Local flavor: Ithaca Marriott opens with familiar faces behind the food and drink

The Ithaca Marriott Downtown on the Commons is finally opening its doors to the public today, and local residents will be pleased to see familiar faces on the staff — especially in the all-important areas of food and drink.

Roland Coggin and Bryan Keller look forward to welcoming the community when Monks opens tonight. 14850 Photo by Mark H. Anbinder.

Roland Coggin and Bryan Keller look forward to welcoming the community when Monks opens tonight. 14850 Photo by Mark H. Anbinder.

Executive chef Bryan Keller and beverage supervisor Roland Coggin will be the faces most familiar to Ithaca foodies and barflies when they come to check out what the Marriott promises will be “soulful food and sinful cocktails” at Monks on the Commons, the hotel’s full-service bar and restaurant. Monks is just off the hotel lobby, and faces the east end of the Ithaca Commons.

An Ithaca native, Bryan Keller returned just two years ago to develop Luna Inspired Street Food with Kevin Sullivan. The pair built a street-food-inspired menu around fresh ingredients, local when possible, and then opened a downtown Luna outlet in the kitchen at Lot 10.

Bryan tells us the menu at Monks will be “southern influenced with some twists,” and he’s brought his love for local ingredients into the Marriott, as well. A signature “soul plate” will feature a chicken thigh from Murray’s and crispy trout served with braised collard greens, southern mac & cheese, and corn bread, and his take on the Marriott Burger, dubbed the Finger Lakes Burger, features Lake Effect Cheddar from Lively Run Dairy and bacon from Bostrom Farms.

Roland Coggin, also from Ithaca, returned to town five years ago and has been honing his cocktail talents at Lot 10, while also teaching private bartending and cocktail classes and helping others get their bar programs off the ground. He’s been infusing his own syrups and bitters with fresh flavors in preparation for mixing up some excellent cocktails, such as a peach-thyme shrub and peppercorn bitters, and the bar also features dozens of whiskies, including a few regional representatives.

Dryden’s Bacchus Brewing has developed a new beer that will be exclusive to the new Marriott bar, and Ithaca Coffee Company has named a new Philosophers Blend in honor of Monks.

“People we’re talking to are pleasantly surprised at how many locals are involved,” says Lily Cramer, another longtime Ithacan who’ll be working at Monks. The bar’s “Social Hour” extends beyond the typical happy-hour 6pm cutoff time, with specials available from 5:30-6:30pm. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a reasonably priced (for a hotel) breakfast menu that includes staples like three-egg omelets or an all-American platter for $14, as well as such signature items as sweet potato & kale hash and chicken & waffles, or caramelized banana pancakes. A late-night menu available for the bar crowd will feature a bread plate, charcuterie and cheese, southern mac & cheese, or one of Bryan’s favorites, “Nona’s meatballs and braised beef” with ciabatta toast.

Extra virgin olive oil and spice blends specially packaged for Monks by F. Olivers.

Extra virgin olive oil and spice blends specially packaged for Monks by F. Olivers.

Monks is a beautiful extension of the Marriott lobby, with several tables, comfortable lounge seating, high-tops for group discussions, and of course bar stools, equipped with coat hooks and electrical outlets for the laptop crowd. In good weather, a patio north of Monks will offer outdoor seating. The local ingredients extend to the tabletops, with olive oil and spice blends from F. Oliver’s packaged especially for Monks.

The opening of the new flagship Ithaca Marriott was delayed a few times; originally slated to open in August, the hotel’s developers had to push back the plans to October, then November, and then finally this month. It’s an ambitious project, with 159 guest rooms including eight suites, flexible meeting and banquet space seating up to 175, and the bar and restaurant shoehorned into ten stories replacing what had been a tiny parking lot between the Rothschild Building and East Green Street.

The hotel is offering its guests a shuttle to and from Ithaca College, Cornell University, and the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, and parking is available in the city-operated Green Street parking garage.

Our congratulations and best wishes to friends new and old at the Ithaca Marriott Downtown on the Commons as they open for business!

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