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Jul 29, 2008 07:14 PM

What are Ithaca's best kept secrets?

Last time I asked for small hidden gems, and people recommended Maxie's, Pangea, Moosewood and State Diner. None of the above are hidden or small, and some are not even close to being gems. A good hidden gem for example is the Wellness Center downtown . Small, and great food, all organic. Haven't been to Ca Phe House yet, but I heard some things about them. Anybody been there?

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  1. Have not been to Ca Phe yet, so no comment. In a small town like this there aren't many "secrets", in more ways than one. In thinking of my own reply, I'm lead to think of specific foods or dishes at particular places:

    - Wings at Napoli's. Not exactly hidden, or a secret, but I do have a major weakness for their wings. Not precisely traditional, but delicious.

    - Pancakes (blueberry) at Linda's Diner. Technically in Lansing. Actually North Lansing. On 34, past Bakers Acres. Huge, cheap, yummy pancakes. Rural diner vibe.

    - Pork burrito at the Terrace Restaurant, Statler Hotel

    - Friday fish fry at Max's (NOT Maxie's); yes, the Holiday Inn hotel sports bar. Anything else I've tried there has been as meh as you would expect, but their beer-battered fish, Fridays only, is a destination trip.

    - Burger (medium rare, with cheese) at Boatyard Grill; sure, this place is not hidden, and it's no secret, and many people (rightly) consider it overrated. The secret is that the burger is not only excellent -- rich, beefy, and well-seasoned -- but the best value on the menu.

    - Vegan cupcakes at Greenstar (in the fridge case by the deli). I'm not vegan nor particularly fond of many Greenstar edibles, but for some reason the cupcakes are outstanding.

    - Fat Boy Bakery white whole wheat baguette, the one with the pointy ends. Only available at the Farmers Market these days (formerly also at Greenstar). Best baguette in Ithaca, like the real bread you would find in a real city.

    - "Vegetarian salad" at Vietnam restaurant. The less-than-descriptive name actually yields a generous shredded cabbage (?) salad with carrots, squishy tofu, and peanuts, dressed with an addictively tangy sweet and sour vinegar sauce.

    - And for the least hidden, least secret place of all: Wegmans! Bear with me -- moon cookies. Also known as black and white cookies. Not traditional at all, like I grew up with -- but better. Decadent creamy icing, moist cakey goodness.

    1 Reply
    1. re: thebordella

      Haha, a coworker and I have had an argument about which is better: half moon cookies or black and white cookies. I grew up in Westchester County; he grew up near Utica. There does seem to be a difference between the two: half moon cookies are cakey and can have either chocolate or vanilla (white cakish?) for the cookie part, and then creamy half chocolate/half vanilla icing. Black and white cookies have a white cookie base and then a hard, fondant type of icing, half chocolate/half vanilla. Maybe if I try Wegmans half moon cookies I will abandon my black and white cookie favoritism!

      I LOVE the Statler wraps. Sadly I have graduated, but if I go back to visit and it's a weekday, I eat there. I usually got the chicken, each day they would have a different type of favorite was the buffalo chicken but I also remember the orange chicken and bourbon chicken.

      A friend swears by Napoli's wings as being his favorite wings ever, but I have yet to try them, and I adore wings. I have to make that a point the next time I'm up there.

    2. Soup at the Temple of Zeus ( on Cornell's campus. Especially the groundnut. That's one of the things I miss the most.