Bandwagon Brewpub is an underground favorite in Downtown Ithaca

April 2, 2013

We're downtown this week visiting Bandwagon Brewpub, a basement bar and eatery that quickly became a favorite after they opened in the fall of 2009. 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. 

Cajun sausage chowder at Bandwagon.Cajun sausage chowder at Bandwagon.Appetizers include an ever-changing soup, like a recent beet and garlic bisque or southwest corn chowder, coconut shrimp with a tangy orange marmalade dipping sauce, potato-cheddar wontons, or a new charcuterie plate.

Veggie-burger with bacon. Don't judge us.Veggie-burger with bacon. Don't judge us.Up next are the burgers, a very good half-pound burger made from local beef and served with roasted garlic mayo -- and the best veggie-burger I've ever had, bar none. It's made from pecans, beans, and barley, and it's a seriously great burger, veggie or otherwise. Top either one with a thick slice of house-cured local bacon.

The fish and chips plate is beer-battered catfish with Bandwagon's awesome fries, or go vegan with a delicious Thai curry featuring potatoes, mushrooms, ginger, and more. If you're ready for a dare, the citrusy pasta with onion, pineapple, banana, and habanero comes with a boldface warning, and they mean it -- it's seriously spicy! Add shrimp or chicken, and don't say we didn't warn you.

Bandwagon's beet and goat cheese salad, topped with grilled chicken.Bandwagon's beet and goat cheese salad, topped with grilled chicken.The salads make a good meal, too. Try the beets and goat cheese with candied walnuts over greens, and top any salad with chicken, shrimp, or even a veggie burger. Tuesday night is wing night, with sauces like your basic hot, or creative options such as pineapple teriyaki or bacon bourbon molasses.

Bandwagon's own beer.Bandwagon's own beer.It's a brewpub, so there's a rotating selection of beers brewed right there, from the raspberry jalapeño ale to the seasonal stouts on tap right now, Sully's Irish Stout or the Cabin Fever maple porter. But the five Bandwagon brews on tap at any moment are just a small fraction of the beer list, with entries from excellent microbrews like Roosterfish, Dogfish Head, Goose Island, and Harpoon. Order by the pint, or try a flight for variety's sake.

Of course there are those few folks who aren't into beer. The full bar includes New York wines and others from around the world, as well as top-notch spirits that include Finger Lakes Distilling's Seneca Drums Gin and McKenzie Bourbon, plus a few great Scotch single malts. Naturally, there's also Ithaca Root Beer and Ginger Beer.

Just looking for a late-night snack? Lots of menu items are available right up to last call, and the house brews are a buck off after 10pm or all night on Tuesday. A lunch menu is available Friday through Sunday from noon to 4pm. We're sorry to see that Bandwagon doesn't include their menus on their web site, probably since they change daily, but you can download a PDF of the menu to view if your web browsing setup allows that.

This underground space used to be Groover's and Yah Mon, and we're delighted that it's been reborn as a restaurant that was so successful so fast that they expanded into the basement next door before their first anniversary. The new lounge space adds a second bar, a couple more high-top tables with stools, and some comfy couches for relaxing with a beverage.

Plan on spending $12-30 on a meal at Bandwagon. Find them at Bandwagonbeer.com or under the yellow awning at 114 North Cayuga Street, or call 607-319-0699 and tell them you heard about them here.

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