Literary City Guide | Ithaca, NY

We arrived at the pretty town of Ithaca, containing 3300 inhabitants, surrounded on three sides by hills... The plain between the town and the lake is so densely covered with forest that the water is not visible from the former; and in many places it is so boggy and unsound that no houses can be built upon it.
— from A Subaltern's Furlough, Edward Thomas Coke, 1833

Tour Guide: Julie Grice

Julie is the writer behind the blog Savvy Eats.  Though she studied food engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Julie decided that she didn’t want to process food that she wouldn’t eat herself, and instead shifted her focus to food writing. She now lives in Ithaca, NY with her husband Dan, their poodle-terrier mix Max, and their cockatiel Mario.    



Relationship to Ithaca: Moved from Wisconsin in 2010

Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: Alton Brown or Kate Atkinson

Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Alice Waters

Writing soundtrack: Michael Buble or Broadway music

Pen or Pencil: Pen. Specifically a Pentel R.S.V.P. fine point.

Coffee or Tea: (Chai!) tea

Paperback or Hardback: Both


Good Reads


Buffalo Street Books. This charming little bookstore was on the verge of going out of business in 2011.  But Ithaca didn’t want to let it go, and the community bought out the bookstore, re-opening it as a cooperative business in 2012.

Autumn Leaves Used Books. This is the place to go if your book budget is tight.  Autumn Leaves offers a wide selection at used-book prices.


Tompkins County Library.  To account for the fact that it is the only public library in downtown Ithaca, the Tompkins County Library is large and sprawling.  There are entire rooms devoted to fiction and children’s books, as well as several quiet rooms where you can work or read.


Buffalo Street Books. Regular readings, as well as book club meetings and workshops, keep Buffalo Street Books’ calendar full.

The Reading Series at Cornell. Cornell University’s English Department hosts regular readings on campus with literary alumni, emerging writers and established authors.

Trampoline Thursdays. Once a month, Buffalo Street Books hosts a storytelling competition at Lot 10 Lounge. Contestants have only a few minutes to tell their (mostly) true stories, with no notes.


Friends of the Tompkins County Library Book Sale. Held on three consecutive weekends every May and October, this book sale fills an entire warehouse, and nothing ever costs more than $4.50. On the first weekend, when the book selection is best, the line to enter the building winds around the block.  As time goes on, and the books become more picked over, the prices slowly drop.  By the end of the third weekend, you can take home an entire plastic grocery bag’s worth of books for a mere $1.

Spring Writes: The Finger Lakes Literary Festival. A weekend of literary workshops, panels and readings. The extensive program covers all genres and aspects of writing and publishing, making this an event that appeals to many local authors, aspiring or established.

Good Eats


Gimme! Coffee. Gimme! coffee has what is arguably the best coffee and espresso in Ithaca. They also offer a selection of local baked goods to nibble between sips of your coffee and tea. During the school year, it can be difficult to find an empty table at either of the two locations.

Ithaca Coffee Company. There isn’t a ton of work space at Ithaca Coffee Company, but it is a great place to stop to grab a to-go mug of coffee. Plus, they have a wide variety of cheeses, chocolate and other goodies that make great last-minute gifts.


Just a Taste. The menu at this popular tapas restaurant changes daily to account for the seasons and what their local providers have available.  They always have a seasonal vegetable that has been sautéed in brown butter and then dusted with walnuts and grated Romano cheese. It is like magic on a plate, and has been known to convert even the most stubborn vegetable-haters.

Bandwagon Brewpub. Bandwagon makes their beer in-house, and offers creative brews such as the Hidden Rabbit Hefeweizen, Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout, Watermelon Wheat and Raspberry Jalapeno Ale. Their beer battered catfish with malt vinegar aioli is a must-try.

Ithaca Bakery/Collegetown Bagels. This is the place to go for a quick sandwich.  The selection of deli items rotates daily, giving the non-sandwich friends plenty of quick meal options, too.

Belly Ithaca. Billed as an “indoor food truck,” Belly Ithaca opened in February 2013. The pop-up restaurant, which focuses on pork and donuts, is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings in the downstairs of Lot 10. Their menu changes every week, and  boasts such dishes as tater tot nachos with braised pork, meatloaf sandwiches and duck fat potatoes.


Ned’s Pizza. Don’t be fooled by the strip mall look of this pizza joint; they offer what is by far the best thin crust pizza in Ithaca.  Plus, they have an awesome selection of toppings, and Ned himself usually answers the calls. “Hello, Ned’s Pizza. What you order?” 

Purity Ice Cream. During the hotter months of the year, Purity is packed full with locals looking for their ice cream, milkshake and sundae fixes. Since Ithaca doesn’t have that many warm months, they also serve muffins, cookies, coffee and cocoa.



Julie's 5 Favorites

Favorite bookstore: Buffalo Street Books. I can easily spend an hour browsing through the books in the food and gardening sections.

Favorite place to write:  Lately, Gimme! Coffee has been my go-to writing space.  I’m in the process of finding a new desk and restructuring my home office, though, so that may change soon.

Favorite museum: I still haven’t been to the museums here – we’re just waiting for our niece and nephew to come visit so we can take them to the Sciencenter, though!

Favorite coffee shop:  Gimme! Coffee again.  They have stellar coffee, chai and a rotating display of local artwork.

Favorite thing about Ithaca: Ithaca is a very “hippy” college town – there is a lot of focus on local food and sustainability!