A couple months ago, some emails started circulating amongst a group of friends from my undergraduate days that we were due for a boys weekend away to the old stomping grounds, Cornell University in Ithaca. It didn’t take long – maybe the 3rd or 4th email – for someone to mention the hallowed grounds of The Glenwood Pines Restaurant on Route 89 in Ithaca, NY.
I’m not sure at what point I was introduced to The Pines during my 4-year haze, but I can say, without reservation, that it has become a favorite place of mine, anywhere. The restaurant is situated on the western shore line of Cayuga Lake, just a couple minutes drive from the Cornell campus.
Dining at The Pines is a casual experience, but ideal for a family, or a group of guys getting together for an impromptu alumni weekend. When you first get to the restaurant, you can’t help but notice Cayuga Lake in the background, providing a stunning vista of not only the lake, but Cornell’s campus further to the east. Upon entering, you are immediately drawn to a stool at the bar to order The Pines famous Bloody Mary. Normally, I’m not a fan, but there is something about their mixture that’s just irresistible. I typically enjoy 1 Bloody Mary before we sit, order a second at the start of the meal, and then move to some non-threatening light beer for the remainder of the meal.
Until I went to the website to assist me with this posting, I’ve never looked at the menu. Frankly, I didn’t know a menu even existed. That’s because all you need to know is the following: “Double Pinesburger please, medium rare, with onion rings.” Every once in a while, I notice some fried corn nuggets, french fries, or jalapeno poppers being passed around, but that’s just white noise. In fact, the restaurant also serves up a mean fresh haddock fish sandwich. The sandwich is so good, that a couple of the guys ordered that as an appetizer. You can see by the line-up, that the burger and the fish sandwich get equal play.
The Pinesburger is a six ounce cheeseburger served on French bread with lettuce, tomato, onions and a choice of mayo or Thousand Island dressing. I really don’t like mayo, and I’m not sure I’ve ever put Thousand Island dressing on anything I’ve ever eaten. However, there’s something about the combination of the hamburger meat juices mixing with the Thousand Island dressing that is just unstoppable.
Normally, I find French bread cumbersome, and likely to take away from the meat of any sandwich. While that risk does hold true with the Pinesburger at times, most times the experience goes without a snag, and the sandwich stays together perfectly.
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice my typical order was a Double Pinesburger. But in the previous two paragraphs, I only described to you a Pinesburger. One thing you have to keep in mind about this venture is that it’s usually sandwiched between Friday and Saturday night trips to the Collegetown bars to relive (unsuccessfully I might add) the glory days. So it’s essential to ingest the right amount to not only recover from the previous nights’ festivities, but prepare for the long evening ahead. This is where the Double Pinesburger comes into play. Everything I described to you remains in play, but an extra patty is inserted into the sandwich, resulting in twelve ounces of pure deliciousness (notice in the pic below, I’ve removed the “salad” portion of my burger).
As you can probably tell from the picture, we’re not dealing with patties of a steakhouse thickness. The patties are fairly lean, with meat that comes straight from the aisles of Wegman’s Supermarkets. The French bread comes from the local mainstay, Ithaca Bakery. You could see in the picture of the kitchen that the burgers are grilled on site, and are served with a nice char on the outside, with nice juiciness. I haven’t had an over or under cooked burger from that kitchen yet.
One year, I’ll forego the Saturday evening festivities to take down The 4 Pinesburger Challenge – eat 4 within 1 hour to get a t-shirt, and eternal infamy on The Glenwood Pines Wall of Fame. Until that day comes, I’ll have to remember with great fondness the consistently great experiences I have at this Ithaca gem.