81 posts in this topic

Watkins Glen; Montour Falls; Dundee; Hector; Lodi; Ithaca

I travel to Watkins Glen, NY several time a year to indulge in my other passion [see sig line]. It's almost axiomatic that where the racing is good, the food is lousy. But not in the Finger Lakes region. Here's my take on a few restaurants in the area.

In Watkins Glen proper, for breakfast and lunch the best bet is Glen Mountain Market, with very good fresh coffee, pastires, and breads. At lunch they offer soups, subs, and creative sandwhiches (like turkey, blue cheese, and sliced apple). The wait is always ridiculously long - call ahead if you're coming from the track.

Savard's is a typical old fashioned American diner, decent for breakfast but otherwise awful. For the true greasy spoon diner breakfast head south toward Montour Falls and hit Chef's [open since 1949].

Jerlando's is not bad for a basic pizza parlor.

Seneca Harbor Station is barely acceptable - big space, decent outdoor seating in season, but boring American style steak and chicken.

Every other place in town that I've tried (Wildflower Cafe, Bianco's Daughters [For Sale in 2011]), is too terrible for words.

On the west side of Seneca Lake is an overblown 'bed and breakfast' (it's really a motel) - The Inn at Glenora, I think they call it - with an equally overblown restaurant. Avoid. They've clearly been exposed to finer food but totally fail to execute the (medium)high-concept dishes.

The east side of the lake is where you'll hit gold. The following places tend to emphasize local produce and dairy. And wines, which is not necessarily a good thing.

In Hector, the Bistro at Red Newt serves pretty good modern American food in a very nice space with a good view of the lake.

Stonecat Cafe is a quirky restaurant built out of an old roadside fruit stand. The food is kinda latter-day hippie style. Brunch on the rear deck in summertime is a real treat. It may not be technically the best in the area, but the owners' style really shines, it's laid back, and it's anything but formulaic (my main complain against Glenora, come to think of it). It's my favorite.

Further north in Lodi is Suzanne ("Fine Regional Cuisine"). Last summer the menu offered dishes like crab and salmon ravioli with Chanpagne vinaigrette; diver scallops with pea puree; salmon with morels leeks and sweet peas; roasted breast of duck with wild rice, currants, and pine nuts in green peppercorn sauce. I only ate there once but it was very, very good. I remember thinking that Suzanne could hold her own if she were in DC (I don't think the same is true of Red Newt, though Stonecat could make it in the right location - say, Del Ray).

In Ithaca Just a Taste offers some fantastic tapas.

That's it for a quick recollection. I know there are several others on this forum who've dined in the region. Hopefully you'll chime in with more restaurants and more details.

[this post was edited by DonRocks, who didn't have the guts to say so. :P ]

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Hector

For those lowbrow occasions when you need a roadhouse, by far your best bet is Big Johnson's in Hector, one of those shacks where the locals swill cheap beer between staggering up to the karaoke mike. I understand they used to hang Barbie dolls from the ceiling for decoration, too. However, don't pass up the Baked Alaska...it's quite satisfying, and exotic among the usual burgers and fries.

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I travel to Watkins Glen, NY several time a year to indulge in my other passion [see sig line]. It's almost axiomatic that where the racing is good, the food is lousy. But not in the Finger Lakes region. Here's my take on a few restaurants in the area.

We will be in the Glen area from June 9 through the 11th. I wish you had posted this about 2 months ago. tongue.gif I haven't been to the Glen for over 30 years so it's good to know any and all decent places to eat. (of which there aren't many). I'll accept any suggestions for good food because here is where we will be for dinner on Saturday night...Saturday night dinner...not exactly my first choice but anything that sounded good or avant garde was overruled as either too expensive or too exotic....Fortunately Saturday and Sunday lunch are still not group efforts so there may be a way to save a bit of the weekend.

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I'll accept any suggestions for good food because here is where we will be for dinner on Saturday night...Saturday night dinner...

Nothing to do with food but while you're out and about on the lake, wave at the big schooner Malabar X if she's out there. Last and largest of the Alden racing schooners, she was completely rebuilt a few years back by owner Doug Hazlitt of the Hazlitt 1852 winery, and nowadays takes tourists around the lake.

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Buffalo; Lodi; Penn Yan

Time and weather permitting, we often drive through the Fingerlakes region several times a year on our way from DC to Buffalo to see family. For many, many years, most of the Fingerlakes have been a dining nightmare, relegating us to munching Parmesan Goldfish and sipping diet Cokes while we cruise through. Things have picked up recently, however. We have eaten often at the Red Newt Bistro. The preparations are nothing to write home about, but decent, and best when they use local suppliers. The menu is creative for the area (it is posted on their web site). A warm spring or autumn afternoon on their Seneca Lake-facing deck is a good way to break up the trip.

