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If you get hungry while driving through the Finger Lakes, make a stop in Ithaca to fill up.

Ithaca is gorging 

If you get hungry while driving through the Finger Lakes, make a stop in Ithaca to fill up.

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According to the all-too-true joke, 'round these parts there are only two seasons: winter and roadwork. But there's actually a third: leaf-peeping season. Watching the trees abandon their lush jewel tones in favor of a fleeting, fiery splendor is one of New York State's genuine pleasures, and the Finger Lakes set the perfect stage.

The ephemeral beauty of the morphing leaves also provides an airtight excuse for a trip to Ithaca at the southern end of Cayuga Lake, the longest of the glacier-etched digits. Beyond the changing leaves, other great reasons to make the roughly 2-hour drive this fall include Jeff Tweedy performing at the State Theater on September 24 and the mighty Tompkins County Library Book Sale in October as well as the chance to chomp your way through Ithaca's vibrant food scene like Pac-Man.

Keep reading for some tasty places to check out when you go. But first, a stop for lunch...

If you happen to travel down Seneca Lake's Route 14 on your way to Ithaca, you could do a winery tour — or you could go on a wienery tour, which would be quicker because there's really just the one. Opened in May, the FLX Wienery is a killer little roadside joint that offers nicely priced burgers, hots, sausages, toppings, and sides, with most of the menu components house-made or locally sourced. You'll find impressive builds like the K-Town burger, gilded with kimchi, fried egg, and Korean barbecue sauce; and anyone gone gluten-free should dig the corn-dog option in lieu of a bun. Want more? Buckwheat salad, cinnamon doughnuts, Oreo-stout milkshakes. You get the idea. (5090 Route 14, Dundee. 607-243-7100; flxwienery.com)

click to enlarge A corn dog (Shirk's smoked dog "corned") with trimmings (left) and  the K-Town burger with kimchi, cilantro, and Korean BBQ sauce (right) from the FLX Wienery in Dundee. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • A corn dog (Shirk's smoked dog "corned") with trimmings (left) and the K-Town burger with kimchi, cilantro, and Korean BBQ sauce (right) from the FLX Wienery in Dundee.
click to enlarge The "Whole Hog" (bacon, onions, cheese curds, corn, egg, chipotle mayo) on a house-made chorizo sausage from the FLX Wienery in Dundee. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • The "Whole Hog" (bacon, onions, cheese curds, corn, egg, chipotle mayo) on a house-made chorizo sausage from the FLX Wienery in Dundee.

It goes down five days a week in various locations around town, but on weekends you'll find the Ithaca Farmers' Market on the waterfront at Steamboat Landing. There are, of course, many vendors selling fresh produce and handcrafted wares, but remember to bring your appetite so you can enjoy traditional flavors from far-flung locales like Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Tibet. There's also baked goods, macrobiotic cooking, and Cuban Food You'll Never Forget, which is actually the very confident name of the place. (545 3rd Street, Ithaca. 607-273-7109; ithacamarket.com)

click to enlarge The Ithaca Farmers' Market has a location on the waterfront at Steamboat Landing. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • The Ithaca Farmers' Market has a location on the waterfront at Steamboat Landing.
click to enlarge The Ithaca Farmers' Market. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • The Ithaca Farmers' Market.
click to enlarge The Ithaca Farmers' Market. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • The Ithaca Farmers' Market.
click to enlarge The Sri-Lankan "Curry in a Hurry" stand at the Ithaca Farmers' Market. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • The Sri-Lankan "Curry in a Hurry" stand at the Ithaca Farmers' Market.
click to enlarge The Ithaca Farmers' Market. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • The Ithaca Farmers' Market.
click to enlarge An apple cider slushie at the Ithaca Farmers' Market - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • An apple cider slushie at the Ithaca Farmers' Market

Upon entering The Piggery, you're immediately greeted by the swoon-worthy aroma of smoked pork and a showcase stocked with expertly butchered cuts of meat and house-made sausages. The newly expanded shop also features many small-batch local goods like Crooked Carrot's fermented veggies, root beer from Ithaca Soda Co., and grains from Cayuga Pure Organics. (423 Franklin Street, Ithaca. 607-272-2276; thepiggery.net)

click to enlarge The Piggery on Franklin Street. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • The Piggery on Franklin Street.

