You can probably guess, from the name of the restaurant—actually it’s the name of four restaurants all located in the Ithaca area—that this establishment is not a fine dining, expensive operation. In fact, the most expensive item on the menu is about $12. Collegetown Bagels, or CTB as it is referred to by management and customers alike, serves a rather extensive menu commencing early in the morning with a variety of breakfast items that are available all day. Most longtime patrons are perfectly willing to either call ahead, pick up and take out, or stand in line, order, pay and select a small table to enjoy on the premises.
The owners, who operated the downtown location at 201-203 N. Aurora Street since 1981, had no intention of moving until advised by their landlord that the building was scheduled to be demolished at the end of 2019 and their lease, was therefore not renewable. They looked at several other possible sites in the downtown area and settled on their present location in the City Centre, 301 East State Street, at the east end of the Commons.
With the move, they added almost 1,000 to their space, going from about 1,500 square feet to about 2,300 square feet. To old timers, it might even look larger as the new ceiling is considerably higher.
This is not a “sit down restaurant” in that you’re not escorted to a table and then approached by a server to place your order. Rather, when you enter, you’ll be met by large blackboards listing over 80 sandwiches, and a half dozen paninis, as well as salads, breakfast items and more. You’ll make your selection, inform a staff member then proceed to the register where you’ll pay for your meal and receive a number to put on the table you select. When your order is ready, a staff member can identify you and bring it to your table. It all runs very efficiently.
I do, however, find the blackboards difficult to read and somewhat overwhelming, as they are filled with multiple hand-written small words and everything seems to be in a different color. The way I have solved the problem is, if I don’t already know what I’m having when I walk in, I pick up one of their paper menus, choose a table, and peruse the menu at my leisure. When I’ve made my selection, I join the queue and place my order. Speaking of choosing a table, surprisingly I can usually find one of the approximately three dozen chairs as about two thirds of the meals served are destined for takeout. If I do have to wait for a table, it’s usually because students have chosen to camp out with a laptop or smartphone after finishing their meal.
I don’t see the point of singling out a sandwich or two that I like from the approximately seven dozen varieties on order. I am very comfortable, however, generalizing that I have enjoyed every single sandwich I’ve chosen. And there are always two homemade soups on the central counter and I’ve found them to be rich, tasty and original. Potato with roasted garlic and gorgonzola cheese and white bean with chicken and chili were two recent offerings. A complimentary hunk of Ithaca Bakery bread is offered with the soup.
One of the reasons the food is so good is that the owners, who also own a couple of Ithaca Bakery stores in the area, utilize them to complement the CTB fare. For example: bakers mix the dough for bread in the Meadow Street Ithaca Bakery. That’s also where the meats and cheeses are sliced, the ingredients for sandwich fillings such as chicken and tuna salad are combined, and the interesting and tasty soups are created. Everything is delivered daily to the CTB sites.
A liquor license has been applied for to serve wine, beer and hard cider. When it’s granted, I wouldn’t be surprised to see evening hours extended to take advantage of the vibrant energy developing at the eastern end of the Commons around the new commercial core.
The new Collegetown Bagels shop in the new City Centre has quickly become a well-deserved popular gathering place for people looking for a casual meal with quality food.
Mustard packets are not available with Ketchup and other condiments. Staff is happy to prepare a small ramekin on request.
A sincere effort is being made to recycle the paper dishes and plastic cutlery and cups.
Fill your own mug with coffee, receive a discount of $.25; fill an IB or CTB mug and receive a discount of $.50.