As a follow-up to my guide to eating lunch, I’ll compile this guide to eating breakfast. People tend to skip breakfast throughout the week, if they don’t do what I do, which is to grab a muffin from Mattin’s and munch on that during their morning classes; however, Saturday and Sunday are the days everyone has to have a proper breakfast. So here is my opinion of some of the breakfast places in Ithaca and Collegetown.
The State Diner
If you’re making a weekend trip to Wegmans, then The State Diner is a great place to stop by for breakfast. You can’t go wrong with a basic two-egg breakfast. Eggs at The State Diner come with toast and coffee, where you have unlimited refills with the latter. In general, most of my high opinion of The State Diner comes from the quality of the service. The wait staff are constantly cruising around, and the very second they see your coffee cup isn’t filled all the way, they’ll top it off without even asking you if you want more. On top of that, the meal cost me about half as much as a comparable breakfast at Stella’s, even with Stella’s sub-par service. There definitely are advantages in going further away from the Cornell campus to a restaurant that serves local Ithacans as opposed to a captive audience of rich students. Need more convincing? Check out my full review here.
The food at Stella’s is good. Really good. My pick for breakfast is the breakfast burrito, which is scrambled eggs, chorizo, cheese, black beans, and a fresh salsa wrapped in a warm tortilla. It comes with a healthy bit of sour cream on the side. Overall, eating the food feels like getting a nice hug. If you’re like me, and you tend to brunch it as opposed to waking up early, eating breakfast and then lunch, then I can almost guarantee the burrito will keep you full until dinner time.
However, I have two major problems with the cafe side of Stella’s. One is that I find the stuff there to be way overpriced. The burrito (excluding coffee) cost $11, whereas the whole meal at The State Diner cost me less than $8. On top of that, expect to pay $2 for a medium cup of coffee, which is in fact the same size as the small cup at Collegetown Bagels. Of course, there are no free refills since it’s obvious Stella’s makes a lot of profit on the coffee. If I can’t afford to live in 312 College Avenue, I think it’s reasonable to assume eating at Stella’s regularly would burn a whole in my bank book.
The other is that despite how much I’m paying, I find the service in the cafe side to be rather sub-par. I remember ordering eggs and toast once. Eggs and toast is exactly the breakfast that would’ve taken me two minutes to make by myself. It took twenty to come out that day. What was most surprising was that Stella’s wasn’t even particularly busy that day. The service just really irritated my dad, who is used to be served by New York City cafes. He once grunted to me, “In the time it takes Stella’s to make 3 capuccinos, a cafe in New York would’ve cranked out 20.” There basically is no sense of urgency on the part of the staff at Stella’s.
Jack’s has a really nice Hangover Special, which is two eggs, toast, potatoes, and your choice of meat, be it ham, bacon, or sausage. I generally go for the ham. Needless to say, as it is Jack’s (see my review of their cowboy burger here), the food can get pretty rich. That sucker is also only $6.99, which as you know is much less than a comparable breakfast at Stella’s. There’s one thing I find rather perplexing though: They don’t pour coffee at all. As far as breakfast beverages, all they have is fruit juice, which isn’t what I would have in mind when I wake up on a cold Ithaca morning while needing to feed my caffeine addiction.
If you can make it to CTB at an oddball hour when the lines aren’t obnoxiously long like they are at the height of breakfast hour, then you could always go to there. CTB has some very nice breakfast sandwiches. My sandwich of choice is normally the Bronx with cheese, which is “scrambled” eggs (actually a patty thrown into the oven), a slice of cheddar, and a sausage patty. I generally order it on the honey wheat bagel, but the rosemary salt is also a very good choice. However, if you’re feeling particularly dangerous, you could go with the Roundhouse, which is the eggs, cheese, sausage, bacon, and a hashbrown all on a rosemary salt bagel. The Bronx will run you about $4 while the Roundhouse is closer to $7.
CTB also has, in my opinion, the best coffee you can get in Collegetown. I prefer the Mind, Body, and Soul blend, which is a nice medium roast.
The Coal Yard Cafe
If you’re living in the general area of the Maplewood Apartments, then I would point you to Coal Yard in a heartbeat. It’s a tiny mom-‘n’-pop type establishment. They have, in my opinion, the best omelettes I’ve eaten in Ithaca. If you don’t feel like eating eggs, then you can also go for their very excellent waffles. In general, I think you should shoot for the daily specials, as they always come with toast and a cup of fresh fruit.
Due to the small size and the generally low amount of traffic, I find the service to be really good. In general, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a restaurant where I felt as intimate with it as I did with Coal Yard.
Once again, it also has the added bonus of costing significantly less than Stella’s. Check out my more detailed review here.
You could always come over and eat one of my homemade breakfasts.