Hal’s is a full-service, Kosher-style deli with glass cases of meats up front and tables and a counter towards the rear. It isn’t strictly Kosher – both meat and dairy products are available – but it’s got the panache, and the menu, of a true urban delicatessen.
Lunch sandwiches include triple-deckers loaded with cold cuts and/or hot pastrami as well as hot turkey or hot hamburgers with gravy and potatoes. Single-deck sandwiches range from thin grilled cheese to big fat Reubens.
At breakfast, you can get a bagel and cream cheese with either salty lox or milder Nova Scotia salmon. We ordered ours on an “everything” bagel and heard the waitress call out to the counter-man, “Nova on a Long Island bagel!”, a term we’d never heard for a bagel coated with seeds, salt, onion, and garlic. Whatever other breakfast or lunch you choose, we highly recommend an order of Hal’s mini potato pancakes. You get about a dozen of these silver-dollar-size patties in a broad bowl with a choice of sour cream or apple sauce on the side. They are very good potato pancakes, aka latkes: crusty, creamy inside and laced with herbs.
"Hal's diminutive potato pancakes are supremely munchable as either a meal or a companion to a meal."
"We had never heard "Long Island bagel" used to refer to a bagel with everything on it. This one is toasted, spread with cream cheese and topped with not-too-salty smoked salmon plus a couple of slices of flavorful tomato."
"Hal's has been an Ithaca fixture since 1961."