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Moosewood Restaurant

215 N. Cauga St., Ithaca, NY - (607) 273-9610
Posted By Michael Stern on 8/23/2002 4:34:00 AM
We were skeptics when someone told us to eat at Moosewood back in the late 1970s. At that time, vegetarian food had a hideous reputation, and rightfully so. It was a bad-joke cuisine made up of mock-meat, bitter twigs, and curdled beverages, generally served in restaurants that had all the charm of a locker room. The Moosewood Restaurant changed all that – at its original place, still in the Dewitt Mall in Ithaca, and in its great cookbooks, which have become scripture for meat-frowners. Meals at Moosewood have taught us that vegetarian food needn’t be a lame substitute for “real” food but that, in fact, no-meat cookery has pleasures all its own.

Moosewood is a brash, free-spirited enterprise that reminds us of an art gallery more than a restaurant. Dining is informal and inexpensive. Anything dressier than jeans would feel inappropriate, and service is communal, meaning that orders are taken and food is served by whichever member of the staff is available to perform the task at hand.

Our recent lunch included a Mexican and corn cheese pudding that was creamy, sweet, and gently peppery, topped with a garden-fresh tomato chile sauce. We also had a Small Planet Burger, also known as a tofu burger, which is anathema in the general scheme of Roadfood things. But the truth is that we had eaten a few pounds of steak at John Thomas the night before and Pinesburgers earlier in the day; and this lightweight patty of pseudo-beef, made from walnuts, vegetables, and tofu, had a rich, deep taste and a pleasing coarse-cut, crusty texture. It came smothered in good 1000 Island dressing on a thick piece of Moosewood toast.

While the menu lists vegan chocolate cake (made with no animal products whatsoever), we chose a fudge brownie topped with vanilla ice cream. By any standards, vegetarian or not, it was grand.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
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A beefless burger ... satisfying in its own strange way. And that late-summer tomato on top, by the way, was worth the price of the meal.
"A beefless burger ... satisfying in its own strange way. And that late-summer tomato on top, by the way, was worth the price of the meal."
Michael Stern





There are seats indoors, but on a pleasant day, Moosewood's sidewalk patio is a great place to have lunch.
"There are seats indoors, but on a pleasant day, Moosewood's sidewalk patio is a great place to have lunch."
Michael Stern


This is a glass of fresh-squeezed carrot juice laced with ginger: a salubrious drink if ever there was one!
"This is a glass of fresh-squeezed carrot juice laced with ginger: a salubrious drink if ever there was one!"
Michael Stern


Corn pudding: creamy, cheesy, and topped with fresh chili salsa
"Corn pudding: creamy, cheesy, and topped with fresh chili salsa"
Michael Stern


They garnished each serving of ice cream with three gorgeous sweet cherries.  This is a half-serving, incidentally.
"They garnished each serving of ice cream with three gorgeous sweet cherries. This is a half-serving, incidentally."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


There is fish on that plate, but it's hidden by the colorful salsa at the top.
"There is fish on that plate, but it's hidden by the colorful salsa at the top."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


White beans and tomatoes, fennel and olives and basil.  Good food.
"White beans and tomatoes, fennel and olives and basil. Good food. "
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Fresh mozz and tomatoes that would make Mama's Of Corona proud.
"Fresh mozz and tomatoes that would make Mama's Of Corona proud."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Unsweetened lemonade is a real eye-opener.  You can see the pulpiness of this lemonade through the glass.
"Unsweetened lemonade is a real eye-opener. You can see the pulpiness of this lemonade through the glass."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


One of our party asked the waiter about the flower on our table.  He didn't know, but told us he could get someone who did and sure enough, moments after he left, someone who was obviously in charge of Moosewood's flora came by to discuss it at length with her.
"One of our party asked the waiter about the flower on our table. He didn't know, but told us he could get someone who did and sure enough, moments after he left, someone who was obviously in charge of Moosewood's flora came by to discuss it at length with her."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The outside tables were empty during an intense but brief summer storm.
"The outside tables were empty during an intense but brief summer storm."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle



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