It’s basically a ritual for newly arrived, over-eager freshmen: Flock into Collegetown on a blustery weekend night and live it up in one of the many fraternity annexes surrounding Eddy Street. After we’ve had our fill, this sizable portion of the Cornell population stumbles back to Collegetown’s late-night cafes and restaurants, exhausted and ravenous from a long day of studying and partying.
But what exactly are the best places to eat after midnight in Collegetown? When it’s late at night and you’re not exactly able to make the most rational judgments, most people merely settle for food that’s closest to them. That’s why I’ve decided to venture out and test the best late-night snacks and meals available to give every Cornellian good options.
6. Wings Over Ithaca
Wings Over Ithaca provides a nice, casual fast-food ambiance that’s enhanced by the scent of greasy chicken. However, true to its name, basically the only thing on the menu was wings. Unfortunately, as a vegetarian, this meant that there wasn’t really anything I could sample here besides fries. After checking the prices, I was also disappointed to find that the cheapest wings were at least $8. Overall, Wings Over may be a convenient place to get some quick greasy food, but it doesn’t really stand out compared to other options.
5. Jack’s Collegetown Grill
Jack’s has an ambiance similar to Luna’s Street Food, another popular restaurant in Collegetown (however, the bar opens at 10 p.m. at Luna’s and an ID is required to enter beyond that time). The menus are displayed on TV screens and customers have the option of ordering on iPads.
I chose the plant-based mushroom swiss burger which came with a pickle on the side. Combined together, the flavors worked well: The mushrooms were sauteed in a lightly sweet barbeque sauce and the swiss provided a nice sharpness to contrast the whole-wheat burger bun. The patty itself had a satisfying umami flavor and was delightfully tender. For being over $14 with tax, though, I would say this burger is definitely not worth buying again. The whole meal was the size of a regular hamburger and there was simply not enough of it to make me come back.
4. Collegetown Pizza
CTP seems to be the cheapest late-night savory option in Collegetown and its slices are definitely worth the price. The neon-red sign serves as a beacon to hungry students making their way up the hill on the left and the restaurant’s interior is spacious and the menu full of options. I opted for five garlic knots ($1.50). They were smaller than I expected but the price was reasonable — at least cheaper than other options. The knots were studded with red pepper and had a sprinkling of parmesan on top. While they weren’t especially outstanding, these garlic knots made for an affordable and flavorful snack on the go.
3. Insomnia Cookies
Insomnia is pretty much the ultimate saving grace for anyone with an incurable sweet tooth. A well-known college campus chain, Insomnia Cookies’ universal 3 a.m. closing time is a blessing for every hungover college student.
When I walked through the doorway, the aroma itself was tantalizing enough to make me want to buy myself a whole cookie cake. After perusing the options, I decided to get the double chocolate chunk cookie ($1.65). The texture was amazing: The exterior had a slight crunch while the inside of the cookie was the perfect balance of soft, buttery and a tad bit chewy. Warm globs of melted chocolate studded the interior, providing for a rich flavor contrast.
My only complaint was that there was nothing savory on the menu to complement the sugar rush — but then again, that’s not to be expected for a place with “cookie” in its name. While the cookie itself was perfect, I’m more of a savory late-night food person, but that’s a personal preference.
2. D.P. Dough
Although D.P. Dough doesn’t get quite as much action as its carb-loaded neighbor (see below), its massive calzones are enough to satisfy any cheese-lover’s cravings. I ordered the Cheeze Zone ($8.25), one of the restaurant’s classics. Despite being quite pricey, the calzones are more than enough for one meal. The calzone, while relatively plain in its offerings, packed quite a punch. The pizza base on the outside was wonderfully warm and crispy, and the cheese bubbled gloriously as I took my first bite. However, despite the wonderful texture contrast, the base was just too dry, even with the addition of marinara sauce. I found myself reaching for a cup of cold water on the side.
1. Collegetown Bagels
A widely-revered Cornell classic, CTB is known to be packed at all hours of the day, with AAP students sipping matcha lattes to econ professors hosting their office hours there (thanks, Nick Sanders)!
I decided to order the California Sunrise ($6.97 with tax), a crispy and creamy combination of avocado, pepper jack cheese and an egg on an everything bagel. The layering of soft, chewy bread with a thick layer of melting, salty cheese paired perfectly with a fluffy egg and the coolness of the avocado. This dish hit all the right spots, but sadly it wasn’t enough to curb my cravings. I just wish I had more.
Overall, Collegetown has some solid spots for those craving comfort food after midnight. The options may not be fancy, but it gets the job done with bagels, cookies, and everything in between. So, if you haven’t tried one or more of these spots yet, make the most of your time in Ithaca and indulge your late-night cravings.