February 20, 2013

Ithaca’s Best Kept Dining Secrets

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Hidden gems of Ithaca may not seem so hard to find, but in my quest for the best of the best, it proved true. In a small town like Ithaca, diners find themselves going back to the same places, the food and service never sinking below a certain standard. Upscale American and Italian cuisine are available at Mahogany Grill, Stella’s and Zaza’s and you can find greasy goodness at Jack’s, Five Guys, Taco Bell and Waffle Frolic. Of course, there are healthier options at vegan spots and certain Asian places, but we often get sucked into the same restaurants over and over again. If we never try other, less-visited fare, often advertised but rarely visited, then we’ll never know what specialities they serve and what soon may become our new favorites.

Capital State Kitchen

For sushi, Capital State Kitchen offers a fabulous display. It includes an overabundance of ginger and wasabi with your main dish as well as a parsley garnish, making for a picture-perfect presentation before you dig in. The chefs take care in how they prepare their food, valuing simplicity and flavor — something the other sushi restaurants seem to overlook. The actual fish is sweet and irresistible. Not many people try out this hot spot for its signature dish, but it’s more than worth a visit and will pleasantly surprise any wary sushi fans. Plum Tree and Miyake are certainly delectable, but Capital State Kitchen has now stepped up to the plate, making its pieces bigger, their rice softer and their fish and vegetables fresher. They have an assortment of other Chinese and Japanese food as well, but if you’re sticking to something simple, the avocado rolls are an avocado addict’s dream; each piece melts in your mouth and it’s sweet tang leaves you wanting more, no matter how full you are, every time.


Mia, the fairly new Asian fusion restaurant in the Commons is often neglected, but is perfect for a date or any other occasion that calls for nicer clothes and easy-going conversation. Although I haven’t had its curry since last year, recent updates have called for me to write about it again. Mia made Valentine’s Day, for many a couple, a treat as they romantically shared karee gai (chicken curry) or other things like lamb or a variety of vegetarian options (i.e. Indian ratatouille or wild mushroom stir fry).

Just a Taste

Just a Taste Wine and Tapas Bar never seems abundantly crowded, but is the ideal place to relax with a snack. Although all tapas are filling and fun to experiment, the warm brie with melon and crostini really sticks out. The brie is just gooey enough, the melon fresh and sweet and the crostini crisp. The textures and bold tastes made for a mouth full of goodness. Just a Taste has an undeniably great assortment of other cheap plates, too, featuring olive oil, a mix of olives, garlic, cheese, onions and other herbs, all combined differently for a fantastic combination of phenomenal flavors.

So, although it’s important to stay loyal to your local faves, hidden gems are everywhere you look. Order in, eat out or, when the weather gets warm, take a picnic down to the gorge because these three places are just waiting to impress you and enjoy your business.

Original Author: Danielle Diniz