Ithaca’s food scene offers something for everyone

People visit Ithaca for all kinds of reasons. Some are here to attend a cultural or athletic event at Cornell University or perhaps to do a little wine tasting. Others come to hike our beautiful gorges or take a sail on Cayuga Lake. Foodies come here in search of a culinary adventure, drawn by the fact that Ithaca has more restaurants per capita than New York City.

For those with a vegetarian or vegan diet, Ithaca has become somewhat of a food mecca because we offer something that is sorely lacking elsewhere—choices. I’m talking real choices, not just which salad is safe to eat but which vegan-friendly restaurant do I feel like eating at tonight? Which protein-rich vegetarian entree on the menu do I prefer? Which plant-based meat substitute in the grocery store should I take to the cookout?

Travelers with dietary restrictions know how hard it can be to find food on the road. Not so in Ithaca! Whatever your food allergy, lifestyle choice or ethical eating decision, Ithaca offers something for everyone. Consider some of the options below, or seek out your own:

1)  Moosewood Restaurant is where it all began, and with a recent write-up in the New York Times it is still going strong! The restaurant was at the forefront of the vegetarian and locavore movements when in opened back in 1973, but it was the wildly popular cookbooks that really put Moosewood on the culinary map. Famously run as a collective until last year, Moosewood is now operating under new ownership but remains true to its vegetarian roots. Many of the dishes are (or can be tweaked to be) vegan and gluten-free as well, like the Red Bean Jambalaya or Spicy Coconut Curry featured recently at brunch. Relying on interesting flavor combinations and fresh, local ingredients, Moosewood’s seasonal menu always offers a variety of delicious, hearty and healthy fare. If you haven’t eaten at Moosewood yet, it should be on your bucket list. If you have, it’s time for a return trip to check out the sleek new décor and revel in the familiar flavors.

2)  Angelhearts Diner serves guilt-free, plant-based comfort food. Imagine ordering from a diner menu based on your cravings in the moment, without having to parse the ingredients of each dish. Owner Kim Engelheart makes many of the key ingredients including cashew cheese sauce, coconut bacon and seitan chick’n. Her son Christian, the chef, combines those ingredients to produce diner food that even your non-vegan friends will happily scarf down, like the Philly Sandwich, Chick’n & Waffles or Breakfast Scramble. Donuts and biscuits for breakfast sandwiches are made fresh daily. Oh, and did I mention there is a coffee shop within the diner? Not your notoriously bad diner coffee, Oak & Crow is ethically-sourced and locally roasted by diner partner Jacob Landreau. Angelhearts is not open late, so come early for a macchiato and chocolate doughnut, explore downtown Ithaca and stop back for a beet burger and loaded fries for lunch!

3)  Greenstar Food Co-op – Doing the Airbnb thing and cooking some meals in-house? Don’t schlep food from home because you’re worried about stocking your temporary kitchen. Greenstar’s big and beautiful new store located at 770 Cascadilla Street has an entire section of dairy-free milk and cheese options, a generous assortment of gluten-free and vegan bread and baked goods, and a plethora of plant-based proteins to choose from. Two hometown favorites to look for are Ithaca Soy tofu and tofu-Kan products (check out their cooking tips and tofu recipes cooking tips and tofu recipes) and Susie’s Seitan. Ithaca’s grocery stores and markets (including Wegmans and, of course, the Ithaca Farmers Market) are destinations of their own and you should have no trouble finding what you need to feed your vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free family.

The three establishments detailed above are definitely highlights of Ithaca’s vegan/vegetarian scene. Still, there are so many other local eateries with stand-out menu items that you won’t want to miss. Far from an exhaustive list, here are a few honorable mentions gathered from friend and family recommendations:

  • Hawi Ethiopian Cuisine – a veggie platter with dairy-free injera (all vegan)
  • Agava – cauliflower steak roasted in a wood-fired oven, vegan rice bowl, an impossible burger with all the fixin’s
  • Mama Said Hand Pies – rotating menu of delicious sweet and savory vegan and/or gluten-free hand pies (look for their new cafe opening soon in Trumansburg!)
  • Thompson and Bleecker – vegan cheese and gluten-free pasta available as an option on all their artisan pizzas and pasta dishes
  • Gorgers – substitute deep-fried eggplant or house-made seitan for the meat on any of their fresh subs or salads
  • Franco’s Pizzeria – vegan Sicilian-style pizza (voted the best pizza in Ithaca by readers of the Ithaca Times four years in a row!)
  • Loumies – eggplant fasolia and other Middle Eastern takeout in Collegetown, 60% of the menu is vegan
  • Via’s Cookies – vegan and gluten-free gourmet cookies with a conscious (5% of profits go to benefit BIPOC and LBGTQ+ students)

 

What new favorites can you discover? We want to know!