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By Stephen E. Appell ’65

An article on dining in Ithaca and environs in the 60s! One will no doubt expect to read about the elegant Taughannock Inn near the waterfalls, outside of town; the magnificent Clinton House, on North Cayuga Street; the Hotel Ithaca on the corner of State and Aurora Streets with its Dutch Kitchen; The Krebs, a landmark restaurant in the Finger-Lakes town of Skaneateles; or Pierce’s 1894 Restaurant in Elmira Heights, just a bit to the west of Ithaca.

No, what follows is not a memoir of halls of gourmet dining, but of the more down-to-earth places from which many of us got our food in during the magic years at Cornell in the first half of the 60s.


No review of the essential dining places of our stay in Cornell could be complete without including – nay, featuring – the Freshman Cafeteria in University Halls #1, better known to its predominantly male student patrons by the loving title of Barf Bar. There was a paradox between the disparagement inherent in this unofficial name, and the affection and comfort that the students seemed to feel when eating there. The place was our own little refuge from the rigors of study and the sense of confinement in the less-than-aesthetic University Halls. One can argue whether the food was at all tasty, but that was the place where many of us ate the most frequently in that awesome first year. For those of us who then lived in Baker Dorms, the critical importance of the Barf Bar was extended for a second year, no less. Who can forget a fellow student, from the Boston area, inviting me to go "bahf" with him?

The food was simple and cheap. A bologna sandwich or a cheese sandwich was 20 cents. One egg was 8 cents. And speaking of eggs, who better to prepare breakfast than a chef with a real chef’s hat, named Fred? Was he not good enough to be likened, even if frivolously but good-naturedly, to Oscar of the Waldorf, hence the title “Fred of the Barf Bar” or just “Fred of the Barf?” Someone who never before had a cheeseburger had to be similarly impressed with Fred’s acumen for that now staple food of America.

Adding to the warmth, if that is the right word, was the juke box at the end of the dining area, which had some new songs for the fall of 1961 as well as somewhat older ones that conjured up memories of recently-ended days of high school and its romances.

There were a couple of jarring moments. One that is more humorous in the recollection involved a very dour, red-faced gentleman who was the manager of the Barf. One evening he was at the cash register, and announced that the cost of one of my sandwiches was 30 cents. I was befuddled. I explained to him, after all, that this was a cheese sandwich, hence the basic cost was 20 cents; it had tomato, which was a nickel extra, and the lettuce was free, so the total cost should be 25 cents, not the 30 indicated. The manager replied curtly: "No, it is a LETTUCE AND TOMATO sandwich, which is 25 cents, and the cheese is a nickel extra." (Years later, I related the story to a friend who remarked that I should have said: “Then take it back and give me what I ordered.”) Anyhow, after sufficient remonstrance on my part, he relented and let me have the sandwich for 25 cents ("but just this time," I recall him admonishing me).

The other unpleasant moment was more serious. At the end of spring term 1962, when student pressure was running high with the onset of exams, I came into the Barf Bar to see that there had been a mini-riot: things had been thrown around in a rage; sugar and salt were all over the place. How ironic that the Barf Bar, which had been this cozy refuge for us all year, became the object of student outrage. Some gratitude!

As University Halls are no more, neither is the Barf Bar, except in our hearts.

One afterthought: Why did I not sign up for the food plan in my freshman year, considering how much time I was to spend in Cornell’s food facilities – especially the beloved Barf!


Next to the Barf, or along with it, the Ivy Room of Willard Straight Hall was most dear. On the mornings when we wanted to get a head start up the slope, breakfast could be had at the Ivy Room. To this day, I remember a sweet, elderly lady who worked the counter in the Ivy room, with her hair up in braids and I think a hairnet; you would ask her for an order of scrambled eggs, and she would bellow musically to the kitchen: "An OR-der of SCRAAAAAM-bllled !!!"

As compared with the Barf, the Ivy Room was more spacious, less intimate, and obviously more of a “"appening" place. Here one would dine alongside coeds, and sometimes their visiting parents, unlike the cloistered Barf. And if Barf had a nice jukebox, the Ivy certainly had one too. One cannot forget, in that first term, hearing campus favorites again and again like Runaround Sue by Dion early on, then The Gypsy Rover by the Highwaymen as the weather turned cold -- and then in the spring, the smooth Scotch and Soda by the Kingston Trio.

In at least one major regard concerning the menu, the Straight was one up on the Barf: It had its name attached to a specially-prepared burger. The Straightburger came with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and some kind of special dressing, kind of like Russian; and garnished with a pimento-stuffed olive fastened down with a toothpick.

In 1967, not long after we graduated, the Straight alignment of rooms would be altered; the Ivy Room designation would now be transferred to the broad area, formerly considered the “cafeteria,” which had been the quieter place to dine; our Ivy Room became closed off for the student dining services. To this day, I feel that the spirits of our time at Cornell remain locked up in the old Ivy Room.


For some reason, I don’t think I discovered Noyes Lodge until the junior year. Other than enjoying breakfast and an occasional evening snack, and hosting my family there during graduation time, I cannot say I recall specific events or foods I ate there, except to note that it was cozy-looking from the outside, nestled off the Triphammer Road near the then all-women’s dormitories; and it was cozy on the inside. It gave the feeling of a country-style eatery. Offices now occupy this former eating facility.