We had an interesting experience at Suzanne's, up a bit in scale and along the same road. We were overnighting in the area and heard that they were having a wine dinner with the owners of Standing Stone winery, so we snagged a table. Driving to the restaurant, we were suspicious about the utter quiet and darkness that had descended upon the eastern shore of the lake. A sudden, fierce storm had came up and knocked out the electricity for nearly the whole east side of the lake. Finding the place in the dark was a challenge. Undaunted, the restaurant had a gas stove and lots of candles, and we had a wonderful evening. The electricity came back on just as we were leaving. We certainly will return.

One Seneca Lake place that gets some good press lately is called Dano's. We haven't been, but will try it perhaps later this summer.

We were not impressed by the food at Esperanza, at the north end of Keuka Lake. Straight out of Sysco. Too bad, because the location is gorgeous.

I agree with Porcupine's evaluation of the Glenora; mediocre food in a setting that promises more.

We have yet to find the "we want to return" restaurant in Corning, which for its size and history should be able to do a lot better than it does.

Thanks for the suggestion on Stonecat; we will try it, too.

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Geneva

Belhurst Castle on the northwest side of Seneca Lake near Geneva is a beautiful place. Several well furnished, classic dining rooms in the mansion. A nice setting right on the lake. The kitchen did a nice job when we were there about 2.5 years ago. On the nights we were there, in late October, the Northern Lights came down south very far. Fantastic evening sitting out behind the castle with a bottle of wine and watching the colors in the sky shimmering over the lake.

They were in the process of building some new accomodations next to the castle when we were there. I don't know if these new rooms will add or detract from the ambiance of the place.

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Ithaca

As a Cornell alum, I had to chime in with two Ithaca recommendations: Just a Taste (excellent tapas/small plates-- not Spanish or Mexican, though) and of course, the venerable Moosewood Restaurant for vegetarian fare. If you find yourself in Collegetown, Aladdin's was good for Middle Eastern, though I have no idea if it's still around.

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Ithaca

As another Cornell alum, I suggest deep dish pizza at The Nines. I have heard, though, that its sister restaurant, The Chariot, is no more. Can anyone verify? [it closed during the summer of 2005]

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As another Cornell alum, I suggest deep dish pizza at The Nines. I have heard, though, that its sister restaurant, The Chariot, is no more. Can anyone verify?

I have heard the same too, from someone who actually went to reunion. I loved the corn fritters at the Chariot!

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Ithaca

Another Cornell alum here with a lot of nostalgia (and sadness over the Chariot's closing which I unhappily can confirm) -- and a few Ithaca dining ideas. Cheap and in Ithaca's Collegetown: I second the recommendation for pizza (it's deep dish) at The Nines (The Nines). Also: Aladdin's on Eddy Street for salads and middle eastern food, Souvlaki House on Eddy Street for Greek Salad, Ruloff's on College Avenue for sort of "American" food. Moosewood Cafe downtown in the DeWitt Mall is a piece of history. If you want to relive your hippie days go to ABC Cafe [Closed Spring, 2010] on Stuart Avenue. If you're in Ithaca by Cornell, and you're walking around and in need of a snack, head to the Cornell Dairy Store (on campus by the vet school) for some good, creamy and not frou frou ice cream . For a good Saturday night place, I'm a little stumped as the places I would love to recommend have closed. There used to be a wonderful French restaurant called L'Auberge du Cochon Rouge. It has become John Thomas Steakhouse which is apparently well liked. I also have heard that Just a Taste in downtown Ithaca is great. I haven't been to Willow, [Closed] although I have the sneaking suspicion I went there in its prior incarnation on the night before I graduated. I also haven't been to Madeline's (also downtown Ithaca on the Commons) but I've heard raves about its desserts -- and single malts. Now, if you're looking to hear a crazy band in a funky location, I can talk and talk and talk about the Rongovian Embassy in Trumansburg. In any event, I saw these two websites that may be of more help: Ithaca and Ithaca Dining.

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Ithaca

Corn fritters = THE BEST. I grew up eating homemade corn fritters with maple syrup, but at The Chariot, I learned to love 'em with blue cheese. RIP Chariot (and Little Joe's for that matter).

I have heard the same too, from someone who actually went to reunion. I loved the corn fritters at the Chariot!

