September 15, 2005

Food Moments

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Eating at Cornell is an experience. Only in Collegetown will you find Stella’s, the Nines, Rulloff’s and other popular restaurants among students. And only in Collegetown will you notice the lack of nationwide fast food franchises like Wendy’s or McDonalds. Collegetown “fast food” instead refers to restaurants that offer order-and-go service, free seating, food prep time of five to seven minutes and cheap prices. Many of these fast food establishments, including Collegetown Pizzeria and Mama T’s, thrive from selling pizza.

When is the last time you consumed a slice of pizza? According to the Pizza Marketing Quarterly, most students eat pizza every month, from one to five times. Pizza parlors advertise all over university campuses, at sporting events, on television, on the radio, through email, through coupons and through quarter cards. Can one count the number of times a slice of pizza is seen in college movies like Animal House and Van Wilder? Refreshments at many university-sponsored events include no fewer than five boxes of assorted pies. Dorm events include such themes as “pizza and a movie.” The dining hall could run out of water, but it would never run out of pizza.

Yet in a pizza-dominated environment, a fast food counterculture is emerging. Late at night, students still gobble warm Hot Truck offerings and nosh on enormous Collegetown Pizzeria slices. However, the line at Hong Kong runs into the street each weekend and the crowd inside Collegetown Bagels is almost suffocating. These pizza alternatives have been around for years. However, the latest fast food restaurant in Collegetown brings with it a concept new to the area – Mediterranean take-out.

Admittedly, Sinbad’s is not the most traditional of Mediterranean places, nor is it the only Mediterranean-themed restaurant in Collegetown. However, it does offer a unique combination of convenience and novelty. Aladdin’s and the Souvlaki House both are sit down restaurants; take-out is offered, but it is not the primary mode of consumption. In the world of Collegetown fast food, Pita Pit is the most comparable existing establishment to Sinbad’s. Both restaurants offer stuffed pita, to-go service and indoor seating. But the similarities between Sinbad’s and Pita Pit end abruptly after falafel.

Whereas Pita Pit is primarily a sandwich shop, the menu at Sinbad’s is enormous and varied. Options span appetizers, dinner and dessert. Items range from shawarma, chicken, kebab or falafel rolled pita with a choice of tahini or raita, kebab plates, flatbreads, sausage or chicken rolls and baklava. The food quality at Sinbad’s is surprisingly good. The falafel is arguably the best in Ithaca – flavorful, moist, light and not greasy. The kibbeh ball, a spherical appetizer stuffed with sweet, moist ground meat and crunchy pine nuts, is amazing. Dessert quality at Sinbad’s came as an unexpected surprise; the baklava offers the perfect balance of honey and nuts between delicate layers of phyllo. Sinbad’s offers truly fast food – order-and-go service is prompt, tables are available for optional use and most menu items cost under $8.

If Mediterranean-style pita wraps and kebab platters aren’t to your liking, try one of Sinbad’s Italian-American items including ravioli, stuffed shells, lasagna and chicken florentine. Each is served in a generous foil bowl, Ivy Room-style. This “new kid” on the Eddy block seems to cater to any student’s taste, pacifying even those who can’t give up the usual. In addition to Mediterranean and Italian-American fare, they’ve got pizza too. So the next time you amble to Collegetown in search of lunch, dinner or a midnight snack, bypass your usual haunt. Branch out, and step into Sinbad’s to sample the latest fast food offering in Ithaca.

Archived article by Anna Fishman
Sun Contributor