I have to admit that I was wrong on this one. I had thought that, because Sunset Grill is located in a small off-the-road mall on Route 96B, tucked between a small grocery and a gas station that it wouldn’t offer quality meals. Further, since it’s just moments to Ithaca College’s main entrance, I assumed it would be a restaurant catering to college students who neither had the time, nor the inclination, to sit down to indulge in a quality dining experience. After several happy visits I’ve learned, from the owner who did not know I was reviewing, that “during the week about 1 percent of the clientele is made up of college students however that population grows to about 75 percent on weekends.” And as a cheery server told me when discussing the students: “We serve lots of regular people too!”
Being well past the age of typical students, I’m hoping she groups my dinner companions and me as eligible for the “regular people” category, and, I can state, without qualification that we, too, really enjoy Sunset Grill.
This is the only place in town, at least that I’m familiar with, where you can enjoy a well-cooked breakfast, almost any time of day, sitting on a comfortable banquette with a beautiful view. Speaking of the view, there’s a popular patio with a pretty panoramic view looking up Cayuga Lake. If you ever visited the former Tower Club at Ithaca College this view might bring back memories. An awning protects diners from some of the rain however the patio closes when the temperatures drop in winter. The interior is attractive with those burgundy banquettes, chairs with burgundy cushions, a burgundy carpet and Tiffany-type lamps hanging from the ceiling.
Sunset Grill does a big breakfast business and has a large menu to support it. For example, there are seven variations of omelets ($7.99-$8.99), seven French toast combinations ($8.49-$10.99) and lots of “classic” breakfast choices with a plethora of variations and options. To accompany your breakfast, lunch and dinner choices there are “bottomless” offerings of tea, coffee, and sodas.
At lunch, the burgers are delivered cooked as ordered, on a soft bun, with fresh lettuce and tomatoes and lots of french fries.
The Reuben sandwich can be ordered with traditional corned beef or turkey. Much of the prep (boiling and seasoning) for the corned beef is done in house, and the accompanying cole slaw is homemade. The corned beef is utilized in Reubens and a popular hash. The mashed and home fried potatoes are made in house too.
The haddock in the fish fry can be ordered grilled, fried, or blackened and comes with homemade tartar sauce, coleslaw, and a “fry sauce” which is made with ketchup, mayo, and “a secret ingredient.” (I’ve learned the “secret ingredient” is Old Bay spice and that it isn’t really a well-kept secret.) The portion of haddock is huge, and the breading is delicately light.
Another satisfying dinner is chicken parmesan. It’s a large portion of chicken perfectly cooked and again, lightly breaded, sitting on a generous portion of spaghetti in a light tomato sauce. It comes with a dinner biscuit. I wished that it would have been accompanied by greens, a vegetable, or salad – even a ramekin of cole slaw would have helped to balance the meal.
The dessert offerings are rather ordinary with a small group of cheesecake and variations of a few chocolate cakes.
Beverage choices are limited with five white wines – there wasn’t a dry Riesling among them, even though there are so many wonderful ones produced in the Finger Lakes – and eight reds and nine beers by the bottle.
Bottom line: Sunset Grill offers quality food that is well prepared and fairly priced served by friendly and attentive staff.
Tidbits: You won’t be able to order from the dinner menu on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday because they close at 3 p.m.
Daily specials include: Wednesday – an innovative pasta; Thursday – a creative burger; Friday – fish fry which is the same dish and portion as on the menu everyday only for $1 less ($15.95); Saturday – prime rib.
Breakfast is served every day from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. However, if there aren’t many customers during the day, they’ll offer breakfast ‘till closing.
Some dinner items are only available after 3 p.m. however, the fish fry, shrimp, fried clam and seafood platters are available at lunchtime.