400 College Avenue: Right in the middle of Collegetown. How different it all looks now, but in those days at Cornell, the northeast corner of College Avenue and Dryden Road was occupied by a restaurant aptly named The 400. It became a favorite of mine in the middle years. It meant a nice walk, building an appetite in the Ithaca air, followed by lots of food for a growing boy. I vaguely remember a charming waitress working there; perhaps that too was an incentive for frequenting the 400. And what was my favorite? A simple beef dish called Swiss Steak, with this delicious carrot-laden gravy! I remember once being so hungry that I had the entire Swiss Steak dish, with mashed potatoes and a vegetable, and then ordering the same dish again. I don’t think I could pack away two meals at once anymore as I did as a skinny college kid in Ithaca. In later years, I saw that The 400 was gone, replaced by the then latest version of Sam Gould’s Collegetown Store. Now that too is gone, as Collegetown looks overdeveloped to an old alumnus.

Johnny’s Big Red has to be on everyone’s list. Up on Dryden Road just above College Avenue, that was the closest I came in those days to finding half-decent pizza in Ithaca. (Reasonable people may debate about the quality of Pirro’s carry-out pizza; I was not a big fan.) The ambience at Johnny’s befitted taking a date there too. Johnny’s is now too an institution of the past, and even the famous sign with the Big Red Bear, which continued to adorn the building, was sadly taken down early in 2009.

One other favorite which was short-lived was LaRocca’s on Eddy Street. It was opened by the family of an ILR classmate, who had emigrated from Italy. I remember its overstuffed sandwiches and pizza in its early days. As the months progressed, the amount of food on the sandwiches dwindled. LaRocca’s did not last long, but I remember it fondly.

Mention should also be given to the Egan IGA store in Collegetown, which became a source of “delicacies” to be prepared in our apartment, e.g. hot dogs and canned chow mein.


My all-time favorite restaurant in Ithaca has to be Hal’s Deli, which still thrives after a couple of moves, on Aurora Street. (In between Aurora venues, it was located on East State Street, across the street from the Strand Theatre, as of the time of our graduation.) With its kosher-style delicatessen, Hal’s really made this New York City boy feel at home. Hal Kuntz was the long-time proprietor who doubled as the scoreboard operator for Cornell basketball games at Barton Hall, from 1961 till his untimely passing in 1986. His wife Sandy was an ebullient hostess back then. I am happy to say that she still is, as she operates Hal’s to this day, along with son Mike (a ballboy for the basketball team during our student years) and daughter Jackie. The family still has tremendous involvement with the men’s basketball program, and the restaurant is a home away from home for me during my sports-weekend visits.


As the weather got nice and warm and invited hikes downtown, a favorite destination for this freshman was the Home Dairy Restaurant on State Street. However, “Dairy” was not a totally sufficient appellation for this establishment. My parents had visited Ithaca in the 30s and my mother never forgot the terrific roast beef. And it was no different in the spring of 1962. The beef was delicious, and there were other cafeteria-type goodies for the offing, like macaroni and cheese and I think baked beans. I remember relishing the chocolate cream pie. A melancholy alumni-era moment was realizing that the Home Dairy had closed up. It was revived briefly but now is history.


And who can forget the wagons that parked outside the dorms each night to feed desperately hungry students who did not want, or have the time, to travel to secure a snack? The hot dogs, the sandwiches, the greasy pizza were all so welcome at night. I was sorry to learn of the passing in late 2008 of Bob Petrillose, who operated Johnny’s Big Red “Hot Truck” those many years. Even in recent times, I happily found a version of the venerable Louie’s Lunch wagon still parked and serving on Thurston Avenue, near what was in our days the area of the women’s dormitories.


Arguably the least gourmet spots I frequented in the four years were the nonetheless inviting fast-food joints on the Elmira Road, Route13, which we reached by the short car ride in the last two years. There were two chain locations familiar to all – the then young McDonald’s for hamburgers, and Dairy Queen. But there was an apparently one-of-a-kind operation in Henry’s Hamburgers, not far from the other two. The most unlikely combinations could be made, especially getting a hamburger at Dairy Queen and a delicious if unhealthy milk shake at Henry’s. The hot dogs at Henry’s are barely worthy of mention even in a discussion of low-level, low-budget food.

In the other direction on Route 13, during the trips to meet and date young ladies at Cortland State, there was A & W Root Beer. It seemed such an intriguing innovation for the wait staff to come out to your car to take the order and then retrieve the used mugs and utensils.


For a pure taste treat, nothing could compete with the short car ride downtown to Purity’s Ice Cream, to fill up with cholesterol-laden dessert treats that somehow did not put weight on a skinny college-boy’s frame. Purity is still there for exciting visits by Alumni! It advertises itself as "The Ice Cream of the Finger Lakes Since 1936."


My best memory of a place I did not eat in was Obies. It was an all-night diner, where students would go during all-nighters or near all-nighters. As I recall, it featured the Boburger. How I never went there, or how I don’t remember it if I did, I don’t know. It sounds so perfect for the plebeian taste in food I seemed to have in those days!


The Normandie was a decent restaurant on East State Street. I have a memory of eating there on a date, but can’t be certain. Like other restaurants, the Normandie advertised in Cornell sports programs. Others will have to help me fill out my memories of the restaurant.

And those are the memories I have of eating in Ithaca. I don’t know how nutritious it all was, and it did not put weight on me in those literally lean years, but I guess I enjoyed it, at least enough to want to share these memories with fellow Cornellians these many years later.

I would invite 65ers to share memories of their eating experiences, some if not all of which had to be gastronomically superior to mine. Reach me at or and if you’re willing, we will endeavor to post your remembrances on the class website.