When I first went to Rulloff’s, located on 411 College Ave back in February, I thought I would be saying goodbye to the bar and restaurant since its building is set for demolition at the beginning of this summer to make room for an apartment complex. Unfortunately, we would instead be saying goodbye to Rulloff’s, like many other restaurants, as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Plastered on its doors now are signs that read, “Due to the coronavirus crisis Rulloff’s is closed until further notice.”
When I dined there, I asked if Rulloff’s would open another location, and the waitress told me they honestly don’t know. However, the answer being “yes” is less likely given the new and upsetting reality all restaurants now face.
Whether it was trips to Insomnia Cookies to take a study break, post-prelim boba runs, Chatty Cathy dates with my roommate, frequent and spontaneous stress-prompting trips to Mango Mango or celebrations at Koko — Collegetown restaurants have always been there for me during my time at Cornell. These restaurants have been serving the Cornell community for so long and now many are struggling from the restriction put in place across New York on March 16 that limits restaurants and bars’ services to take-out only.
Operating a restaurant in collegetown is hard enough. For a little over four months of the year, the majority of its main consumers — students — leave for winter or summer break, requiring these restaurants to make the majority of their business during the months that school is in session. The crisis of course makes it even harder on business, especially given it’s occurring during spring semester — a time where the restaurants see added business as a result of graduation. It’s sad to not be able to support these restaurants enough through these challenging times, while they have always been there to support us.
Rulloff’s was one of the oldest restaurants in Collegetown, being a part of the community since 1977. From its brunch on the weekends, to serving the perfect burger during lunch and catering to the late-night crowd with drinks and snacks from its bar, Rulloff’s served its community for any occasion, anytime.
My roommate and I decided to go for their burgers at lunch. We started with nachos and added short ribs on top. For our main dishes, I opted for their popular Ghost of Rulloff’s Burger and my roommate went for the Elk Burger.
The nachos were huge. It could have easily been shared by at least four people. It was topped with the works — well-seasoned and tender short ribs, cheddar cheese, jalapenos, a large scoop of guacamole, a sizable amount of salsa and a big dollop of sour cream. All of the toppings together made for a perfect combination of crunch, tanginess, heat, richness and savoriness all in one hearty bite. However, there was one topping that was not given in as generous amounts compared to the others, and it is arguably one of the most important parts of nachos — the cheese. More than half of the chips were not covered with cheese, and on the ones that were, the cheese was not fully melted.
After the nachos came out, our burgers shortly followed. I had ordered my Ghost of Rulloff’s Burger medium with a side of truffle fries. Almost every part of the burger had some form of spiciness. It was a perfectly cooked, thick and juicy beef patty with ghost-pepper cheese, habanero candy (dices of habanero cooked down in sugar syrup), fried onions and roasted jalapeno ranch. The spice definitely added up but was balanced out by the sweetness of the candy and the coolness of the ranch. There was the right amount of melty, gooey cheese, and the golden fried onions added texture and crunch.
The fries were the size of steak fries. They were topped with parmesan cheese and very well-seasoned, but not for truffle fries. There was barely a taste of truffle. They had a crispy and golden exterior and light and fluffy interior, but they would be more appropriately named garlic and parmesan fries rather than truffle fries.
My roommate’s Elk burger was cooked medium as well. The patty was topped with bourbon bacon jam, Gruyère, caramelized onions, house-made beer mustard and arugula and came with a side of tater tots. Unlike the Ghost of Rulloff’s burger, the patty was on the dryer side. The burger had sweetness from the jam and caramelized onions, fattiness from the cheese and acidity from the mustard. But it wasn’t savory enough, making the burger on the blander side.
The tots ordered on the side were oddly the best thing I ate from our meal. They were perfectly crispy and golden brown on the outside, and the inside was piping hot and soft. Everything went right for these tater tots, making a simple side into the star of the meal.
The food wasn’t perfect, but the laid back atmosphere, the kind service, my roommate’s company and the comfort that comes with eating any form of greasy food made me wish I had discovered Rulloff’s sooner. It provided the perfect environment to enjoy a meal with friends. Whether it’s sharing one of their humongous appetizers or chowing down on some not-so-healthy food after a long, stressful day or a night out, Rulloff’s is the place to be. Rulloff’s was a restaurant that I had always heard about from alum and upperclassmen. After trying the restaurant myself, I now understand why it has been a part of the Ithaca community for so long, and why it has touched so many people.
With even more reflection on the current situation, it has made me realize that I wish I had spent more time on moments like this. In addition to restaurants, the coronavirus has taken away so much. It’s taken away time you could have spent with friends, and the memories you would have made with them at restaurants like Rulloff’s. It makes you appreciate the memories you did make, and these restaurants that helped you make them.
The restaurant industry is one that thrives on people getting together. We are all in this together, and someday we will come out of this together — as a community to once again support and enjoy these restaurants that have supported us for so long.
Serves: New American pub food and beverages
Vibe: Warm, friendly, casual
Meridien Mach is a sophomore in the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.