Jimmy Cawley/Sun Dining Editor

Risley dining hall amidst a festive St. Patrick's Day.

March 18, 2023

A Risley St. Patrick’s Day Food (and Drink) Review  

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St. Patrick’s Day has long been a holiday for many more than just those of us with an Irish background. The celebration of the leprechauns and clovers in grade school has transformed for many Cornellians into a commemoration of Irish culture through drinking, giant block parties and wearing green garments from head to toe. I dare say it may be the most relished holiday for Cornell students. While I was eating at my favorite dining hall earlier this week, Risley, I noticed that they were advertising a St. Patrick’s Day special. Being a many-generations-removed Irishman comes with a massive enthusiasm for St. Patrick’s day; thus, I couldn’t help but travel 15 minutes out of the way to review Risley’s St. Patrick’s Day meal. 

My trek across the Thurston Avenue Bridge was accompanied by a mild, yet persistent rain that couldn’t dream of ruining Collegetown darties. As I finally escaped the showers through the beckoning Risley doors, I was greeted by the echoes of conversation and laughter. Nervous about the potential of a Risley Harry Potter night caliber line, I shuffled through the hall to see a line wrapped slightly past the check-in area, about 25 people long. I cursed the luck of the Irish for waiting until 12:30 to come to Risley and patiently sat in line, anticipating what was on the menu for this special occasion.

 As I moved down the line, I got my first glimpse of the St. Patrick’s Day menu. Funny enough, the first item is a chicken tikka masala and rice. As I progressed down the line, the next item to fall onto my plate was something labeled as “Irish Nachos.” It appeared to be Kettle chips drizzled with cheese and some other sauce. As a fan of the normal Risley nachos, I was eager to try this St. Patrick’s Day knock-off. Finally, waiting at the end of the line were the Irish delicacies. Shepherd’s pie and corned beef were two of the most popular options based on the amount of each left in the dish. I completed my plate with a brownie topped with a scoop of green ice cream and whipped cream. 

After enduring the abnormally long Risley line, I sat down and dove into my Irish meal. The item on my plate that called my name first was the corned beef. As I worked through the mountain of beef on my plate, I needed a touch of water to help get the slightly dry beef down. The flavor was savory, and it was refreshing to be served beef when Risley normally opts for chicken, but I was left yearning for a tad more flavor or spice — something to make it pop a bit more. The chicken tikka masala and Irish nachos were also good, just not as flavorful as I would have liked (perhaps it’s just the Irish way). 

However, the part of the meal that absolutely stole the show was the ice cream-brownie concoction. The firm, chunky brownie drowned in a gooey, melting mint ice cream combined to create a fantastic dessert that made the trip a million times worth it. The whipped cream was the icing on top that added a much-appreciated creamy texture to the near-perfect snack.

Before proceeding, I also want to comment on the ambiance of Risley’s dining area; the staff did an incredible job turning Ithaca into Dublin, Ireland. Green banners and streamers lined the perimeter of the dining area with Irish flags everywhere — well done to the staff!

Finally, it would not be right to have a Cornell St. Patrick’s Day review without discussing some of the drinking trends around campus during this weekend of festivities. I made my way up to Ithaca Wine and Spirits on Eddy Street to talk to Sam Ferado, an employee at the store. First, I was wondering about some of the most popular drinks around this time of year. Sam explained, “We get more Irish whiskey in for the holiday. We have Jameson and Proper Twelve which we usually do not carry as much.”

It appeared that Ithaca Wine and Spirits knew their crowd. I also asked Sam about some of the St. Patrick’s day expectations in terms of sales, to which he responded, “The weekend will be the busiest around 9 p.m. but people will usually be buying throughout the week.” 

Cornell students, like with many aspects of their lives, are clearly planning ahead for this weekend of celebrating Irish culture… and more. With that, I wish everyone a happy St. Patrick’s Day weekend! Stay safe and, most importantly, have fun.

Jimmy Cawley is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. He currently serves as the dining editor for the 141st board. He can be reached at [email protected].