Lehigh Valley House, Ithaca's oldest restaurant, to shut down

July 15, 2010

The year is 1897, and the 14850 Dining Report is visiting a new eatery on the other side of the tracks. Right near Ithaca's bustling railroad station on the Geneva and Ithaca railroad line, the Lehigh Valley House serves a hearty dinner to passengers and train crews on their brief stopovers, and provides a warm bed to travelers spending the night in Ithaca before continuing on.

Photo by Franklin Crawford, TinyTownTimes.Photo by Franklin Crawford, TinyTownTimes.But it's not 1897, it's 2010, and the 14850 Dining Report is sorry to report that after 113 years and fewer owners than you might think, the Lehigh Valley House is closing its kitchen after dinner on Friday, July 23rd.

Neither the building nor the menu's simple cross-section of classic American fare has changed much over the last several decades. You can order just a sandwich, or a small meal, but the Valley House is known for its traditional, multi-course American dinner.

Start with a cup of soup or a glass of tomato juice. There used to be a third choice, chicken livers, but those faded off the menu a while back. The soup of the day on a recent visit was hamburger and barley with mustard greens, an odd-sounding combination to be sure, but a delicious medley.

Warm slices of Italian bread and a plate of onion rings for the table are a homey touch. Next up is a small salad, and then your entree, which isn't skimpy to begin with, comes with two side dishes of your choice, such as spaghetti, cole slaw, a baked potato, or the vegetable of the day.

Each entree comes with more appetizers and sides than you can shake a stick at.Each entree comes with more appetizers and sides than you can shake a stick at.Lehigh Valley House has been known for its prime rib, and the chicken or veal parmigiana make for a comfort food alternative. The entrees range from a bit below twenty bucks to a bit over -- but that price includes the complete meal. You could probably leave hungry if you tried really hard -- but we're betting you'd leave with leftovers.

It's Ithaca's oldest restaurant by far, and it's served countless generations of locals, students, visiting parents, tourists, travelers, and regular folks who wanted to relax with a comfortable meal. Following next Friday night's dinner, the Lehigh Valley House tap room will remain open as a bar, and owner Joe Ciaschi says he hopes to continue their popular Wednesday night wing special.

For much of its history, the Lehigh Valley House was accompanied on the west side of the Cayuga Lake Inlet by the Station Restaurant, also owned in recent decades by the Ciaschi family. That eatery closed several years ago, after adding "sleeping car" bed & breakfast accommodations in the late 1990s.

Plan on spending $20-30 on a meal. The Lehigh Valley House is at 801 West Buffalo Street, on the corner of Taughannock Boulevard near the waterfront. Get in there soon.

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