Ithaca Blog

Friday, May 23, 2008

Good Weekend to Try Unbeaten Path Businesses

Ithaca will be host to a city of visitors as big as itself this weekend, with graduation at Cornell. It's a good weekend for locals to get acquainted with businesses off the beaten path, avoiding crowds of well-meaning but confused, possibly harried and anxious, out-of-towners.

We took note of the issue last weekend, with the Ithaca College graduation, which is much smaller. Still, it was impossible to get seated at the Smart Monkey Cafe on Route 13. Usually, seating here is not a problem. But we realized that the restaurant is right next door to the Hampton Inn, which was likely full.

We don't want to go on the record telling you not to go somewhere, of course, except in general terms, such as avoid restaurants that are next to hotels.

We will instead simply emphasize the unbeaten path.

For instance, if you want a sports bar/restaurant, you might opt for Uncle Joe's - which, at the corner of Green and Albany Streets, is less conspicuous than Benchwarmers on the Commons.

At the corner of Meadow and Buffalo Streets, Joe's Restaurant is a highly visible Italian restaurant. A hiddener alternative is Lucatelli's, on Elmira Road at Plain Street. It is less courant than Joe's (or almost anywhere), but is fun for that: very dark, rather chilly with a/c, paintings of Napoli Bay and the Mona Lisa, soundtrack of Sinatra, Dino, et al., and a rolling dessert cart. Hillary Clinton ate here when she was in town.

Northside Liquors is bound to be busy, and deservedly so, with its great selection and knowledgable staff, which have been nationally recognized. But great customer service is also a hallmark at two excellent smaller shops: Sparrow's , on the corner of Fulton and Green, and Red Feet, a charming new place at Rt. 13 and Third St. (the Papa John's plaza).

If you're thinking about Thai, or pan-Asian, you might want to forget it entirely for the weekend, as both Thai Tastes (that is, the one on the Commons, and the one up West State St.) and Thai Cuisine are all bound to be irredeemably packed. There is, however, a new place called Tamarind, on Rt. 13 and Court St., and while we know nothing about it, it might be a good time to find out, as it is probably not known to most Cornellies, nor even in the phone book yet.

If you are looking for music, you should come to the easy-walking, easiest-driving, easiest-parking part of town, the West End, and visit Small World Music, down the driveway at 614 W. State St. We might even think of some other tips by the time you get here. (Like, if you need gas, tank up now!)

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

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