October 31, 2012

Eating Out (of the Box): Hipster Kitchen’s Top 5 Restaurants

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We’ve all been told a million times over where to eat — CTB for a quick lunch, Jack’s for late-night, Aladdin’s when your parents visit. In a town this small, it’s easy to slip into routines. But if you yearn to escape the predictable, to subvert the ordinary, to live outside the mainstream — look no further! Hipster Kitchen’s got a guide for you.

Let’s start slow, with a place you’ve probably heard of. Stella’s ranks high on the hip scale in all categories: Cool atmosphere, gourmet coffee, a well-stocked bar and a cleverness that permeates every aspect of their existence. Their quirky, seasonally-inspired menu is delicious and cheeky. Last time I was there, I had a salad that involved diced roasted squash, ricotta cheese, pink-purple pickled onions and popcorn — weird and awesome to the max — and all of their drinks have magnificent names with descriptions and ingredients to match. I always like to use the Obama as an example — a half-white, half-dark chocolate mocha with a splash of macadamia nut syrup. It’s pretty hard to go wrong here.

On to one of the best-kept secrets of Collegetown: The Little Thai House. Yeah, it’s pretty obscure. Right around the corner from where CTP used to be on Dryden Road, this cafeteria-style hole in the wall serves up amazing Thai food for eat-in or take-out. The atmosphere is straight out of an indie movie — all red plastic trays, flickering fluorescents and existential weirdness. I rarely encounter other people when I go there, although I often stop by just before close to pick up stir-fried bok choy and red curry to nosh on while I finish a paper. Their food is delicious, and incredibly cheap. Give it a whirl, and tell your friends (if they’re cool).

If you’re looking to leave the Cornell bubble for an authentic Ithaca experience, haul your hungover self out of bed for weekend brunch at Café Dewitt. This place is only open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., does not accept credit cards and is always full of old people. How much more exclusive could they get? They make a mean eggs Benedict, their coffee is delightful and you get to enjoy a quiet meal under a canopy of tiny twinkling lights. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a seat next to the aquarium filled with vibrant and curious goldfish.

Also downtown, The Piggery exemplifies the new “hipster farmer” aesthetic and catapulted into public consciousness with the simultaneous rise in popularity of a) Bon Iver and b) Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, now visible wherever there are guys with flannel shirts and full beards talking about how they want to “get back to nature.” Designed for an eco-conscious foodie, but not for timid vegans, the Piggery is a farm-to-table operation that raises, slaughters and prepares all their own meat. I love their bratwurst, and the pulled pork sandwich — accompanied by vibrant purple slaw — is also a favorite. Also, definitely take home some bacon from their butcher case next door.

And, of course, best for last: The Farmers Market. Guys. This place is so hip it’s not even a restaurant. A motley mix of food stalls and vegetable stands, the Farmer’s Market is open every weekend through the winter, and there is always something new and delicious to discover. Try the Southwest flatbread pizza from Finger Lakes Bakery, corn fritters from Macro Mama’s or one of Littletree Orchards’ apple cider doughnuts for 75 cents. Plus, it doubles as a trip to the grocery store! Pick up some produce to bring home and use in some gourmet food of your very own. I’ve got plenty of recipes on my blog, if you want to check them out.

For more Hipster Kitchen hijinks, check out the Sun’s food blog!

Original Author: Clare Dougan