Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

The Boatyard Grill awaits Cornellians looking for an adventurous break from dining hall food.

March 16, 2023

Setting Sail on a Culinary Adventure: A Review of The Boatyard Grill in Ithaca 

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Well known for offering free burgers on Cornell game days, The Boatyard Grill has established itself as a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. But this Ithaca gem offers much more than just a good deal on game day. As you push open the wooden doors of The Boatyard Grill, the first thing that hits you is the maritime decor — dark pine paneling and exposed beams creating the feeling of being onboard a vessel. The walls are adorned with glowing neon signs, potted plants and carefully crafted replicas of bass fish. The lighting is dim and warm, giving the space a cozy, intimate feeling. As you’re escorted to your seat, you feel as though you’ve been transported from the chilly Ithacan winter to the hull of a ship, surrounded by the vast expanse of the ocean.

Not ten minutes away from the towers of Cornell’s campus, The Boatyard Grill has an ambiance that is well known to Cornellians as one of casual elegance. After a stressful week of prelims, problem sets and long nights in libraries, students are always in need of somewhere they can enjoy a satisfying meal and comfortable experience off campus. So, with its wide variety of steak and seafood options, only one question remains — is it worth the distance and the cost? 

To begin the night, our waitress brought over a complimentary roll of bread and housemade butter, which we quickly wolfed down. From the seafood section of the menu, we ordered the lobster and shrimp mac and cheese, a dish that combines the creamy flavor of macaroni and cheese with the exotic taste of seafood. While we expected a rather meager portion of seafood for a $22 meal, we were surprised by a rather generous quantity of fresh lobster and tiger shrimp. The shrimp itself had a slightly briny taste, with a firm yet chewy texture. The lobster, on the other hand, was more stringy, and came in long pieces. As a whole, the seafood helped to contrast the sharp flavor of the gouda-parmesan cheese and the consistency of the pasta, creating a deliciously balanced dish that satisfies cravings for both cheesy pasta and fresh seafood. 

Next, we tried a dish from the “handhelds” part of the menu. Attending Cornell often means isolation from popular fast food chains that would otherwise be more widespread than the plague in medieval Europe — even the nearest McDonalds requires a car to reach. However, the Nashville chicken sandwich offers a perfect balance between quality restaurant preparation and a familiar fast-food taste. The toasted bun complements the spicy buttermilk chicken well, and the bread-and-butter pickles add a kick of flavor that makes each bite savory. In addition to the sandwich, the dish comes with a plethora of crispy french fries. However, the heart of the meal lies in the homemade creamy chipotle herb sauce, which adds a rich flavor without overwhelming the rest of the dish. Overall, for a $17 price tag, the Nashville chicken sandwich offers a unique yet traditional take on a classic meal and ample portion sizes without being overpriced. Combined with a charming, nautic atmosphere, the sandwich is well worth the drive and cost in our opinion.

Finally, for something sweet to finish off the night, we indulged in a molten chocolate cake. With a rich, truffle center, the cake is not for the faint of heart, but is well worth it for fans of dark chocolate. It is also topped with famously delicious Purity ice cream that balances out the dessert nicely. Overall, it was the perfect end to an excellent dining experience.

The Boatyard Grill maintains a diverse menu while still emphasizing its variety of seafood options. Ultimately, whether you’re craving lobster, crab or an old fashioned sandwich, you can expect a high quality meal and a charming atmosphere, making the Boatyard Grill well worth the price and drive.

Conner Smith is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Aaron Zhu is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].