4

AGAVA Restaurant

381 Pine Tree Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-319-4366

This southwest-themed eatery opened this spring near East Hill Plaza in the former home of Coyote Loco and Olivia. They've done a lovely job renovating the building with reclaimed wood from a local barn, and they serve good food and drinks at reasonable prices. The signature margarita is just $5, and the proverbial "$10 burger" is actually still $10, complete with fries. We hear good things about the tacos and the woodfired-oven flatbreads, and we look forward to trying brunch.

4

Antlers

1159 Dryden Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-273-9725

With its rich green and dark wood interior, accented with polished brass rails, the Antlers offers a comfortable and attractive atmosphere reminiscent of a good English countryside inn, but with classical American cooking. Known for their weekly prime rib and lobster nights, the Antlers is good any night of the week, suitable for a casual meal out or a special occasion.

4

Applebee's

2300 North Triphammer Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-257-6200

Considering the disdain with which “cookie-cutter” establishments are viewed by some, I was very impressed with how smoothly this trendy, yuppie-oriented chain restaurant has fit into the area. Applebee’s offers very speedy and friendly service, a pleasant surprise to anyone expecting anonymous or uncaring treatment. The food is good, reasonably priced, and plentiful, as well. Hot, tasty soup and a grilled chicken sandwich made a good lunch, and a recent visit for dinner yielded an excellent “Bourbon Street Steak,” their 10oz.

5

Bandwagon Brewpub

114 North Cayuga Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-319-0699

This underground brewpub just off the Ithaca Commons quickly became a favorite when they opened in the fall of 2009. They serve their own beer ranging from good to great as well as lots of other microbrews, and some outstanding pub and bistro fare from an ever-changing menu. It's casual enough for a late-night snack and a pint, and snazzy enough to bring a date for a nice dinner, and affordable either way. 

4

BoatYard Grill

525 Taughannock Blvd
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-256-BOAT (2628)

This restaurant was opened by Mark Campagnolo, a former partner at Joe's Restaurant. The beautiful building with its nautical theme is a great setting for the exceptional, hearty food at this comfortable restaurant. Naturally, there's lots of fresh fish and seafood (brought daily from Boston), but the Texas Cowboy Steak (a porterhouse with a chipotle glaze served on the bone) and Boatyard Angus Sirloin (smothered with fresh roasted garlic) aren’t to be missed. Be prepared to wait for a table, and we keep hearing horror stories about iffy service.

4

Booker's Backyard

1638 East Shore Drive
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-319-0351

We love the attitude at Booker's as much as we love the menu, which offers a broad variety of comfort food prepared in creative ways. (There's a whole menu section just for macaroni & cheese variations.) There are burgers, brisket, and meatloaf; lobster rolls and scallop-laden sandwiches; and even an impressive array of vegetarian dishes, including roasted beet ravioli.

4

Carriage House Cafe

305 Stewart Avenue
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-645-0152

This restored old building in lower Collegetown has been turned into a beautiful eatery with gorgeous event space upstairs that features live music on some weekends. During the week, stop in for breakfast, brunch, or lunch Tuesday through Sunday, but be prepared for a long wait on weekends. The brie stuffed french toast is decadent, the steak and eggs the best in town, and the burgers, made from local beef and served on ciabatta with homemade sundried tomato puree, are out of this world.

3

Chili's Grill & Bar

608 South Meadow Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-272-5004

This national chain restaurant in Ithaca's southwest serves up American grill-style fare and southwest-themed food, ranging from their famous baby-back ribs to Mexican-style fare like quesadillas and tacos, as well as burgers and sandwiches. The burgers are overcooked as a matter of policy, but we've loved the Cajun tuna sandwich and the country fried steak. The bar specializes in decent margaritas, and it's always buy-one-get-one-free "happy hour" no matter the time of day.

4

CIAO Wood-Fired Pizza & Pasta

2 Hickory Hollow Lane
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-257-2233

CIAO is a new Italian eatery in the former home of Watercress and Billy Bob Jack's, off North Triphammer Road. Opened by owner Mark Campagnolo, formerly of Joe's and now a co-owner at the BoatYard Grill, they feature brick-oven pizza, as well as Tuscan-style dishes. They're off to an excellent start.

