It’s no secret that the restaurant industry in Ithaca, which contains more restaurants per capita than New York City, makes for a foodie’s paradise. With dishes ranging from pizza and pad thai to Mediterranean and Ethiopian cuisines to gourmet waffles, Ithaca offers a wide variety of dining choices. With this array of flavors and styles, does Ithaca master America’s number one sandwich choice — the burger? The answer is yes, and I’ve compiled a list of the best burgers in Ithaca and where to find them.
The Best “Off the Wall” Burger: Red’s Place
Red’s Place has a menu full of unique burgers, but the PB and “Jellousy” burger is a combination of two craveworthy sandwiches — a cheeseburger and a PB&J. The peanut butter adds a savory component to the sweet flavor of the jelly and the saltiness of the cheddar cheese and bacon. Like the menu suggests, just trust me.
The Best Classic Burger: Glenwood Pines
Glenwood Pines is that place in the middle of nowhere that you go to when you don’t want to play any games with your food, and you just have a hankering for that classic American burger — beef patty, cheddar cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato and mayo — but you need it prepared so well that you don’t notice that it’s nothing fancy. Plus, the Pinesburger comes on French bread instead of a normal hamburger bun, making it even more delectable.
The Best Veggie Burger: Bandwagon Brewpub
I usually can’t get down with veggie burgers (it’s a Southern thing), but the saffron aioli and chili sauce that comes on the Original Veggie Burger add a creaminess and flavor profile that are usually absent in most veggie burgers that I have tried.
Best Customizable Burger: Ithaca Ale House
Amongst the other great burger qualities that Ithaca Ale House possesses (beer suggestions for each burger, for example), their customizing options are top-notch. When you can add Brie cheese, bacon and sautéed mushrooms to your burger and then top it off with chipotle aioli, it’s almost impossible to trust any other burgers. It’s like finishing your favorite Netflix series — you could start watching a new show or you could go back and watch the whole series over again because it’s just too good. That is the BYOB at Ithaca Ale House.
Best Multicultural Burger: Luna Inspired Street Food
It’s one thing to put some random things on a burger (foie gras or arugula) and give it a new flavor or texture. But it’s another thing to make the Togarashi Ramen Burger. Luna’s takes a regular beef patty and tops it with kimchi, galbi cucumbers and sriracha mayo and then sandwiches it all between a ramen bun. This burger is a Korean take on an American staple, and you definitely have to try it to understand the impact of this flavor combination.
Best Local Burger: AGAVA
All of these burger places are local, but I’m also referencing the locally derived ingredients. Not only is the beef on the Agava Burger from Ithaca farms, but so are all the other ingredients. This isn’t just the case for the burgers but for all of AGAVA’s menu items. It makes the food taste fresher, and it makes you feel good about supporting local farms with the farm-to-table movement.
Best Overall Burger Experience: Ithaca Beer Company
It’s a brewery, it’s a restaurant, it’s an outdoor lounge (with cornhole boards for us Southern folk) and it’s home to the Smokehouse Burger. You go outside to the beer garden to have a Hopkist while you wait for your table. You take a seat at one of the picnic tables and enjoy the warm Ithaca weather while it lasts for the next couple of days. Your table is ready and you sit down and order the Smokehouse Burger even though you absolutely hate pickles of any kind. But I’m telling you, the combination of the pickles, chipotle aioli and cheddar cheese on top of a medium-cooked beef patty, combined with the atmosphere of Ithaca Beer Company, led to the best overall burger experience I’ve ever had.