When I was a kid, Sunday brunch meant a big buffet at a nearby hotel, and this week 14850 Dining checks out one of Ithaca's few remaining big hotel brunches at the Ramada Inn. On North Triphammer Road in front of the Shops at Ithaca Mall, the Ramada prepares a surprisingly affordable brunch buffet plus omelet-to-order station that we're pleased to see has improved this year.
The Ramada brunch had come to be known for dried-out food and overcooked eggs benedict, but a new chef who insists on top-notch food quality has made a real difference. Smaller batches of fresher food spend less time on the buffet, and taste better when they reach your table.
The eggs benedict now has perfectly poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, still moist rather than rubbery. The nearby bacon is hot and crisp, and we love the biscuits with sausage gravy on the side.
There's a vat of scrambled eggs, but we preferred the omelet station, where a skilled cook whips up two or three omelets at a time exactly as you like them. Beyond the usual mushrooms, bacon, and cheese, we were happy to see broccoli and spinach as omelet options. And between omelets, he's making fresh waffles to top with strawberries or syrup. The waffles are a big step up from the pancakes and french toast on the buffet, though even those aren't bad. A six-month-old friend spent a good ten minutes enjoying a piece of the french toast.
As lunchtime approaches, the price goes up a couple of bucks but the carved and sliced meats come out, along with suitable side dishes, such as roast turkey with stuffing and candied sweet potatoes, sliced london broil with gravy, and baked ham with mashed potatoes. We couldn't resist the chicken francese, crisply breaded and lemony. Here, too, smaller batches keep things fresh; the chef prepares or slices more throughout the day. Green beans were crisp instead of limp, and aforementioned six-month-old was a fan of the sweet potatoes.
A salad bar selection is tiny, but we're betting it doesn't see a lot of action, considering what surrounds it. The nearby dessert table features loads of fresh fruit if you're in a healthy mood, and delicious cakes, pies, and pastries if that's what you're after, plus bagels and the like.
A variety of juice is included with your brunch, a bottomless pot of coffee costs a little extra, and it's worth splurging on a Bloody Mary to kick off your Sunday. I asked for mine spicy, and our helpful waiter suggested Absolut Peppar to give it an extra bite.
It's easy to over-indulge, but we recommend taking it easy and visiting again soon. The lunch entree menu changes weekly; we hear sliced brisket and corned beef are coming up the next couple of weekends.
The Ramada brunch is $6.95 before 11 and $8.95 after, with the lunch items on the buffet. Plan on spending $10-15 with drinks and tip. Find the Ithaca Airport Ramada Inn at 2310 North Triphammer Road, just north of Route 13, or give them a call at 607-257-3100 and tell them you heard about them here.