5

Fine Line Bistro

404 West State Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-277-1077

This relatively new west-end eatery features gorgeous exposed-brick decor surrounding an exposed kitchen, and lots of tasty and creative food, ranging from an excellent $10 burger (that's still "just" $10) to vegan tofu curry and a rack of lamb. There's lots of fresh seafood, fish, and tender pork and beef on the menu, as well.

4

Glenwood Pines

1213 Taughannock Boulevard
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-273-3709

A casual eatery four miles north of Cass Park on Route 89, with an active bar and plenty of relaxed seating. We highly recommend the fresh fish fry dinner or sandwich (depending on how hungry you are) or the infamous Pinesburger, served on French bread. Good steak and seafood dishes, and creative specials. Vegetarian options are very limited; the spaghetti sauce has usually had the meatballs cooked in it.

4

Heights Cafe and Grill

903 Hanshaw Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-257-4144

One of Ithaca's fanciest restaurants, The Heights has offered cozy fine dining for fifteen years. The menu ranges from comfort-food variations such as braised beef hash with a poached egg to gorgeous pan-roasted fish dishes and generous steaks. There are vegetarian offerings, including some of the handmade pizzas, and the Heights takes the gourmet burger prize with their $18 Brie Burger, featuring an entire pound of grilled sirloin. It's an expensive place to dine, but worth the occasional splurge.

5

Ithaca Ale House

111 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-256-7977

This downtown eatery on "Restaurant Row" quickly became a favorite, sporting fresh salads, crisp flatbreads, creative appetizers, soup and seafood, and what consistently gets our nod as the best burger in Ithaca. The outdoor seating and big french doors are great on summer evenings, and a variety of seating from barstools to booths to big tables indoors can handle just about any group.

4

Joe's Restaurant


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602 West Buffalo Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-256-3463

This old favorite in Ithaca's west end reopened several years ago to great fanfare and high expectations. Despite a shaky start, Joe's has settled down and provides good Italian-American fare. Specials in the bar, such as a pizza and a pint, make it more affordable than a full dinner can be.

5

John Joseph Inn & Elizabeth Restaurant

813 Auburn Road
Groton, NY 13073
Phone: 607-533-0097

In a beautiful country setting on Route 34 between Lansing and Groton, the John Joseph Inn is a marvelous bed & breakfast on the former site of the Rose Inn. Elizabeth Restaurant is in the refurbished 1852 barn that the Rose Inn called "The Carriage House," and they offer some truly outstanding meals. Breakfast for inn guests changes daily, and there's no menu -- but they'll adapt to dietary restrictions. Dinners are much more flexible, and are often an inspired and inspiring tasting menu showcasing local produce and meats. Reservations required.

4

John Thomas Steakhouse

1152 Danby Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-273-3464

This classic American steakhouse dry-ages its own top-notch beef and offers very thorough, very decadent dinners. It's a special-occasion sort of eatery, thanks to the price if not the decadence alone. In addition to the wide variety of steaks, John Thomas offers several fish and seafood dishes, as well as chicken and (limited) vegetarian entrees. We love sharing the Porterhouse for Two, along with a side of creamed spinach, or you can build your own surf & turf by combining a steak with a whole or half lobster.

5

Just a Taste

116 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-277-9463

Catering to an interesting mix of business owners, college students, and everyone in between, this wine and tapas bar offers an ever-changing menu of creative food, and a broad array of wines to sample. Since the menu changes every night we can't suggest a specific dish, but we'll tell you that if it sounds like an odd combination, it's probably exquisite. Try the sangria.

5

Le Cafe Cent-Dix

110 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-319-0750

This new French bistro, developed by the owners of Mercato Bar & Kitchen, is finally open! The menu offers such French staples as frisee salad with a perfectly poached egg, steak frites, roast chicken, mussels, and bouillabaisse, and our mouths are watering just thinking about it. The full bar offers signature cocktails, a deep selection of French and other wines, including a few wines "on tap" by the glass, half-liter carafe, or liter carafe.

4

Madeline's Restaurant

215 East State Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-277-2253

Best known, and deservedly so, for its decadent desserts and creative cocktails, Madeline's is also an upscale dining destination at the east end of the Ithaca Commons. Many of the dishes display an Asian influence, and the menu ranges from steaks and seafood to vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. The full bar has an enviable whisky selection, among its various strengths.

