…of Ithaca’s sandwich options
Eat-In: College Town Bagels (4 Stars)
Though a fair majority of Ithaca eateries serve a sandwich or two, CTB is one of the few conveniently located, authentic, deli-style restaurants in Ithaca. With three locations (one in Collegetown, one on East Hill and one just off the Commons), nearly every Ithacan is located near one. Unfortunately, they don’t deliver; but the Aurora Street CTB is a two-minute walk from the Seneca Street TCAT stop and parking garage. They also offer a carry out option.
CTB offers a variety of freshly prepared soups, salads and entrees in addition to their diverse selection of sandwiches. Fan favorites include the Pesto Pizza Bagel, with any number of meat/vegetable toppings; the Chicken Melt (homemade chicken salad, tomato and cheese, served open-faced on a bagel); and the Cayuga Croissant (avocado, tomato, mushrooms, sprouts and parsley-garlic dressing on a croissant). The menu has numerous vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. In all, they have over one hundred combinations of bagel, specialty and deli-style sandwiches available for purchase — including 16 breakfast sandwiches available all day. The Aurora Street restaurant is open daily from 6:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, and until 10:00 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Like most deli style restaurants, CTB doesn’t offer waiter service or a refined, tasteful atmosphere. It’s probably not the place for a first date or a business meeting, but great for dinner with friends or a casual parents-weekend lunch.
It may take a little more effort to get to than delivery, but in my opinion, it’s well worth the $2.00 parking fee.
Unconvential: The Mate Factor (3 Stars)
The Mate Factor is not a deli. It’s a Juice Bar and Cafe on the Commons, owned and operated by a religious group famous for practicing a twice-removed cousin of Judaism. It is not a place that I would go looking for a great sandwich; but against all common judgment, the Mate Factor’s sandwiches are some of the best in Ithaca.
They don’t offer a large variety — usually five sandwiches and five wraps — but what they do serve is genuinely tasty. They cover quite a few bases: grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, turkey, vegetarian and Greek-style among others. Each sandwich comes with house-made kettle chips or coleslaw and a pickle. Each is shockingly good.
The restaurant itself is as unique as you’d expect. Nearly all the furniture is carved and polished wood, accented by “country kitchen” style décor. Like CTB, the Mate Factor doesn’t provide waiter service.
But be warned: as good as the food is, it’s hardly convenient. Though it’s not actually difficult to get to, the Mate Factor is not the easiest place to eat. For one, it seems to be run by people who think it’s perfectly acceptable to charge upwards of nine dollars for a sandwich. They also don’t serve traditional “sandwich accompanying” drinks, like Coke or Pepsi. The schedule is so odd it almost seems arbitrary. They are closed every Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. Other than that, whether they are or aren’t open is essentially a guessing game. The upside though, is that if you happen to guess correctly, you’ll be in for a one-of-a-kind cultural experience and some incredible food.
Dessert: Waffle Frolic (4 Stars)
Waffle Frolic is also not a deli; in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the majority of its patronage don’t realize it sells sandwiches. Mostly, that would be because they don’t sell the type of sandwiches that most people think about. For one, they sell eight distinct varieties of grilled cheese, including a particularly delicious Black Forest Ham and Maple Mustard edition. They also sell turkey burgers and hot dogs. And most importantly, they sell ice cream sandwiches.
The Waffle Bar’s version of an ice cream sandwich involves two scoops of Purity ice cream sandwiched in-between two waffles, covered in hot fudge, caramel and whipped cream. Any of Waffle Frolic’s available toppings — all of which are gluten free — can be added or subsisted; the ice cream can be any of the available Purity flavors; and the waffle base can be their Original Buttermilk, Hearty Hemp and Buckwheat or Gluten-Free/Vegan Waffle. A few modifications can allow for the entire sandwich to be vegan, as well.
Waffle Frolic is another of the Commons’ best restaurants, located across from the Mate Factor, just past the Bank of America. It’s a quick walk from a parking garage or the Seneca Street TCAT stop, and is well worth any effort it takes to get there — and the cost of the sandwich. That said, Waffle Frolic does charge considerably more for a sandwich than one might deem reasonable. A grilled cheese costs six dollars, a turkey burger costs eight. An ice cream sandwich costs just about nine. But unlike an overpriced deli, there’s no other place in Ithaca like Waffle Frolic. For that, I’m willing to pay a little more.
24/7: Shortstop Deli (5 Stars)
Voted “Best Sandwich” by the Ithaca Journal and the Ithaca Times, the Shortstop Deli is no question one of the best delis in Ithaca. Located on Seneca Street just past the Commons, Shortstop is a short walk from the TCAT stop and an easy drive from IC’s campus.
The deli has been an Ithaca staple since its opening in 1978, serving over 20 fully customizable sandwiches and pizzas at both their Seneca Street Deli and the Cornell Hot Food Truck. They claim to have pioneered the toasted sub in 1960, serve their sandwiches on bread baked in-house daily and in the over 30 years they’ve been open, they have never once closed their doors. Both the Deli and the Hot Truck are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Since they opened, the deli has been serving customers for over 12,007 consecutive days and over 288,169 consecutive hours.
Each sub costs somewhere between $3.95 and $15.95, depending on the type and size desired. Subs come in “single,” “double” and “grand slam” sizes, serving one, two and three people, respectively. A single Veggie Sub costs just under $4, and a grand slam sized turkey costs $10.95.
They don’t deliver, but they do offer a carryout option and limited seating inside. Like most of the previous locales, Shortstop is a causal eatery meant for eating at any time of the day. The sandwiches are reasonably priced absolutely delicious and well worth any trouble you might have getting there.