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Ithaca

In Ithaca, there's a surprising amount of good food. Never been to Moosewoods... always meant to, but the vegetarian aspect of it never really motivates me. The best discovery in Ithaca is north of Cornell... The Heights Cafe. Excellent food and service that can rival any of the comparable places in DC. Expensive by Ithaca standards... moderate by DC standards.

I always liked Cosmo's for breakfast. I want to like Simeon's on the Commons, but it inevitably disappoints me. The one time I went to The Station, it also disappointed. The Thai place over by Wegmans was always good also. Forget about any Chinese food in Ithaca... Vietnamese place on Dryden Ave was always a good deal. Taughonnack Inn northeast of Ithaca is supposed to be a nice place also.

btw, Joe's Restaurant is back after a demise of a few years... I may go by when I'm there over 4th of July weekend.

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Ithaca

In Ithaca, there's a surprising amount of good food. Never been to Moosewoods... always meant to, but the vegetarian aspect of it never really motivates me. The best discovery in Ithaca is north of Cornell... The Heights Cafe. Excellent food and service that can rival any of the comparable places in DC. Expensive by Ithaca standards... moderate by DC standards.

I always liked Cosmo's for breakfast. I want to like Simeon's on the Commons, but it inevitably disappoints me. The one time I went to The Station, it also disappointed. The Thai place over by Wegmans was always good also. Forget about any Chinese food in Ithaca... Vietnamese place on Dryden Ave was always a good deal. Taughonnack Inn northeast of Ithaca is supposed to be a nice place also.

btw, Joe's Restaurant is back after a demise of a few years... I may go by when I'm there over 4th of July weekend.

I agree that Ithaca has a lot of really good restaurants considering its size and location (I have spent time in another college town--I'll give a clue, its initials are AA-- that had pretty mediocre food). I forgot to mention Thai Cuisine-- they claim to have the "best Thai food in NY state outside of NYC." My husband LOVES that place (well, based on a 10-year-old memory), but I don't know if it's really worth going to if you live in an area like we do with lots of excellent Thai options. As for the Moosewood being vegetarian, I had always found that as a non-vegetarian, there were always many good and inventive things to eat. Also, they serve fish, so you will not be eating a plate of string veggies. Finally, I have always wanted to go to Taughonnack Farms as I remember that in order to get a reservation for graduation, you had to write an essay. (I don't know if that's actually true or if it is still true.)

The problem with dining options in college towns is (1) many people's recommendations may not be trustworthy because they are based on what they nostalgically remember was "good;" was "good" for when they were in college; or was the expensive place to take dates and parents. (2) If you return to your alma mater, you are not likely to want to sample a new restaurant but rather return to your old stomping grounds. I'll probably never make it to any of the places I never tried before in Ithaca.

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Ithaca

I agree that Ithaca has a lot of really good restaurants considering its size and location (I have spent time in another college town--I'll give a clue, its initials are AA-- that had pretty mediocre food). I forgot to mention Thai Cuisine-- they claim to have the "best Thai food in NY state outside of NYC." My husband LOVES that place (well, based on a 10-year-old memory)...

If it's the one I dined at last September, it's still good...fresh basil, rich curries. I think I digested afterwards while looking at the Carl Sagan monument thing farther along the pedestrian district. Considering how rural western NY (like most of the country) can be, Ithaca is a good little oasis for its size. Also worth a visit: Pie Girl.

If only AA had restaurants like they have bookshops! I had a pretty good Ethiopian meal in AA not too long ago, although being served Ethiopian in a modern restaurant space with conventional booths was kind of a first for me. Aren't they close enough to Detroit to have a critical mass of Middle Eastern food? And of course, there's Zingerman's.

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Ithaca

Was in Ithaca and the Finger Lakes over the long 4th of July weekend. Again mostly pleased with all the dining options up there.

First night went to The Heights cafe. They really have outstanding food. We all got some type of steak.... ranging from tenderloins to ribeye to porterhouses. They were all quite good... not quite prepared the same way as RTS. First the cuts were a bit thicker... and then on the ribeye there was a semisweet glaze, enough to accent the meat without overpowering it. Just way to full for dessert that night.

Other dinners on the weekend included Just a Taste, Joe's, and the Nines. I swear the Nines pizza is actually better than I remember. Get the deep dish.... dough doesn't have that little sweet taste anymore (which always seemed a bit odd to me). Pizza prep time/service just as slow as I remember. Joe's is back. Unbelievably, I never went to Joe's when I went to Cornell.... the one person in our group who had been said it was pretty much as she remembered... with a few changed menu items. Don't go expecting haute Italian cuisine... but for affordable southern Italian cuisine.... it fits the bill. Just a Taste was a bit disappointing to me. As DCinDC says, it's tapas, but not like Jaleo... just small plate food. We went late and they seemed hurried. Food was good, but not particularly memorable. The one distinctive thing were the wine flights they offered.... 5 3-oz tastes for $10. They had some pre-created flights, or you could create your own - very good value. My impression of Just a Taste could've been influenced by a full day of wine tasting on Seneca Lake though.

