Imagine this situation: it’s two o’clock on a Friday afternoon and your starving parents just arrived in Ithaca. The dining hall is closed and you don’t feel like venturing to the Commons or Triphammer. Then you think of Collegetown, land of Hong Kong Chinese, Peace Restaurant, Sinbad’s – but where can you get a meal with table service in the middle of the afternoon?
Rulloff’s is a Collegetown staple – the atmosphere is classic with its heavy cathedral doors, dark green interior, vintage lamps and downstairs area. Named after famed murderer Edward Rulloff, this restaurant and bar has been open since 1977. The menu features American classics such as buffalo wings, burgers, deli sandwiches, salads, brie with fruit, nightly seafood specials, a full Mexican menu and a pasta special. On Sundays, Rulloff’s features a full brunch menu with creative omelets, breakfast sandwiches and sweet potato fries. My favorite menu item at Rulloff’s is definitely their cheddar-covered home fries: the potatoes were fried to perfection, crispy yet not greasy and the cheese was smothered on top. My only complaint: there could have been a bit more flavor to the cheese, either by adding chives or sharp cheddar. I would definitely not recommend ordering any of Rulloff’s dip specials: they tend to be covered in a quarter inch of grease, particularly the spinach and artichoke. Also, beware of soup specials, as they can be inconsistent. I once ordered a pumpkin soup that tasted like a mixture of canned pumpkin with mashed potato. But the other week, I tried a delightful cream of tomato soup flavored with crunchy onions and chunks of tomato. The bottom line: be wary and stick to Rulloff’s staple menu items. This place is a much better quality bar than restaurant.
Down the street from Rulloff’s, the Nines also offers sandwiches, appetizers and salads. However, the Nines is famous for its enormously thick deep dish pizzas. One deep dish is enough to feed a hungry family of four or five; slices are cut into roughly six-inch squares and average at least an inch thick. The dough is chewy, the sauce is sweet and the cheese is stringy. I can’t count the number of times I have been to the Nines, and I have never ordered anything beyond the pizza. The Nines also offers an interesting atmosphere. It seems as if there is always live music and orders come down from the kitchen via a dumb waiter. I’ve never had a poor pizza experience at the Nines, but for those of you who are devoted to New York style, beware: this is Chicago-style deep dish, not thin crispy hand-tossed. The only slight quibble I have with the Nines is that table service can be incredibly slow. It is not unusual to wait an hour to receive your order and your drink could sit empty for about that long as well. Bottom line: Good pizza, crummy service.
Aladdin’s on Dryden provides a third option for mid-afternoon restaurant goers. The menu is Mediterranean, but pasta options abound as well. Appetizers at Aladdin’s are a special treat: the veggie and hummus platter is a healthy alternative for those of you who haven’t seen a piece of broccoli in weeks, and the tabbouleh is perfectly seasoned. The chili is also a fabulous winter dish: try it piled high with cheddar. I frequently eat my favorite appetizer, the fruit and nut salad, as a main course. My first bite of this salad was honestly one of the most amazing moments of my life: the sweet honey mixed with the cool, refreshing yogurt and the ripe cantaloupes and strawberries, all contrastingly topped with crunchy walnuts made me realize that sin doesn’t necessarily equate to chocolate. Of course, main courses at Aladdin’s are also good quality: the moussaka has a pleasantly creamy texture with background flavors of cinnamon, and the pasta dishes are characterized by interesting shapes and an array of fresh sauces. I would personally stay away from the falafel, as it can be dense and greasy; Sinbad’s falafel is far superior. Bonuses at Aladdin’s include prompt table service, plenty of seating and one of the three best dessert cases in Collegetown (the other two belong to Collegetown Bagels and Cafe Pacific).
Bottom line: At Cornell, there might be a lack of transportation, a lack of nice weather and a lack of time for sleep, but there is never a lack of food. While most cities hold strict lunch and dinner hours, one can find table service all the time at Cornell, even at two o’clock in the afternoon.
Archived article by Anna Fishman
Sun Staff Writer