Here at 14850 Dining we realize that the humble hamburger has achieved star status in our society. Burgers vary so much from restaurant to restaurant that it’s hard to pick a single Best Burger for the Ithaca area, but we’re going to talk about a few you shouldn’t miss — even a couple of veggieburgers.
Perhaps the most famous Ithaca burger is the Pinesburger… served at the Glenwood Pines on a hunk of French bread with thousand island dressing or mayonnaise. (Thousand is the way to go.) When we talk about burgers, we’re always impressed how many people suggest the Pinesburger as an alternative to whatever great burger we happen to have just mentioned. We recommend a side of onion rings or cheesy broccoli bites.
Local specialties are alive and well at Ithaca’s diners, such as the classic Tullyburger. This cheeseburger features raw onion, lettuce, tomato, and mayo, and I frequently eat it with well-done fries, gravy on the side. Or try the legendary Bo-Burger, with sauteed onions, cheese, and a fried egg on top, at the Lincoln Street Diner. It was invented by, and is still named for, legendary Cornell (and professional) football player Irvin “Bo” Roberson. Right by the Cornell campus, these Ithaca originals are also available at Ithaca’s original food truck, Louie’s Lunch.
In Collegetown, visit the Carriage House Cafe for brunch or lunch, and try their Carriage House Burger, another favorite that locals keep suggesting. It’s a handmade burger made with local grass-fed beef, topped with grilled onions, sundried tomato puree, cheddar, and BBQ mayo on ciabatta.
For a weekday lunch, hit the Circus Truck in its west end parking lot, off West Green Street near the Finger Lakes Beverage Center. J.P. is generally there just for weekday lunches (with the occasional late-night visit or event appearance) and cooks amazing food to order. That includes excellent burgers, breakfast sandwiches, and gourmet pasta dishes. Really.
Other fine local burgers include the roasted garlic burger at Northstar Public House, the Pac-Man burger at Jack’s Grill in Collegetown with local beef available as a $2 upcharge option, and the Gutenberger, named after the former mayor, at the Boatyard Grill. That one’s topped with shredded cheddar and crispy fried onions. There are other excellent burgers in town, some of which we’ve talked about before, but we don’t want this year’s list to be too long.
Vegetarians will likely be thrilled with the incomparable veggieburger at the Bandwagon Brewpub, made of barley, beans, and pecans; the black bean burger at Agava; and the spicy vegan brew burger at the Ithaca Beer Company’s new Taproom. Bandwagon’s veggieburger is so good, I’l usually choose that over their (also very good) more traditional burger made with local beef, but I might still get a strip of house-cured bacon on top.
But the winner is still the Ithaca Ale House, whose Perfect Burger is just that. It comes one way, no substitutions, so if you happen to not like pickles or tomatoes or what have you, you’ll need to design your own burger with what you’d enjoy, or order another winner like the Big Sexy Burger. For us, the Perfect Burger is a great combination as is, and the Ale House is one of few places we can be confident that if we order a burger rare or medium rare, that’s how it’ll reach the table. Not just consistent burgers, but consistently great burgers.