My food recommendations are biased by the fact that I have been gluten-free for almost 20 years, aka, since a little before I moved to Ithaca. We have a huge number of restaurants in the area, these are just my personal recommendations and things folks have asked me about. I’ll keep adding links as I have spoons.
- Gimme! Coffee is a locally based coffee chain with excellent coffee and a cult following. There are two locations downtown, the original location on Cayuga Street, and a much bigger space on State Street. They also sell whole bean coffee, mostly fair trade. They showcase local artists on a monthly rotation.
- Ithaca Coffee Company is pretty good, but in a location I rarely have reason to access.
- Collegetown Bagels and Ithaca Bakery are the same company, with multiple locations around town.
- Alley Cat Cafe: It is worth mentioning that there is a cat cafe that I hear good things about, and is in a space that previously housed a great coffee shop. But the location is totally inaccessible on wheels. I was there once, and my drink was lovely. But my friends had to carry my wheelchair in, and the bathroom was totally inaccessible in a chair. While the restroom itself was fine for my needs (I don’t remember the grab bar situation), you can’t get there because of the clutter in the hallway.
One Ring Donuts is finally open! They make potato-based donuts in rotating flavors, some of which are gluten-free! After a year of doing pop-ups, they opened in a permanent space in Press Bay Alley in summer of 2019.
- A downtown favorite is Cafe DeWitt. It is accessible on wheels from the Buffalo Street entrance to the DeWitt Mall. It is CASH AND LOCAL CHECK ONLY. There is an ATM in the building at Greenstar. They have a heavily glutened menu of things like stuffed french toast. But they also have a lot of omelettes and daily specials. And an amazing hash. Get their early on the weekends, or be prepared to wait. Street parking, or a parking garage a few blocks away.
- For a fancy buffet brunch on the weekends, Taverna Banfi at the Statler Hotel at Cornell University is so lovely, with a great view. They have valet parking at the hotel entrance, and are accessible.
- Northstar is a little pricey, nestled away a few blocks from the Ithaca Falls. They have great grits, but sometimes uneven service. They have a parking lot, and outdoor seating in the summer.
- Purity Ice Cream has a wonderful breakfast, with great options for folks with dietary restrictions! They also have the best breakfast potatoes I’ve ever eaten, and I promise you, this gluten-free gal has eaten a lot of breakfast potatoes. It’s a funny mashup of counter service and table service.
- Waffle Frolic on The Commons has gluten-free vegan waffles that are pretty good. Counter service.
- Collegetown Bagels and the Ithaca Bakery have great breakfast sandwiches, and gluten-free bread and bagels.
While there are a few places in town that serve gluten-free pizza, I think most of them stink. The one exception is up the hill, past the mall, Ciao. There’s is delish. This is a sit-down family-style restaurant with a bar. They also have gluten-free pasta.
- Red’s Place is a gastropub with gluten free buns. Just off The Commons. Parking garage two blocks away.
- Ithaca Bakery and Collegetown Bagels in several locations. Wide menu selection, including gluten free bread and bagels, and vegan offerings.
- Viva! Taqueria (counter service/takeout) and Viva! Cantina (sit down service with a bar) right off The Commons, with a parking garage two blocks away. Very popular location. Outdoor sidewalk seating available in the summer. Most everything is homemade. They are gracious about adaptations and substitutions. Most of the menu can be vegetarian, and they are very flexible for vegans. Almost everything is gluten-free, except flour tortillas, and they will substitute corn for anything I’ve ever asked about.
- Agava, outside of downtown up behind East Hill Plaza. But I’ve had some good meals there, and eaten there with vegetarians. I think they do a brunch, but I’ve never had it. They have a bar, and outdoor seating in the summer.
We have a surprisingly large number of Thai restaurants.
- Taste of Thai Express on Route 13 is my favorite, hands down. They have the best peanut sauce I’ve ever had. Much of their menu is gluten-free, and they will happily adapt anything they can. They do not have a liquor license, but you can take your own wine. There delivery service is pretty good on time.
- Taste of Thai on The Commons is not the same restaurant, and is not under the same ownership. They have a wheat-free menu.
We have several mediocre Indian restaurants (I’ve lived in Baltimore, LA, and NYC). The two I think are best:
- Mehak in Collegetown
- Shahi Pakwan in a weird location a block east of The Commons. I don’t think they have a website, but they have a Facebook page and are listed on some of the delivery services.
- Zaza’s on Route 13 (they have a parking lot). Zaza’s also has gluten-free pasta and gnocchi.
- Taverna Banfi at Cornell University’s Statler hotel (valet parking and a walk through a hotel lobby with an option of elevator or stairs up one floor). This is a training restaurant for the hospitality program at Cornell, and the students will do their damnest to ferret out any ingredient concerns. This is on the short list of places I can comfortably go with my very much lactose-free friend.
- Just a Taste is a wonderful Tapas restaurant that also has a steak as a standing menu item (closed on Sunday, they do call ahead takeout if needed). This restaurant is crowded and tight. While I believe the entrance is accessible by chair, I believe the restrooms are not.
- There are other places, I just don’t think they’re as good.
- This isn’t much of a seafood town, but Maxie’s Supper Club has a raw bar, a few seafood items, and a mix of Louisiana style options – including delicious ribs and pulled pork. There are a couple of good vegetarian options here, if you have a mixed party. They generally seem to know their ingredients, and I think it’s a relatively safe place for folks with dietary restrictions. It is a crowded space, and can be loud.
- There are folks who like The Boatyard. I’m not one of them.
- I once had a decent lobster at The Antlers.
- I can’t eat anything from Doug’s Fish Fry, but the normal people, they seem to like it.
- Ithaca Farmers Market (five days a week during peak season, across three locations)
- The Piggery
- Red Feet Wine Market
- Greenstar Coop (three locations). You do not need to be a member to shop there. Huge selection of local food. New, hugely expanded anchor store opening in early 2020.
- Wegmans. People who have access to Wegmans have strong feelings about the store.