Fall is now in full swing, and one of the activities I enjoy the most is going to local Ithaca eateries and trying their seasonal pastries. Whether it’s to Wegmans or Collegetown Bagels, I embark on a delighted scavenger hunt to find the fall treats that are both affordable and rich with flavor. Here is my yearly rundown of my favorite fall items from local Ithaca eateries.
Pumpkin Spice Bar from Collegetown Bagels
These special bars are triple layered, starting with a chewy graham cracker crust, cream cheese frosting and a pumpkin spice spread, all topped with a pumpkin spice whipped cream. Simple yet flavorful, this pumpkin spice bar will give you the full experience of fall. This is one of my go-to desserts for fall, as the pumpkin spice bar isn’t too sweet or bland.
When I first arrived back in Ithaca for the fall semester, I drove down North Meadow Street and was surprised to see a bold white sign outside one of the many strips of businesses, proclaiming “HIRING — ALL POSITIONS.” I did a double-take, then did a little research and learned about a new restaurant called Milkstand that was soon to open. It doesn’t take long for news of a novel food establishment to spread around Cornell, and I quickly overheard the name “Milkstand” on the daily. This past week, I finally got a chance to check out the new spot, just a few days after its opening.
The restaurant is located in an old Byrne Dairy, a chain of gas station and convenience stores, founded in upstate New York. The owners, who also created Maru Ramen across the street, named their newest business in recognition of the building’s roots.
The menu consists of typical diner food with some enhanced entrees, such as a portobello sandwich ($14) and a kale pasta with pesto ($22). There is definitely a range to be explored, from an array of typical omelettes ($13-$15) to the most expensive item, steak frites ($34).
I’m passionate about seafood, and finding the best fish dishes is an ongoing quest of mine. As for finding the best fried fish sandwich, that’s already happened: Doug’s Fish Fry in Skaneateles, NY has fish that is unmatched in both taste and quality.
After a 3-month hiatus, Collegetown’s most exciting new restaurant returned with a bang. Student marketers hummed around Collegetown, shouting down would-be customers and zealously offering free samples to whoever stopped for more than a second. The boisterous atmosphere continued inside. The shop itself was buzzing with activity: Music blaring, employees lively and smiling — practically a party in the store. In spite of the theatrics, the online order was right on time, and after a short sojourn I was ready to bring to you a comprehensive review of (nearly) every item on 2Stay 2Go’s online menu.
Successful modern restaurants are those which evoke pleasure through both their food and atmosphere. The more “instagrammable” the interior and décor, the more business it will attract — especially from millennials and Gen Z-ers. And in Ithaca, which has more restaurants per capita than NYC, the competition is fierce. There are at least a dozen coffee shops, each small, with high-quality beans and different spirits. The newest is Botanist Coffeehouse, a combination café and flower shop in Fall Creek.
Located in the Ithaca Commons on Aurora St., Hound and Mare is a new local cafe and bakery that offers a plethora of choices ranging from house-made pastries and coffee to famous bagel sandwiches. When I first walked through the door, I was immediately overwhelmed by the smell of fresh baked goods. The store was playing soft jazz music, which perfectly matched the classic interior with brick walls and wide windows. Each table was spread 6 feet apart and had mini bottles of sanitizer on them. With its cozy interior and COVID safe environment, I instantly felt at ease and comforted by the store’s atmosphere.
With a minimalist yet intriguing and creative menu, I took my time viewing the different bagel sandwich options.
In recent years, the commercial pizza game has seen a dramatic shift. Gone are the days when a gooey slice the size of your face will suffice. Pizza lovers have grown tired of the triangular-shaped grease stain left behind on a paper plate. Flour-dusted lips and oily fingers just don’t cut it anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be an audience of cheese addicts to support establishments like Enzo’s and CollegeTown Pizza.
When Jin Kim and Jeesoo Lee opened Masita this past winter, they (like the rest of us) had no way of knowing what was right around the corner. The coronavirus hit restaurant owners incredibly hard, and many Ithaca businesses were forced to close their doors and regroup. Kim and Lee, having only been open for a month, were at a major disadvantage, as they lacked the dedicated fanbase of other established restaurants. Fortunately, Masita was not their first rodeo. Back in South Korea, the two women were longtime business partners and owned multiple successful restaurants together.
Having opened this past July on the West side of Ithaca Commons, Kimchi is a fairly new and cozy Korean restaurant that has a vast menu from noodles to Korean barbecue — the essentials of Korean cuisine. As a Korean student who was desperately craving home-cooked Korean food, I was more than excited to discover Kimchi on my daily Yelp search. When I first looked at the menu, I was overwhelmed by the amount of options they offered. I was already picking and choosing which Korean dishes to eat, something I hadn’t done in over a month. Ultimately, I ended up ordering tteokbokki, or spicy Korean rice cakes, the spicy Korean fried chicken and budae jjigae, a sausage stew that comes with a variety of toppings such as ramen, rice cakes and kimchi.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of eating at one of my favorite restaurants in Ithaca, John Thomas Steakhouse. For me, John Thomas is my Peter Luger’s away from home. The meat is prime dry-aged beef, just like Peter Luger’s and everything from the steak sauce to the menu selections represent how a true American steakhouse should be. Though rustic and low key from the outside, the quality of food clearly demonstrates why John Thomas’ has been an icon in Ithaca for so long.
The exterior of John Thomas is quite plain on the outside and along with the overcast weather, paints a fitting picture of Ithaca.