In a world seemingly bursting with KFCs and Outback Steakhouses, it ain’t easy being a vegetarian. Luckily, all you have to do is get accepted to Cornell (piece of cake!) and move to Ithaca to have more than your fair share of vegetarian and vegan options. In fact, there are so many choices that some of us may have to stick around for grad school in order to try them all (sorry, mom and dad).
As a recent transfer to this wonderful institution and a vegetarian / part-time vegan of about a year, I decided to test out a multitude of restaurants in order to find my new spot. So here are my top five vegetarian options in Ithaca. Don’t worry, carnivorous readers: These restaurants serve up amazing dishes that are sure to be a hit with veggie lovers and meat-eaters alike.
Best Overall: Moosewood Restaurant
Ok, not to be obvious, but duh. The world-renowned restaurant, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, actually varies its menu dishes every single day. Often there are themes; when I journeyed there, it was Latin American night. The guacamole was an incredible mixture of avocado and flavoring; the tomato soup had the perfect hint of lime and spice; the salad was full and the homemade miso-ginger dressing divine. I somehow squeezed an entree in after all of this food: the Vegetarian Feijoada, featuring kale, black beans and rice together in a tasty and vegan dish.
Best Bites: Collegetown Bagels
The greatness that is CTB should not shock anyone here at Cornell. The menu is so vast that anyone, even us vegetarians, can find something to grab. The Jonah’s Jive is the most requested veggie sandwich, featuring rich and freshly made hummus spread on daily made multi-grain bread, with dressing, tomato, cucumber and spinach in between. Additionally, they have great vegetarian side salads, local and organic coffee and bread and bagels made fresh daily. CTB always features fresh food, friendly faces and fun times.
Best Classy-yet-Casual Combo: Stella’s
With a cool and slightly dim ambiance, this restaurant / bar / cafe is a place to go on a date or bring your parents for a lovely dinner (not that their brunch and lunch aren’t to die for, as well). It also has a great mission behind its sophisticated appearance: Stella’s strives to educate its customers in “great coffee, booze and food.” Its newly updated menu features the vegan eggplant scallops, a delectable dish featuring a multitude of spices and roasted pumpkin seeds; it’s already become the most requested item. From the healthy and incredibly fresh Edamame Hummus Wrap at lunch to the Vegan Champagne cake bursting with lemon and raspberry flavorings whipped into the perfect dessert, Stella’s produces perfection at every meal.
Best Atmosphere: Aladdin’s Natural Eatery
Open since 1989, this Greek establishment has always been innovative with so many vegetarian options on its menu. From hummus and artichoke appetizers to salads to pitas and, of course, lentil soup, this place has a specialty vegetarian option for every course. The Veggie Combo is a popular platter featuring 4 of the 8 vegetarian appetizers of your choosing. Options include creamy baba ganoush, finely spiced tabouleh salad and, of course, fried falafels. Have it as an entree or share with friends (note: you will not want to share with friends). There are so many aspects of this restaurant that make it an equally pleasing place where vegetarians and meat-lovers can go together to break (pita) bread.
Best Place For A Party: Viva Taqueria
This place is always packed, and rightfully so, as it feels like a genuine fiesta as soon as you walk through the door. The menu is standard Mexican fare, but the restaurant strives to deliver the healthiest possible choices. Tofu, vegan cheese and vegan sour cream make vegans and vegetarians feel like they’re not enjoying just standard rice and beans, but actual Mexican dishes. The multitude of sauces and diverse dishes make actually choosing an entree hard (though I did not regret my choice of the Vegetarian Enchilada one bit). The portions are plentiful; you get much more than you pay for, as the entire menu is absurdly affordable. The most popular vegetarian item is the Tofu Quesadilla, which is a mixture of cheese, guacamole, and tofu combined in a flour tortilla and served with your sauce of choice. For a fun fiesta and spicy salsa that will not mildly dent your wallet, grab your sombrero and check out Viva Taqueria.