I have been to Moosewood an inordinate amount of times in the short year and a third that I have been at Cornell. During move-in, move out and when my parents visit for the first, second and third time each year, we always head to Moosewood for dinner. I would say that my family’s Moosewood fix is justified for three reasons. The first is that Moosewood is a famous spot, widely known both in Ithaca and throughout the United States. The restaurant was established in 1973 and since then, has been a destination for visitors to Ithaca. Secondly, it is one of the few vegetarian restaurants in Ithaca (which offers many vegan options as well). While most restaurants only offer one or two vegan options, Moosewood gives my family lots more choices for meals. And lastly, the food is delicious. I always know that my meal will be satisfying, and that I will get the vegan chocolate cake for dessert. But it was not until the spring of last year that I discovered Moosewood offered Sunday brunch. Once I tried the brunch, it was a game changer; I have to hold myself back from going every weekend. This October, I tried their lunch for the first time. For the sake of journalism, I forced myself to review their vegan options to help you all decide whether to go to Moosewood for a special lunch, brunch or both.
Moosewood is located right off of the Commons in the Dewitt Mall and down the road from the Seneca Street TCAT stop. When the weather is nice, they have great patio seating with the caveat of the occasional bee. The atmosphere both inside and outside is casual and cozy, with simple decorations and a green and yellow color scheme. Their merchandise, such as apparel, stickers and numerous cookbooks, always catches my eye. Their cookbooks, 14 in total, are very popular and contribute to their well-known name across the world. The staff are always very kind, conversational and accommodating. Due to my semi-frequent visits, I think they may know me now.
Moosewood creates new specials every few weeks and changes the soup options daily. The menu is partially seasonal; most of the salads and sides stay the same, but some of the main dishes change with the weather. On the other hand, their lunch and brunch options are completely separate menus which switch entrees more frequently. The brunch menu contains classics such as french toast that contrasts with their veggie stews. Lunch offers creative burgers, sandwiches and salads. I went for lunch with my mom on a perfectly crisp fall Saturday, so we were looking for warmth and autumnal flavors. We decided to split two dishes, the first being the two potato-tomato curry with split pea dal ($13.50). The curry perfectly represented fall. The texture was a perfect blend of the creamy sweet potato and squash, which were slightly mashed, with the crunchier cauliflower and peppers. The meal was well spiced, and all the flavors melted together. The split pea dal on top was the perfect touch to a unique dish.
The second dish was southern beans & greens ($13.50), which was quite literally a bowl of brown rice and beans with very few veggies (tomatoes, kale, onions). Although simple, it was warm, tasty and flavorful. The beans were tender and chewy, and the plate was very filling. The lunch made my taste buds excited to be back to colder weather where it is all about warmth and spice.
Later, on a cold Sunday morning and craving the comfort of Moosewood, my friends and I took the TCAT downtown for brunch. Among the four of us that went for brunch, we only got two different dishes (the burrito and the pancakes), due to my strong recommendations.
The breakfast burrito ($10) consisted of a thick tortilla wrapped around a scramble of tofu, peppers, onions, mushrooms and spices all topped with chives and a cashew cheese sauce. The burrito overall was warm, flavorful and satisfying. The tofu was mashed and spiced so well that it was far better than any tofu scramble I have had elsewhere. One of my friends commented that she “wasn’t able to tell it wasn’t egg,” which was a pretty rave review.
The chocolate pancakes ($10) were really a showstopper. They were made with almond milk, had a moderate amount of chocolate chips and were topped with a raspberry sauce. The pancakes had just the right amount of sweetness without being over-the-top. The chocolate chips were a fun texture-change surprise and the raspberry sauce added a complementary flavor. The pancakes were squishy, moist and the perfect consistency — and there was no need for syrup (although you can never go wrong with maple syrup). I think I could eat these pancakes every week and not get tired of them.
There was only one disappointment of the meal: the gingerbread latte. Moosewood has an extensive drink menu with classic coffees and fun seasonal specials. The gingerbread latte had multiple strong flavors which didn’t pair well together. It smelled like a strong chai but tasted off — and the coffee flavor didn’t really come through. Once we concluded the drink was a bust, I remembered my mom’s similar reaction to a latte a few months ago. So maybe I just don’t like their espresso brew? I would love to know others’ thoughts.
Whether you are looking for a break from dining halls or just need an excuse to go to the Commons, Moosewood is the place to go on the weekend. The lunch menu has tons of options and is a hearty, filling meal. The Sunday brunch menu is small but covers all the savory and sweet needs. Moosewood has rustic charm, great service, a convenient location and a great reputation. There’s no way to go wrong if you choose Moosewood! I know I’ll be back multiple times this semester.
Serves: Vegetarian/vegan American and local dinner, lunch and Sunday brunch
Vibe: Casual, cozy, friendly