Nestled between the stunning Ithaca Falls and shimmering Cayuga Lake, the city of Ithaca offers a vibrant downtown area with art galleries, unique shops, and fantastic restaurants. The pedestrian-friendly Ithaca Commons forms the urban core, filled with boutiques, coffee shops, and eateries. Beyond the city’s distinct culture fueled by Cornell University, Ithaca boasts a thriving food scene with the highest restaurants per capita in the state, second only to New York City.
From waterside seafood grills to authentic Italian trattorias, Ithaca’s eclectic mix of over 200 restaurants offers something for every palate. Here are seven must-try spots showcasing the best cuisine Ithaca has to offer:
The Boat Yard Grill
Location: 525 Taughannock Boulevard, Ithaca, NY 14850
Watch the boats cruise across Cayuga Lake while enjoying live music at this lively grill located right on the water. The summer ambiance coupled with fantastic cocktails and seafood dishes makes The Boat Yard Grill a memorable Ithaca experience. Outdoor seating and dancing add to the festive atmosphere.
Start your meal with their signature Clam Chowder or Coconut Shrimp before indulging in fresh seafood entrées. Top picks include the Surf and Turf with lobster and NY strip steak, Seafood Fra Diavolo piled high with shrimp, scallops and calamari, or the Sticky Halibut glazed with an orange ginger sauce. Cap off your visit with a chocolatey Godiva Martini.
- Clam Chowder Soup
- Coconut Shrimp Appetizer
- Sizzling Garlic Sirloin Steak with cipollini onions, blistered tomatoes, rosemary roasted potato, and roasted garlic
- Surf and Turf: Grilled Maine lobster tail, sliced NY strip, lemon Chardonnay, fresh vegetable, and rosemary mashed potatoes
- Sticky Halibut: Jasmine rice, orange segments, rice crisps, fresh vegetables, and orange glaze
- Signature Drink: Godiva Chocolate Martini made with Godiva dark chocolate liquor, crème de cocoa, and Absolut vanilla
Location: 903 Hanshaw Road #13, Ithaca, NY 14850
For a taste of France in Ithaca, visit Alléchant for their authentic brunches and welcoming hospitality. Their lemon soufflé pancakes and French toast “éclair” stacked with mascarpone and chocolate show off their knack for brunch. Foodies rave about the perfectly poached eggs and rich espresso. The mid-century modern interior and Francophile host add European flair.
Brunch Menu Highlights:
- French Toast “éclair” with vanilla mascarpone, Belgian chocolate, and fresh raspberries
- Lemon Soufflé Pancakes with raspberry compote and maple syrup
- Quiche Lorraine
- Eggs Benedict
- “The food is fantastic. The eggs are poached to perfection.”
- “We love how dog-friendly this place is!”
Location: 2 Hickory Hollow Lane, Ithaca, NY 14850
For casual Tuscan cuisine in a lively setting, Ciao! offers family-style dining and authentic Italian flare. Their chicken wings baked with caramelized onions and Parmesan make a savory starter. The chicken Parmesan entrée served over angel hair pasta puts a twist on this Italian classic.
The thin crust artisan pizzas like the Pear and Gorgonzola are fired up fresh in their wood-burning oven. Other favorites include the tenderloin steak dressed with gorgonzola and roasted peppers and their homemade lasagna layered with bechamel and meat sauce.
- Grilled Chicken Wings with caramelized onions and Parmesan cheese
- Chicken Parmesan over angel hair pasta (a Ciao original)
- Artisan, hand-crafted pizzas cooked to order like the Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza with freshly sliced pear, caramelized onions, bacon, and gorgonzola
- For dessert, choose between Limoncello or Tiramisu
Location: 903 Hanshaw Road, Ithaca, NY 14850
With its Tuscan patios and Mediterranean-inspired American fare, Heights Cafe stands out as one of upstate New York’s premier wine restaurants. Their locally sourced menu bursts with inventive flavor combinations.
