Hall), or The Big Red Barn (near the Space Science building), quaint atmosphere with a variety of sandwiches. Collegetown Bagels is also good for lunch too and popular with the students, my favorite sandwich is the Sweet Rachel. Lost Dog is good.

                      For dinner, Just A Taste (near the commons) is very good. I also like Maxie's Supper Club if you are in a Cajun/seafood mood. I don't remember the Antlers standing out as being great to me. Taste of Thai, also on the commons, definitely has really good Thai food. ZaZa's Cucina has better Italian food than Lucatelli's, in my opinion. Viva Cantina on the Commons has delicious fresh Mexican food.

                      For dessert, the Cornell Dairy Bar and Purity are both delicious! My favorite at the Dairy Bar is Bavarian Raspberry Fudge. Mmmmm!

                      I hope you enjoy your time up there...let us know where you ate and what you thought!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Solstice444

                        Just got back from College Days at Cornell. Back at home it was 95 degrees while at Cornell it was snowing. it was a fantastic experience. Due in part to the food feedback my son and I got from the board. Ate at the Taste and Thai and the Vietnam restaurants for dinner. Enjoyed both but was struck by the lack of heat of the dishes. The food seemed bland compared to the Thai and Vietnamese food we eat in LA. But they were both good choices for my son to see the Commons and Collegetown areas. I enjoyed the sticky buns at the Ithaca Bakery.
                        My son's favorite food experience was eating on Campus. We ate mostly on the North Campus because I wanted him to see where he would be living as a Freshman. I was overwhelmed at the choices at the "All You Care to Eat" at the Appel Commons. Had a greasy burger a the Purcell Center. Had pizza and a made to order burrito at the Hans Bethe House. And had peanut butter/coconut ice cream at the Cornell Diary. The Risley Dinner Room was sold out for a special Harry Potter dinner. Wanted to eat in that amazing room. I guess the only reason people aren't fat at Cornell is that have to walk to so far to their classes. All the students tolerated my concerned parent questions. ie. "Can my beach boy son adapt to the harsh winters?" "Will my son miss the big city?" "Is Cornell the most intense of the Ivys?" "Does the red stand for Red Tape?" Again thanks for you help. It was a great bonding moment with my son. Not as good as Tony Soprano with his daughter on their college road trip but close. We ate much better than Tony.

                        1. re: ryoray

                          I might have this post pulled, but hope to answer some of your Cornell questions. If it is a stretch for your son to get into Cornell over the other Ivys, it might be intense. That is why, in my opinion, it has that reputation. If your son could easily do the work, and get into, the others, even if he had to do slightly more work, like maybe actually read the books then write his paper for AP English, he will do fine at Cornell. The kids have fun, but the "All You Care To Eat" that looks great now, starts to look very dull, very quickly. If you son is into other things than being a beach bum, he can ski or snowboard during the winter at Greek Peak. For something like $150 he can get a season pass throught the ski club. For around $200 he can get a season pass at the golf course. Now if he can do that and still get on the dean's list, he'll be very happy.

                          1. re: ryoray

                            First off, Congrats on the fact that your son goes to Cornell. One of my best friends in the world went there and My brother went to Ithaca. I know one of the professors at Ithaca, and my father even moved there because he loves the area so much. First off, here's the thing about the winter - it's cold, haha. You have to walk to class, you might have to walk to go out, but all in all, you stay inside. If he's on Campus the cold wont bother him. My brother hates the cold, and loved Ithaca. I spent a weekend there during New Year's and only packed shorts and sweatshirts. I snows a lot, but it's not the arctic. The spring and fall are absoltuely astonishing in their beauty and temperature. Perfect weather, if you ask me.

                            On to the school, from what I know. MY buddy who went to Cornell, is a freaking genius and he said about his Cornell status - "I busted my tail in HS, and I was rewarded with Ivy status. I can't say if it's harder or easier than other institutions, but I know this. If you stay on top of your work and you don't wait til the last minute, you will get a good education in the classroom, and an even better one out."

                            Not sure if that is reassuring to you, or not. Their are just as many temptations up in little old Ithaca as their are in the NYC, believe me, I know, but if he keeps his nose clean (somewhat literally) and puts in the needed effort, your son will emerge with a degree from one of the finest Universities in the Country and will, I assume, do pretty well for himself following.

                            BY the way, Loved the Soprano mention. Hands down the best epsidode ever!

                            1. re: ryoray

                              Very glad that you and your son had a great time! I know many people from California who adjusted well to Cornell. I always preferred eating at Appel over RPCC on North Campus, most freshman seem to prefer one over the other. The Risley dining room is pretty amazing! I rarely saw overweight people at Cornell, I think all the walking definitely does help, I've gained weight since I graduated now that I drive to work rather than walking to class! I have not eaten at the Hans Bethe House or any of the new residence halls on West Campus, as most of those were completed in the past 2 years since my graduation. The made to order burrito sounds good. I'm going back in 2 weeks for an alumni weekend for my major, and I can't wait to eat on campus and in Ithaca again! About Cornell, the experience is what you make it. The work is obviously harder than high school and with a bigger workload, and it's up to you how hard you want to study or how much time you want to put into your homework. But the overall experience is an amazing one, with top notch professors and intelligent peers. Also, I'm someone who thinks that it is very important to balance work and play! And you need to have that right balance to thrive at Cornell, as at any other college.

                          2. Hey, this board led us to try Maxies this weekend while in the Ithaca area. We really enjoyed this place - we stopped for their 1/2 price oysters and a draft from their small but excellent tap selection, and liked the casual, lively ambience enough to return for dinner a few hours later.
                            We found the service to be excellent, friendly without being intrusive, and our requests were happily met when possible. The food was excellent - everything was seasoned and cooked nicely and their heavily New Orleans tinged menu made decisions very tough ...we wound up eating more than we should have but thoroughly enjoyed this place.

                            Only 2 fairly minor complaints - the ceiling fan did not work and the place was VERY warm on an exceptionally warm spring evening. When the summer hits, if it is really hot - this could be brutal.
                            The web page said Dogfish Head 60 min IPA on tap; so we went with high expectations for having one of our favorite beers draft. They were out of it.
                            While several of their other selections were very nice, and we enjoyed trying them, it was still disappointing. They should either change the info on their web page or specify that these are changing taps and this is just an example of the possible beers on tap.

                            But otherwise- we can't wait to go back!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: LJNew

                              If you are looking for good beers in Ithaca stop by Korova on the commons or the Chapter House up in collegetown.