February 8, 2010

A Non-Collegetown Guide to Valentine’s Night

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These days always end up being particularly nuts for me. There are just a lot of things going on at once. Prelims, papers and the like are usually always there, though they pile up particularly high in mid-February, usually without fail, year after year. Other things are particularly February-specific. Like the height of Ithacan winter, free with a sky that is already dark by five, giving the impression that the day is considerably shorter. Or receiving your tax return forms in the mail, so you have to think about that, too. Many people get to know where they’ll be going to grad school, and, if having both the blessing and curse to be admitted to several places, the necessity to choose where to go to is also a burden shared in the very long February nights.

Then there’s Feb. 14, which, want it or not, does tend to mean spending money on many things we either don’t need or honestly don’t enjoy. It also means, for many people, that, if you have a partner, some sort of mix of flowers, chocolates, jewelry, perfume and/or DVDs might be in your day. If you don’t, ice cream or chocolate might be the all-too-cliché staple of those that feel loser-ly alone.

I have heard very different comments on Valentine’s Day in general. I’ve heard those that hate it, those that love it and others that don’t care too much but usually end up celebrating anyway. There’s a lot of pink and red around, alright.

So, even though I could make an entire column about going against the cliché, or about love and how to get it or lose it, blah blah blah, I have decided to go for a mellower, nicer idea and suggest a couple places you can try out with your friends or significant others this weekend.

Have a fun time overall, just because more people will be out than usual, which might result in a nicer party night than most. Especially if we are able to have a night that’s above 20 degrees.

This ties into the idea that people should know a little more about what lies beyond Collegetown. If you go around at night and do not know where to get a good mixed drink (you know, with something other than cheap rum), then you need to read this. (Note: this list is far from comprehensive. But hey, I have a word limit).


Madeline’s: The classic, romantic-styled in French, jazzy place in the Ithaca Commons. Though on the expensive side, their dinner is worth trying. The coconut-battered shrimp are wonderful, and the desserts —any of them — are an absolute delicacy. The cocktails here are not bad at all either — the Starry Night, a drink made of absinthe, anise and crème-de-cacao, is a must-try for anyone that can ID their way through. Save space for dessert, or go with the girls for a night out for sweets and drinks.

The Boatyard Grill: Though it is a lot better to stop by when the view of the lake is more breathtaking than now, this place is a nice setting to have some nice food and decent wine. They have a nice half-dish option, which allows you to get a very good-size portion of an entrée for eight to 10 bucks. The New England clam chowder is the best I’ve tried in Ithaca so far. The salmon is definitely some of the best I’ve had, as well. But my favorite: bluecrab-filled shrimp in this wonderful sauce … drool. Worth it. So worth it.

Maxie’s Supper Club: I actually went out for drinks with Gabriela Montero and some friends here, and just ordered a couple of appetizers. The sampler was quite memorable, as were the drinks. The ambience was very nice, black-on-red décor and a lot of candles. It is more romantic than you’d take it for from the outside. Good option for Cajun lovers, and around the mid-range as far as price goes.

Taste of Thai: Though a relatively well-known name, it is only after you’ve tried some of the dishes that you will encounter those that sing in your palate. The pineapple fried rice was one of those. Dishes run 10-15 dollars, and the Commons branch is pretty suitable for sweet conversations after dinner.

I’d get the Lost Dog on the list, if only it weren’t closed already. I haven’t been to its successor, though I understand most of their menu is similar. It’s decent. Watch out for the extra gratuity on group checks.


Felicia’s: Yes, it is amazing. Best drinks in town, and for a very decent price as well. With cocktails running from five to eight bucks Felicia’s drinks change pretty often and will always and undoubtedly surprise you. Be prepared to need no more than two drinks to feel good, and usually without a hangover afterwards. These drinks are usually around 3-4 ounces of pure (good!) alcohol and worth every drop. The Coconut-Lime martini is refreshing and a wonderful twist to the conventional dry. The Fig Manhattan is thick and luscious, thin honey filled with Baccus’s best reserves. With a hip, silver-and-blue layout, and a decent selection of electronica beats, this place is sure to beat any Collegetown bar you’ve been to.

Oasis: I’d say go with a beer on this one, though the party is pretty good anyway. The Salsa nights are usually worth trying out, and the DJs around have a good dancing progression overall. I once went to a party a Brazilian friend hosted in there. Best party in Ithaca yet.

Chanticleer: Though the best time to go is when there’s a party going on in the second floor (which will be the case on the 12th, if you’re interested), this is the Chapter House of the Commons as far as I’m concerned. Good beer, pool and comfortable seating (!!) can be a solid starting point for a fun night — more for friends than couples, but hey, it’s all about love AND friendship, after all.

So, yeah. Get yourselves out of Collegetown and check out the rest of Ithaca — because, believe me, this is not as small a town as you think. Happy Valentine’s!

Florencia Ulloa is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at [email protected]. Innocent Bystander appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

Original Author: Florencia Ulloa