No trip to Ithaca is complete without a visit to the Commons. After you've had your way with Autumn Leaves Bookstore and Angry Mom Records, pop on over to Waffle Frolic for, you know, a waffle! Choose from four different bases, including a delicious vegan/gluten-free option, then customize to your heart's content with oodles of toppings, be they sweet or savory, snack or meal. There are smoothies and coffee drinks, too. (146 E. State Street, Ithaca. 607-319-0999; wafflefrolicking.com)

A nifty, stylish spot at which to chill during any Ithaca adventure, Felicia's Atomic Lounge serves up well-balanced craft cocktails, many of them mixed with house-made infusions like Earl Grey gin, raspberry brandy, and fig bourbon. (A recent seasonal favorite was the Sun Gold Zinger, made with gin, honey, lemon, and bartender-harvested cherry tomatoes.) Felicia's Atomic Lounge also serves vegetarian flatbread pizzas and vegan cupcakes, and it hosts a popular Sunday brunch with even more imaginative libations. (508 W. State Street, Ithaca. 607-273-2219; atomicloungeithaca.com)

Bandwagon Brew Pub is one of those subterranean watering holes in which you can't tell whether it's day or night — and sometimes that's exactly what you require. This cozy pub offers rotating craft drafts along with house-brewed selections, most of them making their way into affordable flights along with variously sized pours. Cocktails and wine are also available, as is a menu that combines bar-food favorites with salads, sandwiches, and entrées inspired by flavors from around the globe. (114 N. Cayuga Street, Ithaca. 607-319-0699; bandwagonbeer.com)

click to enlarge Cookies and cream ice cream, with rainbow sprinkles and a sugar cone, from Purity Ice Cream Co. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • Cookies and cream ice cream, with rainbow sprinkles and a sugar cone, from Purity Ice Cream Co.
click to enlarge Bandwagon Brewery tester flight from Bandwagon Brew Pub. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • Bandwagon Brewery tester flight from Bandwagon Brew Pub.
click to enlarge The "Mr. Popular" waffle (fresh fruit, whipped cream, Nutella, maple syrup) from Waffle Frolic. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • The "Mr. Popular" waffle (fresh fruit, whipped cream, Nutella, maple syrup) from Waffle Frolic.

Seafood fans likely already know about Maxie's Supper Club, a New Orleans-style fish house smack-dab in the middle of Ithaca. It dishes up Southern staples like barbecue, jambalaya, and po' boys — keeping the vegetarians in mind with meatless versions of each. The daily happy hour, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., showcases freshly shucked oysters and clams for half-price, making it the ideal place for a pre-dinner pause. (635 W. State Street, Ithaca. 607-272-4136; maxies.com)

If you're anything like me, you don't want a big bowl of one thing at mealtime; you want tiny plates of many things. With the addition of some carefully chosen wines, that's tapas in a nutshell. Just A Taste is where Ithaca goes to get tapas done right. Like any restaurant worth its salt, the menu here is locally sourced whenever possible and evolves with the seasons. A recent incarnation featured bites like squash-blossom hush puppies, house-made jagerwurst with cherry-braised cabbage, Basque-style lamb, baby kale salad with goat cheese and tomato vinaigrette, and a traditional tortilla Española. (116 N. Aurora Street, Ithaca. 607-277-9463; Just-a-taste.com)

click to enlarge (left) House-made jagerwurst with cherry-braised cabbage, (middle) Squash-blossom hush puppies, and (right) fried chicken wings with sweet-and-spicy coconut-chili sauce and basil from Just A Taste. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • (left) House-made jagerwurst with cherry-braised cabbage, (middle) Squash-blossom hush puppies, and (right) fried chicken wings with sweet-and-spicy coconut-chili sauce and basil from Just A Taste.

