Truth be told, this foodie guide is based on a week’s tasting expedition across upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region. Bear in mind that our parameters were limited; in other words, this guide only covers Ithaca, Owego, Hammondsport, Watkins Glen, Trumansburg, and Corning New York. Let’s start with our two top picks from a pure foodie perspective: Coltivare in Ithaca and Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg.
Look at this decadent and to-die for presentation of this beef carpaccio with fried onions.
The Hazelnut Kitchen
It is managed by husband wife team Justin Patterson and Lisa who have been in the hospitality industry for over ten years, Justin taking the lead in the kitchen. A few call outs include the chilled green tomato bisque with peeky toe crab salad, olive oil and a parmesan crisp, a grilled corn and tomato panzanella focaccia with crushed almonds, shaved red onions, spicy peppers, ricotta, arugula and a basil vinaigrette, a nectarine salad with local greens, candied walnuts, snap peas, lime ginger vinaigrette and whipped chevre, and a house made charcuterie and cheese board with fruit mostarda and wild flower honey canestri.
To start, the to-die-for chilled green tomato bisque had us at hello. For the healthier minded, go for nectarine salad starter, which is made with local greens, snap peas, candied walnuts, whipped chevre and a lime ginger vinaigrette with a white miso paste (below). For mains, try the slow roasted pork shoulder with yellow corn polenta, succotash and stone fruit relish or the pan seared cod, which is prepared with oven roasted tomatoes, sliced heirloom tomatoes, radish cucumber salad and toasted almonds.
Inside, the atmosphere is intimate, warm and inviting. When you book a table, ask to sit by the window if available so you can watch passerbys while you have dinner.
It’s time for vegetarians and vegans to look away — their sausage dish was a bit on the rich side, but oh so scrumptious….this is a Gouda Jalapeno sausage over creamed corn, charred nectarines, peaches, onions, fennel and toasted pecans with a herbed vinaigrette.
Seafood options are a little lighter but there are plenty of carbs thrown into most of their dishes. We paired our meal with a Gewurztraminer from Hector New York (tends to be a little sweet with roses, apricots, black pepper and spices) and the Dry Riesling from Ravines Wine Cellars out of Geneva New York. We were in Finger Lakes wine country after all, so we had to try local options.
If you’re not a wine lover, go for one of their hand crafted cocktails, such as the Blueberry Mojito made with Omney’s Run, mint, simple syrup and sparkling water, the Peachy cocktail made with Myer Farm bourbon, lemon juice, basil and peach simple syrup, or the Red Snapper, which they make with Myer Farm vodka, tomato jus, salt, pepper, lemon juice and Worcestershire. Yum!!
While we don’t always go for dessert, we had to give their homemade delights a try — after all, mixing herbs with dairy, berries and nuts together all on one plate is hard to say no to…
Hazelnut Kitchen has been creating seasonal farm-to-table dishes since 2007 and they support the local farming community, which we applaud. For the serial foodie, don’t miss Hazelnut Kitchen when you’re in the Finger Lakes region.
Address: 53 E Main Street, Trumansburg, NY 14886
Apps include fried calamari, Arrabiata, chipotle aioli and fresh lemon, steamed littleneck clams with shallots, garlic, wine and tomatoes, salads and soups, including traditional New England clam chowder, and a healthy Roasted Beet ensemble with goat cheese and sunflower seeds.
There are their wide range of steak specials from Ribeye, New York Strip with shoestring fries, the Maker’s Mark Sirloin with Bourbon sauce and mashed potatoes, and a Boatyard Rotisseries Prime Rib with potatoes and veggies. They also offer eggplant, pasta dishes and grilled chicken for the more carb conscious eater among you.
Snug Harbor Restaurant on Keuka Lake
Traditional appetizers include potato croquettes made with spinach, cheese and tomato ragout, Gambas Al Ajillo aka Tiger shrimp sauteed with garlic, chilies, herbs, and Spanish spices, Argentinian Meatballs which they serve with various dipping oils, Crispy risotto balls filled with smoked parmesan and Seitan Wings tossed in honey chili-garlic sauce to name a few.
They also offer burgers, salads (go for the Goat Cheese and Beet salad with crumbled chevre and toasted pecans), salmon, and a classic Croque Monsieur drizzled with brandy bechamel. Or, for the even more decadent among you, how about the Panini with prosciutto, fig jam, caramelized onions and chevre?