4

Mahogany Grill

112 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-272-1438

This beautiful space on Restaurant Row has good fare from sandwiches and salads to steaks and seafood, with quick and attentive but not overly pushy service. A wine list includes some decent Finger Lakes offerings, and the bar makes a great mojito. Try brunch, as well, for a good variety of omelets and eggs benedict variations, and either brandied french toast or a stuffed french toast. We'd provide a link to their web site, if it didn't start spewing unsolicited music at you. We won't do that to you, but we have faith you can find them if you so choose.

5

Mercato Bar & Kitchen

108 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-319-5171

On "restaurant row" in the former downtown home of Ragmann's, Mercato Bar & Kitchen offers crostini and charcuterie, pasta and pastry, steaks and seafood. They serve an extensive and affordable wine list and a creative cocktail menu, and they're always near the top of our list of area favorites.

5

Mitsuba Japanese Cuisine

2300 North Triphammer Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-319-0760

Mitsuba Japanese Cuisine is the fourth location of a family-owned restaurant chain that offers fresh sushi and hibachi, the popular Japanese steakhouse style of cooking where meals are prepared right in front of the diner. They also have a variety of dishes prepared in the kitchen, and attractive lunch pricing. They're in the former location of Kyushu in Ithaca's northeast, near the Shops at Ithaca Mall, with updated decor and a remarkable attention to beautifully presented food.

5

Rogues' Harbor Inn

2079 East Shore Drive
Lansing, NY 14850
Phone: 607-533-3535

Situated in an old building on the corner of two main Lansing thoroughfares, Rogue’s has a great selection of beers on tap and Finger Lakes wines, and appetizers that fall heavily into the fried category but are worth sampling. They’re known for their prime rib and large portions of everything; we recommend the Chicken Riggies, a rigatoni and chicken dish with vegetables in a delectable cream sauce. Ask about the building’s past as a station on the underground railroad, and its underground tunnel to Cayuga Lake, and check out the antique maps on the walls.

3

Stella's

403 College Ave
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-277-1490

Stella's is attractively decorated, has a fantastic bar selection, and offers a varied and creative menu. If the prices, portions, and service better matched the atmosphere, it would be a favorite. The burger, made with local beef, feels overpriced except when it's half price for "happy hour," and the $10-12 sandwiches feel skimpy, too. The fancier entrees head north of $20. The food's pretty tasty, so we wish we felt the portions and prices were better matched. The coffee shop side is much simpler and a better bang for your buck.

5

Taughannock Farms Inn

2030 Gorge Road (Route 89)
Trumansburg, NY 14886
Phone: 607-387-7711

Built 135 years ago as a private summer home, Taughannock Farms has spent about the last seventy years as a restaurant and inn, adjacent to the state park. Dinner here has an elegant feel, and virtually every table enjoys a nice view of the park and the lake, thanks to a tiered dining room whose walls are mostly window.

Each course was plentiful without being huge, so we left feeling well fed but not stuffed. We also felt well taken care of; our server was friendly and answered questions as they came up, always available without hovering.

4

Taverna Banfi

130 Statler Drive
Statler Hotel
Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone: 607-254-2565

On the second floor of the Statler Hotel on the Cornell campus, Taverna Banfi (formerly "Banfi's") is known for a solid lunch buffet, an exceptional and decadent Sunday brunch buffet, and a Tuscan-themed menu, with unrivaled views of campus. Much of the staff is from Cornell's School of Hotel Administration, learning how to operate a restaurant, but they're working with pros. For a casual visit, we love the simple tapas menu in the Banfi wine bar, set up nightly in the same room as the midday buffet.

3

The Rose Tap Room & Grill


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2255 North Triphammer Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone:

The Rose, in northeast Ithaca's Triphammer Marketplace, offers an ever-changing lunch buffet, a salad bar that's included with dinner entrees, a full bar with TVs for enjoying the game with a cold beer, and expanded space that's a nice change of pace from their former cramped quarters. It's straightforward American pub fare, featuring burgers and fish fry, but also broiled haddock, pasta dishes, and a tasty and generous chicken parmigiana.

0

The Waterwheel Cafe

2 Main Street
Freeville, NY 14850
Phone: 607-844-4499

We've heard great things about this family-run restaurant along Fall Creek in Freeville, at the corner of Routes 38 and 366 in the Town of Dryden. Try the salmon topped with shrimp, crab, and hollandaise, a bacon-wrapped filet, local elk burger, or vegetable provencal. 

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