Yeah, Purity Ice Cream Co. carries cupcakes and pies and coffee, but who cares in the face of all that ice cream? Purity's signature flavor might be Finger Lakes Tourist, consisting of chocolate ice cream with white chocolate chunks and hazelnuts, but you'll also find sea-salt caramel, Gimme! Coffee mocha, Boomberry (that's vanilla ice cream with four different kinds of berries), and chocolate-dipped strawberry. Plus, there's sherbet and frozen yogurt, all waiting to be piled into a sundae, whipped into a shake, or nestled into a cone, even a gluten-free cone! (700 Cascadilla Street, Ithaca. 607-272-1545; purityicecream.com)

It's just such a rush, stepping into a gleaming pastry shop and gawking with saucer eyes at the gorgeous treats so meticulously displayed. Obviously you can't leave empty-handed, but even if you're not in the market for a towering cake, Sarah's Patisserie has got you covered. Among the more portable constructions are filled chocolates and a colorful array of macarons, available in flavors like peanut butter-banana, maple-rosemary, and blueberry-lavender. Plus, with a base consisting of ground almonds and egg whites, it's practically health food, right? (130 E. Seneca Street, Ithaca. 607-319-0272; sarahspatisserie.com)

click to enlarge Pastries and macarons from Sarah’s Patisserie. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • Pastries and macarons from Sarah’s Patisserie.

What's your favorite Ithaca dining spot? Let us know in the comments section, below.

In This Guide...

    Fall Guide 2014

    Did we even have a summer?

    Artists with class

    Meet three teaching artists who are shaping the next generation of creative thinkers.
    The old adage, "To learn, read. To know, write.

    Fall's palette

    Yes, there has been talk of the dreaded polar vortex revisiting Rochester again. But resist the temptation to slip into that cocoon of hibernate-y despair — we're at the top of the arts season, and there are plenty of engaging exhibits and events to distract us.

    Going alone

    Though the productions are drastically different, two solo shows this fall take a similar approach to preparation.
    One of the most theatrical of theatrical genres is the solo show: 90 minutes or so featuring one actor, and one actor alone. They may be playing a character in the playwright's imagination, or a historical person, or, if the actor is skilled enough, a stage full of memorable characters.

    Stage lights

    Our Top 10 critic picks for the 2014-15 theater season.
    The 2014-15 theater season is going to be packed, so let's dive right in: "Curtains"

    Autumn moves

    Once fall sets in, be on the lookout for the 2014-15 dance season to be in full swing.
    It's never easy previewing the upcoming dance season and singling out which performances promise excellence, but with Rochester dancers and choreographers focused like a laser on the imminent Rochester Fringe Festival (September 18-27), information about later dance shows was hard to pin down. So, along with the picks outlined below, look for pop-up performances from smaller groups as the cultural year progresses.

    Hearing the season change

    The fall always brings out the best of classical music. Here are our critic picks for the fall season.
    The 2014–15 classical season is stirring up a wide variety of talents and mediums for the fall. World-renowned guest artists, fearless programming, and interactive concerts are pillars to this fall's offerings.

    Back-yard scenes

    Rochester's local film scene is growing. Here are a handful of flicks currently in production.
    Being the birthplace of film, Rochester has always prided itself on being a city with a deep, abiding love for the movies, so it only follows that we would have a vibrant, active community of filmmakers as well. Add in RIT's renowned school of film and animation constantly pumping out new generations of auteurs, and you've got a veritable hotbed of activity of the cinematic variety.

    Hollywood screens

    The fall movie schedule promises some mainstream film gems. Here are our critic picks.
    There are plenty of mainstream films coming out this season. Along with those local productions in the works, here are the larger-release films I'm most looking forward to.

    Down on the farm

    As fall kicks in, Western New York celebrates with a bushel full of agricultural events.
    As the calendar and the seasons change, so does the nature of our harvest, and by proxy, our recreation. With our roots and heritage so closely tied to the land of Western New York, it should come as no surprise that many people gravitate toward agriculturally themed events as the leaves change.

    Special Events Guide

    Summer may be over, but it's not time to head indoors just yet. Rochester has plenty of events to keep you busy through the fall.

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