Fun and more casual are their Pork, Fish and Tofu tacos or their Chicken and Waffles dish — they use Bacon crusted chicken and lemon-thyme waffles and serve them with a smoked maple cream. Also delish is the Seafood Risotto, Jamon Roasted Salmon, Pork Shank which they braise over eight hours and drizzle with a spiced rum butter sauce, and classic Crab Cakes which they serve with blue crab, caramelized leeks, bacon and herbs, mashed potatoes and a lemon-caper remoulade.
Any of their scrumptious and over the top desserts are sure to please as well — we’re huge fans of coconut so how could we refuse this delicious cake option? (below)
We loved this place and would gladly return to explore more of the property and catch the ambiance at another time of year.
Does it get much better than this on a lazy August afternoon?
Graft Wine & Cider Bar
GRAFT wine + cider bar is the area’s only wine and cider bar, and they also are a market, exclusively serving and selling a variety of New York State hand-crafted wines and hard ciders. In the spirit of embracing all-things-local, premium Finger Lakes producers are highlighted on a rotating, seasonally focused bar and kitchen menu.
They offer creative, simple, seasonal small-bites, snacks, salads, sandwiches and desserts, all prepared and driven by local chef, Christina McKeough. Christina, and her husband Jonah, are best known for founding the popular Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg (included in this guide), now under new management.
The space is fun, but simple — we went for a charcuterie and cheese platter to start and ordered a number of local wine pairings to complement it and other minimalistic dishes on the menu. Summer whites we sampled from the region included an Adwater Sweet Riesling, an Atwater Pinot Gris and Vidal Blanc, a Vidal Blanc from Glen Haven and a Pinot Grigio from Damiani.
Owego Park Restaurant
This historic bar and hotel in Owego offers a wide range of pub and restaurant offerings and the history of the ParkView is apparently rich with tales of ghostly residents and famous visitors.
We didn’t have time to make it on this particular trip but locals speak highly of it, so we wanted to included it on the list. From Macaroni and Cheese dinners and seafood cheesy scallops and shrimp to crab to chili, peas and ham, buffalo chicken, homemade meatloaf, hot roast beef and ham, bangers and mash, Owego Park has it all!
For the more traditionally minded, they offer pork loin chops with veggies and potatoes, sirloin steak, salmon and blackened Tilapia, crab cakes, shrimp scampi, chicken marsala, almond crusted chicken and chicken florentine. Whoah Nelly!!
Address: 145 Front Street, Owego, NY 13827
Hand & Foot
A great place for a simple lunch is the ever so healthy Hand and Foot along the main drag in Corning New York. This vintage-chic bistro serves eclectic sandwiches and other bites, plus craft beer and cocktails.
Since we were there for lunch, we opted for their healthy ice tea option and stuck to a couple of light salads. First up is their iceberg, Napa cabbage and arugula salad with mushroom oil, beluga lentils, edamame, feta, tomatoes, carrots, jicama fries with a rice vinegar glaze, and their Poke Salad, which is made with seared ahi tuna, avocado, macadamia nuts, toasted coconut, jalapeno, sesame and soy vinaigrette served with a rice cracker.
Other fun things on the menu include fried smashed plantains with garlic soil and chili-garlic aioli, Korean rice cakes, fish and chips, pork chops, a sausage platter, fried pickles and pearls, chard slaw, upland mushrooms with house chive ricotta and cured lemon and one of their main specialties which we took to go — their House Made Pickles, with a variety of flavors to choose from — bread and butter cucumber, garden mix, olive oil jalapeno, zydeco beans and red wine beet. Oh so yum!!
Want a brisket? They have that too, but done with a twist — their beer braised brisket comes with pickled shallots, alpine fondue and bacon crumble. They also do a mean fried buttermilk chicken with stierly farm bacon, local sharp cheddar, a B&B pickle and spicy mustard. In addition to their fresh iced tea, they have regional wines of course, but you can also get iced and draft beer, including a Raspberry Sour, a Pale Wheat Ale, a Kellerbier from Koln Germany and an interesting Smoked Cherry Berliner from Hampton New Hampshire.
Sahara Mediterranean Restaurant
Mediterranean food lovers, head over to the Sahara on Ithaca’s Restaurant Row. Sahara has recipes which have been passed down from generation to generation, using fresh and healthy ingredients.
From Kibbeh and lentil soup to swordfish, veggie plates, Tabbouleh salad and Chicken Gyro’s, they’ve got you covered for more casual fare — the ambiance matches its fare, making it a great choice for a family stop over or if you want to get in and out quickly.
Life’s So Sweet
Who doesn’t love chocolate? I know that there’s a few of you, but it’s pretty rare. Life’s So Sweet is a must visit in downtown Ithaca for the sweet minded among you. They specialize in Hand Crafted Fair Trade Chocolates and Classic Candies and you can watch them whip together some marzipan on-site.
