Name: Ithaca Ale House
Location: 111 N. Aurora St., Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: (607) 256-7977
Price: Likely around $20+ per person
The Ithaca Ale House has caught my eye often on my more recent trips to Ithaca, as is the case with most things involving "ale" in the name. Located just off the famous Ithaca Commons on Aurora St., I'd never been before the other day, when Megan and I found ourselves in Ithaca around lunchtime in search of a place to eat. Thankfully, I had recalled a post I'd read on the Big Hungry Shelby blog, which pronounced the Ithaca Ale House 2010's Best Restaurant in the entire area. With such lofty expectations going in, the Ithaca Ale House couldn't possibly live up to such great heights, right?
Wrong. This place is awesome.
One of my main motivations for going was to sample the latest Ithaca Excelsior! Series brew, their Thirteenth Anniversary Ale. This is a beer released only very recently, since the beginning of the new year, and I am a fan of all of Ithaca's Excelsior! offerings. The 12th Anniversary is a nice Belgian-style Abt, while the Brute is probably the brewery's most famed offering, a golden sour ale made with champagne yeasts which is positively delicious. The Thirteen is best described as a wheatwine, an extra-hoppy version of a wheat beer. Imagine a hefeweizen on steroids, brewed with lemony Sorachi Ace hops and Citra hops with slight pineapple notes. DELICIOUS! When it came time for Beer #2, it was time for another carrot-juice lookalike Thirteen. Yum.
But, yeah, on to the items our readers probably care more about than beer. In addition to a solid beverage menu, the Ithaca Ale House has a great menu full of gourmet burgers and sandwiches, each marked with a style of beer that would serve as a tasty complement. Megan ordered the "Perfect" burger, featuring lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon, cheddar cheese, ketchup, mustard, and mayo on a grilled roll. Sounds perfect in theory; hopefully it would stand up to the taste test. I elected to try out (on blogger buddy Shelby's recommendation) the French Dip, shaved prime rib with provolone on toasted French bread with au jus on the side. I had high hopes for this sandwich beforehand but after downing half of my 8.9% ABV wheatwine, expectations were at a fever pitch.
Luckily, these expectations were not just met, but exceeded. This was pretty much a perfect sandwich in every way. There is no way it could be improved upon. Served with fries on the side, I was in foodie heaven throughout the consumption of this delicious sandwich. On the downside, the fries were not bad, but not my favorite style, the crispy golden variety that you find at diners and the like. I like the "homestyle" variety that are more "potato-skin-esque" in flavor and texture. But that's just like, my opinion, man. The bigger deal here was the French Dip, which was amazing.
Megan's burger was equally fantastic, perfectly cooked to order. She got it with their "salad of the day" which she also enjoyed, but she has since commented that she won't be able to eat another burger for a while, since it will almost certainly pale in comparison to this one.
When it came time for dessert, we knew we had to try the Fried Oreos, proclaimed as Best Dessert of 2010 by the aforementioned Shelby. Served with whipped cream, a few smears of caramel on the side, and HOT CHOCOLATE for dipping (I can't make this stuff up, people!), this was a very tasty finish to the meal. Not nearly as good as some of the desserts I've had recently in Binghamton (English Toffee Pudding at Tranquil springs to mind) but for pub food, pretty amazing both in theory and in execution.
If you like great burgers and sandwiches, or if you're a beer connoisseur (some would say "snob," I prefer "geek") like myself, do yourself a favor and check out the Ithaca Ale House. For a restaurant of its ilk, things really don't get any better than this. Thanks, Shelby!