Couple other places that haven't been mentioned that are good for breakfast/brunch... Cafe DeWitt (in the DeWitt mall, where Moosewoods is) and the venerable Collegetown Bagels... I think I like the Collegetown location better though than the one downtown. We tried the Ithaca diner on State St one morning... passable, but nothing great... if you want diner food, go to Mano's instead.

For the CU (and IC) alums... Starbucks has finally invaded Ithaca.... on the ground floor of the Hilton Garden Inn that opened just north of the Commons. In Collegetown, the Greek House and the corner convenience store are gone. It's strange to see Stella's - coffeebar on one side... martini bar on the other, yes a martini bar in C-town. The usual beer hangouts are still there... Dunbars, Royal Palms, Ruloffs, Chapter House. Aladdins is also still there... surprisingly the cheap Vietnam restaurant is also still there.

Wine tasting was mixed on Seneca and Cayuga Lakes.... Rieslings had a tough year in 2004. The standout wines from the trip.... Wiemer Semi-Dry Riesling and the Standing Stone Vidal Ice wine.

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Wait...Joe's is back from the dead? Same "concept" new ownership or old ownership? Breadsticks?

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yes - Joe's is back in the same space. same concept; new owners. breadsticks and bottomless saladbowl. click for ithaca journal story on reopening.

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Hector; Lodi

Just back from having my a** kicked at the Glen, but the trip was worthwhile because of some fine eatin'.

The Stonecat Cafe was as good as always, if not better. Mr P had cremini and protobello mushroom ravioli in a red wine, chevre, and sage sauce. The flavors were nicely balanced, with no one thing dominant. I had a simple linguine with greens, mushrooms and tomatoes in a white wine sauce with a touch of pecorino.

I continue to think of this as one of my favorite restaurants ever, but I can't quite say why. It doesn't look like much from the outside - the building used to be a roadside fruit stand - but inside the decor is simple, a bit homey but not at all kitschy; airy and light. The back deck has a most delightful view of vineyards rolling down to the lake. The food is rarely high-concept but the quality of ingredients is excellent, the preparations well executed, and the taste is, well, just delicious. Service is simple and friendly. No pretentions here.

We also had brunch on that deck before heading home. It may be in New York State but it's still some of the best pulled pork barbeque I've ever had.

Maybe I like it so much because the food always exceeds the expectations you'd get from the setting. Unfortunately the opposite is true of The Bistro at Red Newt, which tries for high concept (mostly) and doesn't quite make it. The setting, a big, lofty, airy, wood-filled space also overlooking Seneca Lake, is much nicer than Stonecat - well, in a fine dining way, anyway. But the food just doesn't knock my socks off. Mr P had a bacon wrapped filet mignon, and I had a bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with a filling of chevre and arugula, served with a blueberry and red wine sauce. Really nice flavors, but somehow boring. Service is not simple or friendly, but rather trying to be formal and not succeeding. I'd rather they set the bar lower and clear it rather than setting it high and failing. Also, it really irritates me when the server gets my order wrong and then argues with me about it.

Of course, the best of both worlds would be a place that sets the bar high and clears it consistently. That place would be Suzanne, in Lodi. We went with two other couples and had a grand time in a more formal setting (and more intimate, in an old farmhouse), with better service, and perfectly executed dishes that were well-conceived and showcased their ingredients. I had a simple, fresh, delicate corn soup, poured over a small mound of fresh tomato and roasted shrimp, and my main course was a perfectly cooked duck breast (medium rare inside, ultra crispy skin) in a red wine sauce, with a wild rice side enlivened by thin strips of candied lemon, and simple sugar snap peas (no sauce or other flavors).

Suzanne is easily the best of the three by any measure, but Stonecat is still my favorite, just for the vibe.

Also popped into Dano's Heuriger (also in Lodi), recently relocated from Ithaca. Apparently the chef was in Ithaca for something like 15 years and has a devoted following. Another big, open, airy, wood-filled space, with a menu offering spreads (liptauer, gorgonzola, horseradish walnut, artichoke lemon...); salads (corn and cabbage, celery root remoulade, Viennese potato, daikon cilantro...); lots o' different breads; charcuterie (pate, bockwurst, knockwurst...); fish (smoked trout, herring salad, smoked bluefish mousse...); roast meats (chicken and pork); side dishes (spatzle, knodel...); and several German desserts. I really wish I could have eaten here once or twice and report on how all of these taste.

