I pride myself on knowing all the best spots to eat in Ithaca, as I have been an active opponent of on-campus dining since my first visits to RPCC and Appel freshman year. Many people don’t think the food is that bad, but I always struggled to find healthy, hot options. While I thought I knew all the go-to spots around Cornell’s campus, I only heard about Northstar House a month ago when my friends raved about it. When they heard I would be reviewing Northstar in The Sun, they begged me to rethink my decision as I would be revealing their special dining spot to the public. Despite their request, I had to try Northstar and let you all in on my thoughts.
This wholesome, welcoming restaurant is located on East Falls St., only a five minute drive from campus. In the spring and summer months their outdoor patio, known as the “beer garden,” is a nice space to relish the warm weather while enjoying a drink from their extensive canned and bottled beers list, six rotating draughts and variety of wines and spirits. Year-round, however, Northstar House serves dinner on weeknights, brunch and dinner on Saturdays and just brunch on Sundays. The atmosphere is casual with lots of tables by the windows and a bar full of local Ithacans when you walk in. Northstar truly is a neighborhood joint, and the food and atmosphere prove it; they use local ingredients and hosts popular events in the local Ithaca community.
In an effort to be as thorough as possible in my review, I treated myself to several dishes for brunch: the Northstar Cheesy Hash ($10), Northstar Plate ($13), Huevos Rancheros ($12) and donut holes — a seasonal special.
I enjoyed their famous Northstar Cheesy Hash the most: potatoes topped with house-made cheese sauce, two fried eggs and house-made salsa. There is nothing quite like the feeling of discovering a good cheese fry. It is nearly impossible to get a smooth and creamy consistency when using all-natural ingredients, but Northstar has been able to master this cheese sauce. The starchiness of the potatoes complimented the creamy cheese sauce and runny egg yolk. While the salsa added freshness and flavor to the dish, the raw onion chunks were almost unpalatable.
The Northstar Plate, a dish that can satisfy both your sweet and savory breakfast cravings, comes with choice of French toast or pancakes, bacon or sausage and potatoes or grits with two eggs your way. Northstar’s French toast is soaked overnight, giving it a cinnamon-y flavor throughout to its center. Topped with New York maple syrup, this French toast outshines all other French toast options in Ithaca.
Out of all the dishes, the huevos rancheros were my only disappointment. This Mexican dish consisting of a tortilla topped with black beans, salsa, egg and sour cream is generally one of my favorite dishes to make at home, but Northstar’s version was lacking in salt and spice. The dish was bland, and again, I was not a fan of the large pieces of raw red onion in the salsa.
Finally, while it is almost impossible to find a bad donut hole, Northstar’s seasonal donut holes dusted with cinnamon, powdered sugar and whipped cream went above and beyond. Served warm in a basket, these donut holes were the perfect treat in the cold.
Whether you are looking for a summer experience in the beer garden or a treat to warm you up in the winter, Northstar House has what you are looking for. While there is not any particular dish I absolutely need to go back for, Northstar’s charm is in the vibe of the establishment, the warm and attentive servers and the use of local ingredients. Although I am not sure I will be joining my friends for their weekly visits, I enjoyed my experience there and am excited to return some other time for dinner.
Serves: American/local brunch and dinner
Vibe: Laid back, casual