Moosewood at 50 and more from Ithaca, NY

In my opinion there is no better time to visit Ithaca, NY than the end of April. The weather gets warmer, the trees are blooming and everyone has a smile on their face. My husband and I set out for a quick visit on a Thursday, and hoped to pack in as much as possible during our two day stay. As per our normal agenda, we made sure to stop for lunch in Livingston Manor, a town about halfway for us. Livingston Manor has recently enjoyed a bit of a rejuvenation thanks to people escaping NYC during Covid. Walking down Main Street makes one feel as though they might have mistakenly wandered into a hip Brooklyn neighborhood. This is not the Catskills I remember from my youth! The Walk In on Livingston Manor’s main drag specializes in delicious salads, sandwiches, and biscuits and would be a worthwhile destination in either Brooklyn or the Catskills. There is ample outside seating (which was packed on a Thursday) as well as a lovely inside space complete with an inviting bar. I enjoyed a Bowl with Turmeric Rice, Mushrooms, Frisée and a fried egg (It also came with onion Jam and pickled red onions which I passed on). It was yummy and satisfying. My husband devoured a Cuban Sandwich which he deemed excellent. After lunch we wandered over to The Neon Croissant (same ownership) and he couldn’t pass up a chocolate croissant for dessert. If you are there, go take a look, if just to inhale the enticing buttery aroma that permeates the small space.

Once we arrived in Ithaca we checked ourselves into The Statler, our first time back since before the Pandemic. If you are visiting Cornell, there is no better place to stay than right in the middle of campus. The Hotel is staffed by students at the School of Hotel Management which really is a treat, they are so enthusiastic and upbeat.

My son decided he wanted to go to Moosewood for dinner- the iconic vegetarian restaurant which came on the scene almost a half a century ago! Coming up on its 50th birthday, Moosewood has recently enjoyed a bit of a facelift and overhaul. I last dined at Moosewood as a college student in the mid 80’s, and as far as I knew it was just chugging along. I realized changes were brewing when I attempted to make a reservation and was directed to RESY, the booking App generally reserved for the hippest of places. Founded in 1973, this forward thinking restaurant focused on local and sustainable food, and their cookbook became a staple in every healthy food lover’s kitchen.

Before heading to Moosewood we stopped at Bar Argos for a drink. The Argos Inn is a beautifully restored boutique Hotel on East State Street very close to the Commons, and opened to the public in 2013. Argos has won numerous Historic Preservation awards, and while I have not visited the Inn, it does look very appealing. The Bar is aesthetically inviting, that is once you find the entrance and comply with all the the rules and requirements needed to gain admittance. The Bar is not attached to the Inn, but rather in another building altogether. The entrance is so confusing in fact, that we walked in and out twice before we figured out where we were supposed to be. Once we arrived and presented our Vaccination records as well as IDs we were shown to the table and given the QR code to scan for the menu. Ordering online and entering our credit card number to pay electronically was next. Frankly, by the time the drinks came we were quite fatigued. The atmosphere is nice, but I don’t know whether I would hurry back.

On to the main event! When we arrived downtown we took a spin around the DeWitt Mall, which has been a destination in itself since the 1970s (prior to that it was home to the Ithaca School dating back to 1915). The Mall houses a small Green Star Oasis (a natural food Co-op), the Cayuga Lake Creamery (which was very tempting but unfortunately shut down for the evening before we would finish our dinner), and several other alluring shops. One could most certainly while away some time while exploring here.

We entered the restaurant from the Mall entrance rather than the street, but we could already tell things were different. The space has been updated and redone, and the result is a happier more inviting Moosewood. The vibe is cleaner and brighter than it had been, which is a good thing. The Dining Room was packed; it seems as though the renovation and the new menu has created an impetus for people to come and check out what the new owner Danica Wilcox is up to. Moosewood changed hands in January 2022, but have no fear, Danica is the daughter of one of the Cooperative’s original owners, Kip Wilcox, so presumably Moosewood is part of her DNA.

We were seated promptly and were fortunate to be served by a woman who has been at the restaurant for many many years (at least 25 I believe). While she is still getting used to all the changes, she was very enthusiastic and vocal with her input regarding the menu and our choices. Luckily there were four of us so we were able to sample many of the tempting offerings. The menu is clearly marked as to vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free options, as well as accommodations/substitutions which can be made to tailor dishes to one’s specific diet. The representation of NY based wines, beers and ciders is impressive, and we did our part in tasting a wide array. The Farm Flor Cider was a big hit.

Pictured below is just some of what we ordered, we also enjoyed Southwest Corn Chowder, a Rosemary Crepe and a very chocolatey brownie with vanilla ice cream. Suffice it to say we were STUFFED, but we didn’t regret it. The food was delicious, everything fresh and well prepared. Even my meat loving husband was happy. We all agreed we will most certainly return. The prices are reasonable, the portions very generous, and the service excellent. Moosewood 2.0 is a winner!

Saturday mornings in Ithaca are reserved for the Farmer’s Market. A visit always confirms my sense of optimism that the world is a wonderful place. Bountiful displays of gorgeous produce and flowers, the friendliest vendors and shoppers you could ever hope to interact with, as well as delectable snacks to eat on the spot and bring home. Simply put there is beauty and passion in every corner of the Pavilion. We packed our car with buckets of flowers as well as ramps and varieties of greens we had never tried before.

My husband and son both ordered Breakfast Burritos from Solaz (they have actually been recognized by Food & Wine as having one of the best Burritos in the US!), while I chowed down on a Spinach and Feta Buckwheat Crepe from Veronika’s Pastries– gluten free and delicious. My son wanted some Mango Sticky Rice from the Khmer Angkor Cambodian stand (sweet and satisfying- I ate most of it) and while I held myself back from the beautifully decorated rice pudding cups, I wish I had indulged. If you are in Ithaca over a weekend, please visit the Market, I hope it will help restore your faith in the world as well!

After taking the time to savor the gorgeous Spring flowers for a few moments more, we were on our way back home; though I am already anticipating a return in the Fall for another taste of all that Ithaca has to offer.

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