Just catching up on my message-boarding and read the two-year old posts on eateries in Ithaca and vicinity. It needs some updating:
Dano's on Cayuga, downtown Ithaca, just around the corner from the Commons, is the best high falutin' restaurant for a couple of parsecs. And not really that high falutin. The alleged style is ersatz viennese, but Dano is just a damn good cook no matter what. Well thought out and reasonably priced winelist. You will definitely need reservations when it's parents weekend at Cornell.
Dano also operates a less formal spot during the warmer weather (I believe it closed for the 2000 season Sept. 30) at the Standing Stone Vineyards on the east shore of Seneca Lake, about 30-40 minutes northwest of Ithaca. Here, he does Heuriger (Viennese word for new wine, and place where it is served), featuring picnic-type fare. A few weeks ago three of us made a perfect lunch of three or four salads and a veal sausage, downed with the light viennese wine served in a mug.
For more info on Dano's here are the URLs:
I agree with a previous writer that Tapas is certainly worth a visit. And they even have decent fino sherry! Best in the warm weather when you can eat in the backyard patio. The tapas may not be the real thing, but it's close enough.
For more down and dirty Chowhound style food, try Glenwood Pines, a classic Dew Drop Inn kinda joint just up the road overlooking Cayuga Lake from high atop the east bank. Basic burgers and beer, a smoky bar and a pool table. But a dining room overlooking the lake. Used to have homemade onion rings, but they've switched the frozen drek, I hear. Still, a fun place.
I used to enjoy Rene's, but two friends tell me this fancy American has gone downhill a bit, with poorer service, to boot. A better bet would be Pangea for a World Beat meal.
The restaurant is the pits, but the pizza from Napoli is aces. Bring it home or get it delivered.
Can't endorse Coyote Loco. Sugary, watery margaritas. So-so Mexican food (I'm guessing lotsa frozen entrees, but I could be wrong.) Still, not much choice if Mexica is what you crave.
Collegetown Bagels (multiple locations) has NY quality bagels. Lox is pre-sliced -- unless you go to the Ithaca Bakery (I believe it's the same ownership), where they'll slice not just nova, but belly lox to order.
My wife's biggest complaint: No Dunkin Donuts in town. She's got to go all the way to Binghamton for her fix.
About Moosewood: Unless you are a religious vegetarian, not worth the trip. Not bad, just not great. Very variable, though the soups always seem to be on target.
Joe's: I agree with the basic comments. So-so (but certainly palatable) Italian food, but worth it for the ambiance.
Best hamburger and pie joint (if it's still there): The Triangle Diner, 1526 State Route 90, N. King Ferry, about 30-35 minutes north of Ithaca. It's been about a year since I visited, and it had a "For Sale" sign on it back then. But if it's still in business, worth a detour. Excellent hamburgers and even better home made fruit pies. The "lady" comes in to bake them weekly (and put them in the freezer for off-season serving).