Next time, no Red Newt, but a nice feast at Dano's instead.

I still don't like NY wines.

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I still don't like NY wines.
Slightly off topic, but we did find a Glenora Dry Riesling that is very nice. Limited run, 2003 vintage, very good for NY wine and beats Taylor by two country miles...bummer about the racing.

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Watkins Glen

PS - In Watkins Glen proper, Tobe's (coffee and donuts) has reopened. And the decrepit old building on the south side of town, at the junction of Rts 14 and 414, has been renovated and now houses a Great Harvest Bread Company, which has the great virtue (for Watkins) of being open at 6:30 am.

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Ithaca

Cucas87 and I dined at Moosewood Café on Thursday Night. Overall the experience was very good. The atmosphere is pleasant, the drinks were not expensive, the food was very good to great. We started with a chickpea humus like app. Tried some Veggie Jamacian Calliloo soup, and a flounder with rice and pastico entrée. Dessert was some homemade ice cream. Definitely a healthy low fat meal! Dinner with 2 drinks apiece was 80 bucks including tax and tip.

Since there are some CU grads on the board, tonight we are "eating from the HOT TRUCK" Some sort of French bread Pizza truck that is only open from 9pm-3am. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelliana

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Ithaca

HOT TRUCK? DID SOMEONE SAY HOT TRUCK?

Hot Truck,welcome back, how I had missed you!

Apparently Bob sold the truck and it's up and running again as of at least last year. It was a little odd to find the hot truck parked on the Arts Quad, but that was done, I'm sure, for Reunions and the many alums who never would walk down to west campus (especially in light of the fact that it is largely a construction complex now) to find it. We shared an MBC, which was warm and gooey and delicious. Prices, of course, are higher than I recall! I also should note that the wait time wasn't too bad because they had anticipated the onslaught of alums so the experience this time around was a little different than in the old days. But really good. Especially when we took the MBC to our tent party madness.

Incidentally, if you are a Cornell alum and haven't been to Collegetown recently -- and I hadn't been back in 5 years -- it's a sad sight as many storefronts are vacant. Still around: Ruloffs, Collegetown Bagels, Aladdins, Sangam, Dino's, Dunbars and, of course, the Royal Palm. Oh and Starbucks is in Collegetown now. Sigh.

One last note about the Moosewood Cafe: it's a wifi hot spot. This ain't the Mooseood of old.

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Watkins Glen; Hector; Lodi

Reporting from Watkins Glen, once again at the annual kicking of my a** (aka the July Sprints). [edited to add - not so bad this year cool.gif ]

Stonecat Cafe is still my favorite. Not much has changed since my last visit. Everything our small group ordered was almost perfect (a slightly overcooked double-cut pork chop was the only misfire). The Jazz brunch is a real treat - the pastry chef's blueberry crumble is a great amuse.

Tobe's is indeed reopened, and joy of joys open at 5 am seven days a week! The new owners have really cleaned the place up without losing the greasy-spoon diner charm. The chef supposedly came from Chef's in Montour Falls. We had a good basic diner breakfast - scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, coffee - but the really good news is that the donuts are fresh and lively. They must've finally dumped that 30 year old vat of fry oil. Afternoons they serve ice cream and milkshakes from the deck.

Dano's Heuriger is every bit as good as I hoped it would be, if not better. Fourteen of us went and sampled a very large portion of the Austrian/German/Hungarian menu, including charcuterie, spreads, salads, braised red cabbage, creamed squash, weiner schnitzel, breaded catfish filets, an unusual take on a hamburger, spaetzle... you get the idea. The Viennese Bento Box was a cute way to sample many different dishes. And for parties of six or more, you can order the Chef's Table, which is basically the entire menu. Desserts included various seasonal fruit tarts, puddings, and cakes.

Our New York (city) friend, originally from Austria, was absolutely delighted. "It's just like home! And almost New York good." He explained that a heuriger is a neighborhood place where people go to sample "this year's" wines, while nibbling away at small plates of food. So of course the place has a long wine list, featuring Finger Lakes wine (and beers from Wagner).

One thing I always look forward to when arriving in Watkins Glen is the big neon sign flashing Mr. Chicken. It's a silly place, with a bunch of crap junk food (Mr P's burger was just about the worst ever), but darn the fried chicken is tasty. I always get a plate of spicy hot wings with blue cheese dressing, and fries. Hits the spot. You can get fried chicken pieces by the bucket - they'll be just cool enough to pick up with your hands by the time you get back up the hill to the track.

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