The Bounty Harvest appetizer delivers a vegetarian bounty of roasted veggies, brussels sprouts, and beets. For your entrée, choose between their wood-fired pizzas, salmon with basil pistou or Brazilian steak with chimichurri. Finish with a chocolate molten lava cake “soufflé” for a decadent capper.
- Tuscan-inspired outdoor patio
- Bounty Harvest: Brussels sprouts, roasted carrots, crispy broccoli, sriracha honey, candied nuts, beets, and bleu cheese
- Main Course Choices: Handcrafted Pizza, Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Brazilian Skirt Steak
- Tempting Dessert: Lava Cake “Soufflé” (decadent chocolate dessert)
Location: 1159 Dryden Road, Ithaca, NY 14850
Since 1922, Antlers Restaurant has been a favorite neighborhood spot, originally catering to hunters and locals. Now expanded, its rustic interior is decorated with equestrian memorabilia and the menu goes far beyond pub grub.
Start with their signature Baby Back Ribs or rich Lobster Bisque before indulging in premium steaks. Choose from Porterhouse, Prime Sirloin, NY Strip or the tender Delmonico. Fresh seafood like glazed salmon and sea scallops au gratin round out the menu. Finish your meal with their unique cornmeal and molasses Indian Pudding served warm with vanilla ice cream.
Main Course Highlights:
- Baby Back Rib Appetizer
- Lobster Bisque soup
- Steak Choices: Porterhouse, NY Strip, Prime Sirloin, and Delmonico
- Glazed Salmon or Scallops Au Gratin
- Dessert: New England Indian Pudding with warm cornmeal flavored with molasses, cinnamon, and ginger, served with vanilla ice cream
Location: 215 North Cayuga St., Ithaca, NY 14850
Founded in 1973, the legendary Moosewood Restaurant pioneered the vegetarian movement and put Ithaca on the culinary map. Their farm-to-table ethos showcases local produce, artisanal cheese, and regional ingredients. The diverse menu changes daily based on seasonal availability.
For lunch, try their signature soup, salad and bread combo. The creamy corn chowder pairs nicely with their house salad and freshly baked bread from Wide Awake Bakery. Beyond their published vegetarian cookbooks, Moosewood’s influence on Ithaca’s local food culture can’t be overstated.
Daily Special Highlights:
- Soup, Salad, and Bread
- Creamy Corn Chowder Soup
- Moosewood Tossed Salad
- Gary’s bread from Wide Awake Bakery
The Corner Pub at Rogues
Location: 2079 East Shore Drive, Lansing in Ithaca, NY 14882
Adjacent to the historic Rogues Harbor Inn, the laidback Corner Pub offers a fun sports bar vibe with cozy booths and a sprawling wooden bar. Enjoy local brews and elevated pub grub on their porch overlooking the lake.
Their juicy burgers like the bacon and cheddar Rogues Burger make a satisfying meal. Pull apart their slow roasted pulled pork sandwich drenched in tangy housemade BBQ sauce. Other favorites include the Reuben stacked high with corned beef and sauerkraut.
- Pulled pork special with homemade sauce
- Crème Brulee dessert
- Rogues Burger with cheddar, bacon, and homemade barbeque sauce
- Reuben sandwich
- Fish Fry and beer with steak fries or onion rings
The Unique Food Scene of Ithaca, NY
With scenic gorges, spectacular waterfalls, and pristine lakeside settings, Ithaca provides a beautiful backdrop for its thriving restaurant culture. The cosmopolitan college town packs an impressive variety of cuisines into its small footprint. From upscale seafood grills to homey Italian trattorias, Ithaca’s distinctive restaurants offer something to satisfy every palate.
Plan a visit to this charming Finger Lakes community to explore the culture and sample the inventive culinary offerings. The seven restaurants featured here provide a taste of what makes Ithaca such a compelling dining destination in upstate New York.
Hi, I’m Ben Holland. I love cooking, traveling, and spending time with my family! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes, travel tips, and stories about my adventures with my wife and kids.