Ithaca Ale House is still several eateries in one

January 25, 2011

We're downtown this week visiting an old favorite, the Ithaca Ale House. Open for about five years on Restaurant Row just off the Commons, the Ale House serves up basic pub fare but also flatbreads, huge creative salads, seafood dishes, and more, and of course one of the best beer selections in town.

This diverse cluster of restaurants in Downtown Ithaca got its start when Plums opened in the spot where the Mahogany Grill sits now, joining Simeon's and Hal's Deli to form a critical mass. The Ale House offers several styles of seating, depending on your mood. You can sit down at the bar for a pint and some munchies, enjoy a table outside if the weather's good, pick a booth for a family meal, or rearrange the tables in back for a large group.

Start off with an appetizer like the three-bite burgers -- a plate of four tiny burgers with onions and ketchup, just like White Castle, except tasty. Or the mini crab cakes, served over fresh greens with a tangy remoulade. Either goes well with the pub fries, deliciously spiced potato morsels, served nice and hot, with a tasty coconut curry dipping sauce.

Crab cakes also feature on the Surf-n-Turf Burger, a quarter-pound black angus burger topped with a crab cake. The Ale House has my favorite burger in town, the Perfect Burger, and there are several other burger variations in the $10 range. The Perfect Burger isn't for picky eaters; it comes with the toppings they specify, and you only get to pick how well done you'd like it.

Try the grilled cheese with creamy tomato soup, and the specials board often has something fun, from steak to seafood. The ancho chicken salad is a spicy and satisfying meal, greens topped with avocado, roasted corn, and more, and of course there are vegetarian salad and flatbread options.

Of course, I recommend a pint or two of beer, whether it's a fine Ithaca seasonal, Stone Pale Ale, or Wachusett Blueberry. Explore a little -- Ithaca Ale House has some beers you're not going to find at just any old watering hole. On a recent visit, we loved the Harpoon Winter Warmer served in a glass rimmed with gingerbread crumbs.

There are crazy desserts, like the deep-fried Oreos, and if you stop in late at night, there's a limited pub menu featuring simple items like fries and flatbreads. We also love the Ithaca Ale House Sunday brunch, with a crabcake eggs benedict, stuffed french toast, or even a crisp Monte Cristo sandwich. 

Plan on spending $10-20 on a meal. Find the Ithaca Ale House at 111 North Aurora Street or ithacaalehouse.com or call 607-256-7977 and tell them you heard about them here.

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