Try the Chai Tea Truffle or a Sea Salt Caramel — we particularly loved the Pistachio and oh so delicious raspberries wrapped in dark chocolate.
They use real chocolate (fair trade certified cocoa), fresh cream, local honey, local berries and any other ingredients that they source in an economical and socially responsible way. In addition to decadent white, dark and milk chocolate, they make traditional candies and cupcakes as well. We applaud them for their support of fair pricing and sustainable farming practices.
Address: 116 W Green Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
On North Aurora Street in Ithaca, burger lovers will find Red’s Place, which is named after BJ’s paternal grandfather who passed away in October 2012. His nickname was Red (for his red hair) aka Gramps. You could not go anywhere in Troy, New York (not far from where I grew up) without meeting someone who didn’t know Red. Apparently, he golfed up into his 90′s and knew everyone.
Red’s is a casual GastroPub offering full-service lunch and dinner seven days a week and are most known for their handcrafted beers and burgers. In the summer and warmer months, I’d recommend sitting outside so you can people watch. We went for a crab sandwich topped with coleslaw and a healthy salad.
Not in the healthy mood? Then go for the Angry Pig, which is a house seasoned spicy pork sausage patty with cilantro-pesto aioli, crispy fried onions, cheddar cheese and arugula or the tomato woody’s turkey burger with cheese, bread crumbs and honey mustard. Vegetarians can try the “fun guy” burger which is made with a marinated grilled portobello mushroom cap and then topped with gouda, arugula, tomato and roasted red pepper coulis — YUM!!
Just a Taste
On the same street in downtown Ithaca which is also known as Restaurant Row, you’ll find a fresh organic eatery called Just a Taste, which does Spanish small plates and an array of wines by the glass served in a warm setting with a garden patio.
Kudos to them for supporting local farmers, which in their case includes Sabol, Remembrance, Stick and Stone, Westhaven, Tree Gate, Waid’s Apiary and many others they work with in the local community to keep their food as fresh and chemical-free as possible.
From housemade Focaccia, cold Gazpacho soup, Flatbread with Basil-Fennel Frond Pesto, Corn, Mozzarella and Romano Cheeses to Deep Fried Russet Potato Wedges with Chipotle Aioli, Summer Squash Sautéed in Brown Butter with Garlic, Pecans and Romano and Garlic Braised Greens with Tomato, Walnuts, Stilton Blue Cheese and Sherry Vinegar, there’s no shortage of delicious and healthy dishes to whet your appetite.
They also have a delicious Baba Ganouj, Shrimp Sautéed with Garlic and Sherry and Steamed Clams in White Wine with Onion, Garlic, Tomato, Lemon and Bay. Popular among locals is their Deep Fried Salt Cod Fritters with Garlic Aioli and Mixed Greens (below).
Other dishes worth mentioning are their Mako Shark with Roast Tomatillo-Poblano Chili Salsa, Fried Corn Tortilla Threads and Cilantro, the Seared Sockeye Salmon with Greens in Roast Cherry Tomato-Caper Vinaigrette, the Duck Leg Braised in Sake/Rice Wine Vinegar with Husk Cherries, Ginger and Cabbage, a Housemade Spanish Chorizo Sausage with Chickpea Herb Salad and Paprika, the Grilled Tenderloin Tip Skewers with Cuban Roast Mushrooms, Parsley Sauce and Wilted Kale and lastly, the Tenderloin with Demiglace, Stilton Blue Cheese and Deep Fried Russet Potatoes — ouch and oh so delicious!!
We had lunch at Stonecat Cafe, which is a great option when you need a good mid-day option while on the wine route — it’s smack in the middle of several great wineries, including the more well known Atwater Vineyard which we took a tour of.
They’re not a newbie to the scene and in fact, 2016 marks Stonecat’s 18th year of operation. Some selections include the Hector Pulled Pork BBQ sandwich, a slow-smoked pork, pulled and marinated in barbecue sauce, a cornmeal crusted catfish sandwich, golden-fried catfish on a griddled sesame seed bun with Hector Pepper Mayo and greens, grass-fed burgers and house-smoked turkey on rye bread with a smoked apple-onion-maple marmalade.
There’s also Mac and Cheese, a Stonecat Sausage Corndog which is made from a maple-juniper sausage, beer-battered, fried golden, and served on a stick with Hector Pepper Mayo and a side of cole slaw. Who doesn’t love a well made slaw on a hot summer day?
