May 2, 2018

Ode to Trumansburg

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This is my first semester at Cornell and maybe I’m still seeing things through rose-colored glasses, but I think Ithaca is great. There are more than three restaurants, delivery exists — heck, there are even people when you walk into town! There is much more to experience in Ithaca than there was at my previous college, which will remain unnamed but was located in Middlebury, VT. Even though Ithaca is a relative hotbed of activity, sometimes you just need to get off campus and out of town. Recently, my mom coming up for a weekend provided the perfect excuse to get away.

Enter Trumansburg, an oasis 14 miles north on NY-96. We wandered into Creekside Cafe looking for a late breakfast after reading positive reviews on Yelp. I was struck by the light, airy restaurant, which felt open and inviting despite its tiny size. Exposed brick and light-washed wood were the mainstays of the décor. The walls were covered with local art for sale; many were paintings that I would be proud to hang in my dorm room.

One of the co-owners of the cafe answered all of our questions and took our order. I did a little Googling, and I found out his name is Charlie Stadtlander — I hope he doesn’t mind. He and his partner Cathryn Koken bought the building in 2007, and, bam, Creekside Cafe was born.

The vibe is extraordinarily friendly and casual. You come in, find a table and read from the paper menu. The brunch options, which are served all day on Sunday, are elevated versions of no-fuss favorites. My mom got the special omelet of the day — sautéed spinach, onion, potatoes and gruyere cheese with a simple, very fresh, green salad. I ordered the “breakfast bowl.” Both dishes were plated with no froufrou add-ons. Just the way we like things. The breakfast bowl had two fried eggs on a bed of sautéed greens and vegetables, sweet pickled onions and a housemade tahini dressing — all forms of seeds were sprinkled on top, giving a lovely crunch to every bite! Overall, it had an umami flavor with just the right amount of garlic and onion to give it an extra kick. Maybe this breakfast doesn’t seem especially healthy to a normal person, but since I rarely eat a vegetable, I felt like a new woman. I’m always shocked and thrilled when chefs make good-for-you foods taste fantastic. Given the cafe’s sincere commitment to locally-sourced ingredients, it’s no surprise just how yummy everything was.

There were three varieties of mini chévre tarts offered as a special that day. The chef prepared each tart with either bacon, tomato or sautéed mushrooms. We did not try these since we are not partakers of goat cheese, but they did seem to be very popular. Other options included more conventional items such as breakfast sandwiches on fluffy and perfectly buttered — to the edges! — ciabatta rolls and French toast. While the menu is somewhat limited, the quality at Creekside is so high that you will not miss the more extensive options you would find at a diner.

I was flabbergasted by how quickly the food was prepared. Usually at a tiny restaurant, you wait a long time before anything edible makes its way to the table. I happened to be especially ravenous that Sunday morning and was mentally preparing for an unbearably long wait. Fifteen minutes after walking in, I had a big ole breakfast spread in front of me.

After devouring the aforementioned special, I realized that I was deeply deprived of caffeine and needed to be awake to tackle the boatload of work waiting for me. My mom had been mainlining Creekside’s deep roast coffee, supplied by Gimme! Coffee, an Ithaca mainstay. She was quite perky. But I had refrained because I’m a wimp and need lots of sugar and milk, which I didn’t feel like bothering Charlie with. After paying for the meal — not expensive at all — we walked over to the Trumansburg Gimme!.

The Gimme! staffers were keen to help us and suggested a new coffee blend for my mom to bring back home. She was busy with that discussion while I was having trouble remembering how to pronounce “cappuccino.” Luckily, whatever I babbled to the cashier translated into a delicious drink. Gimme! gets their baked goods from external retailers, and they are truly fantastic. I got a small maple cookie with salted frosting, the perfect sweet ending to a brunch outing.

Next time you have a hankering to get out of Ithaca, drive yourself up to Trumansburg and eat breakfast with Charlie — or just ask to use the bathroom (it was just as adorable as the café and worth the drive). And be sure to grab a coffee from Gimme! to experience the next best version of a hipster Brooklyn cafe that Tompkins County has to offer.

Creekside Cafe
Serves: breakfast and lunch
Vibe: relaxed
Price: $$
Overall: ★★★★☆