While some Cornellians are still mourning the loss of Stella’s Café, with its array of spice-infused, cream-topped concoctions, surprisingly poetic menu and thoughtfully crafted latté art, Ithaca’s current café and coffee shop scene is far from hopeless: What it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality, and experiencing this is merely a matter of venturing past Collegetown. If you’re looking to sit and think, or just sit, check out these local gems: a warm mug of something nice, chill vibes and free wifi included.
With twinkling Christmas lights, hanging plants scattered, local art and a tattoo parlor tucked in the back, The Shop is cool, comfy and cozy. More than a trendy spot to snag an insta pic, the snug abode rocks the hippest of orange and green floor tiles and mustard yellow walls. The effect is decidedly magical.
The Shop serves espresso drinks, French press, aeropress and pour over coffee which is handcrafted with tender love and care. The menu also includes fresh juices, loose leaf teas and a variety of locally-baked treats. One of my favorite beverages is the Ginger Vanilla Latté, which, coupled with a dinosaur shaped shortbread cookie, is a killer combination. The baristas are friendly, the lighting is warm and the caffeine is quality.
Even on the dreariest of Ithaca days, the vast window panes and stark white walls of this tiny shop make it feel bright, light and airy. A relatively recent addition to Press Bay Alley, Press Café believes that less is more. Minimalist in almost every sense, the establishment boasts a simple selection of dinks, including espresso, brewed coffee and herbal tea, in addition to a small assortment of pastries. Distractions are kept to a minimum, and the no-frills menu makes ordering — a process that can sometimes be overwhelming — a breeze.
At Gimme! Coffee — both the flagship store on West State Street and the original location on North Cayuga — you’ll find swanky jazz music, spacious tables and industrial accents, as well as exceptionally crafted espresso drinks and coffee. Though born and bred in Ithaca, and a local favorite, the brand can be found in seven other locations around New York City and upstate New York. Its newest installment is in Cornell’s own Gates Hall. The espresso bar specializes in artisanal brews and the fair trade coffee beans are airroasted in small batches, ensuring a richness and fullness of flavor in every cup. In line with Ithaca’s socially and environmentally conscientious spirit, Gimme! Coffee invests in its relationships with coffee bean farmers and in sustainable practices.
Ithaca Coffee Co.
Part market, part tavern, part café, Ithaca Coffee Co. offers much more than the name lets on. I walked into the Gateway Commons location — one of two in town — expecting just coffee and a standard selection of muffins and scones. Instead, I was met with a variety of fancy snacks (think charcuterie, specialty chocolates, cheese), craft beers, tavern in back, freshly baked goods, sandwiches, and yes, coffee. Ithaca Coffee Co. generates quite a bit of foot traffic, and given the limited seating, is best suited for a quick bite and coffee to-go.
Coal Yard Café
In a town replete with brunch establishments, Coal Yard Café can get lost in the shuffle, but to overlook this neighborhood gem would be a mistake. With rustic furnishings, leather chairs, a cast iron fire place and vestiges of the building’s past life as an actual coal yard, the quaint cafe provides easy comfort and coffeehouse classics.
Coal Yard Café offers traditional brunch fare, sandwiches, daily specials and an array of pastries baked in house, in addition to a shamelessly decadent assortment of specialty mochas and lattés. The Ithaca Mud (mocha brought to a higher level with a generous dose of chocolate syrup and whipped cream) and the Nutella (espresso with hazelnut syrup and again, lots of chocolate) are two crowdpleasers. The Snickers is a candy bar in liquid form. This caramel latté topped with whipped cream and chopped peanuts is deliciously sweet and surprisingly filling.