They also make a mean Foccacia and fresh salads, my favorite one being a mixed green toss with dried cherries, caramelized walnuts and roasted garlic vinaigrette. A few other yummy mains include a pulled BBQ pork which has been slow smoked for eight hours with local grape and cherry wood, organic crusted catfish with smoked tomato coulis and dill coleslaw and black-eyed peas, shiitake and spinach risotto with cream, pecorino and truffle oil as well as an ever so delicious scallop dish (below).
To cleanse the palette between courses, how about some strawberry sorbet? It’s also a great way to finish a meal.
Their specialty cocktails are extensive, from a Glendale Fizz with Finger Lakes Distilling Vintner’s Vodka and organic grape juice, soda water and lemon to the Smoke Signal, which they make with Seneca Drums gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lime juice, soda water and smoked salt. Also fun is their Stormy Seneca with Cruzan Blackstrap rum, Good Life Farm Ginger Bear ginger beer and lime.
We met with a local at Stonecat who said it was one of her favorite go-to places in the area – two thumbs up!
Address: 5315 State Route 414, Hector, NY 14841
A few options include a Mediterranean Salad with artichoke hearts, chickpeas, tomatoes, red onions, and olives, and topped with feta. From a guacamole, pico de gallo, and Mexican black bean dip served with organic corn tortilla chips to a Locavore Plate with Chaseholm Camembert, Jake’s Aged Gouda, spiced honey, fresh fruit, and Finnish wholegrain bread to Fried tofu wings and Ghanaian White beans, there are some yummy healthy options. Also worth noting is their Farfalle with Basil-Almond Pesto.
Housemade gluten-free dressings include a Creamy Spinach-Basil, Feta-Garlic, Lemon-Tahini, Miso-Ginger, Honey Dijon and a Strawberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Mate Factor Cafe
Walk along the Commons and take in some of the more casual bars and cafes, such as Mate Factor Cafe for fair practice, fresh coffee made with organic mate. Straight from Brazil, the coffee is oh so fresh and there is a variety of options to choose from as well.
They specialize in certified organic products according to the strictest standards because of their passion for the environment. For example, they are in a building powered by solar panels. One for the list for coffee lovers — two thumbs up!!!
Address: 143 East State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
The Owego Kitchen
The Owego Kitchen is a quirky place along the main drag of Owega (kinda). Located about a 40 minute drive from Ithaca, this healthy eatery is located in small town Owego. The history of 13 Lake Street dates back to 1873 — in other words, it’s cool and funky enough to mention it’s historical importance here. The historical information below about the property comes from the New York State Historic Trust and Cornell University.
“Historical and Architectural Importance: Replaced a wooded building housing Ashley’s Saloon which burned in 1872. Sarah Ashley was ‘contemplating building a brick building on the site’ in 1872 and this building was constructed shortly after that. In 1878, the building housed S.E. Ashley’s Saloon, Restaurant and Confectionary and in 1904, Michael Lynch’s Saloon. In 1908, a music teacher named Margaret Jackway was at 13 Lake. In 1920, the building housed the Owego Gaslight Co. and Cortwright Photographers. Between 1930 and 1940, American Grocery occupied the structure. From 1955 until about 1968, Triangle Shoes operated from 13 Lake. The Haystack and The Woodpile occupied the building until about 1975, after which the Haystack became the sole commercial occupant. Apartments exist on the upper floors.”
In other words, it HAS a boat loada history and it shows in its decor and ambiance. Oddly enough, they have an Elvis influenced breakfast here with peanut butter and bacon on the menu but there’s plenty of healthy options as well.
Some of their specialties include a Farmhouse Brewery Chili which is simmered with a local brew and topped with cheese, sour cream and green onions, salads with a variety of toppings, including cherry tomatoes, red onions, chicken tarragon, roasted portobello mushrooms and an array of delicious dressings, such as curried Balsamic Vinaigrette, Siracha 1000 Island, Buttermilk Ranch and Walnut-Pesto Vinaigrette.
They are open for breakfast as well and serve cafe free eggs. Cold sandwich options are great on a hot summer or warm fall day, and include a Gourmet Gobbler made with Turkey, Brie cheese and cranberry chutney, a Dogwood Club with Turkey, ham, bacon and mayo, an old fashioned ham salad on a baguette, an unusually prepared Tuna Salad sandwich which they make with Jamaican relish, dill and mayonnaise, and a traditional BLT with tarragon mayo on sourdough toast. All of it was scrumptious!
Last note: the bathroom is exceptionally authentic and antiquated, so much so that I had to snap a quick photo before leaving.
Address: 13 Lake Street, Owego, NY 13827