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34th Annual Readers poll


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Best of Ithaca 2016

View of Cayuga Lake from the Ithaca College Campus (Photo: Casey Martin)

W

hen the ballot for the 34th annual Best of Ithaca poll first begins appearing in the Ithaca Times in August, some prospective winners go to work, telling their friends and clients to vote for them. Most people, however, continue on with their daily business just as they always have, perhaps filling out a ballot of their own, or perhaps even blissfully unaware of the contest at all. So, when we telephone people to tell them that they’ve won the responses can range from a triumphant “Ha! Excellent.” (as in, ‘My plan has succeeded!’) to a completely stumped, “Really? No kidding.” Happily, the response, “What’s ‘Best of Ithaca’? was recorded only once. When you get right down to it, this is a small town, so the chances of the same business, person, place etc. winning repeatedly is a bit unavoidable. We try to keep that down to a dull roar by fielding different categories each year and inventing categories that are not obvious drop kicks for a particular person, place, or event. We don’t always succeed. For example, Just a Taste restaurant walked away with three wins this year. We all have to face it; it is a really good restaurant. We brought back “Cheap Night

Out” for the first time in a while, and Viva Tacqueria won again, just like they always do. For many years we gave up on the “Best Cocktail” category because Felicia’s Atomic Lounge kept winning by a comfortable margin. When they changed their emphasis and moved to Trumansburg, it was safe to reintroduce it (and they got votes anyway). The Best of Ithaca vote differs from a political contest in that the latter is multiple-choice, while the former is a fill-in-the-blank. Imagine what political elections would be like if you could pick anyone at all to be president or dogcatcher? You would probably have some surprise winners. It was not a foregone conclusion that out all the golf courses around here, that the public course would prove to be the most popular. And it was rather charming the miniature golf course at the Sciencenter chalked up a respectable tally. Thanks to everyone who voted and congratulations to all the winners.

Best

ENTERTAINMENT Best Community Celebration | Ithaca Festival

Ben Greenberg assumed the directorship of the Ithaca Festival last year and under his aegis some changes were made. The famous parade was moved from Thursday to Friday night (“to keep the momentum going”) and the city-wide event was combined with the annual GIAC Festival, with a never before location being added at the new park across Court Street from GIAC. “It’s all about the whole community celebrating,” Greenberg said of the festival. “It’s a long standing tradition and it has developed a reputation.” The director has had plenty of experience as a concert promoter, but this was a “different endeavor,” he said. “I loved that it was about getting out into the community.”

Best Singer-Songwriter | X Ambassadors Managing editor Ithaca Times

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our voters and they bent the definition of singer-songwriter a little to give the most votes to brothers Sam and Casey Harris and guitarist Noah Feldshuh. According to Jason Warshof ’s May 18 cover story on the band, “X Ambassadors, with previous names including the Fuzz Brothers and the Ambassadors, got its first break in early 2012, when its ballad ‘Litost’—referring to a Czech term for a particular type of unhappiness once explored by Milan Kundera—was chosen for an episode of the WB television drama One Tree Hill.” Yeah, that sounds like an Ithaca band.

Best Bar Game | Silky Jones Trivia

“I’m still surprised,” said trivia host Bob Proehl, upon learning his event had bested other entries like The Westy’s Cornhole and the venerable games of pool and darts, “our regulars haven’t mugged me on the way out yelling ‘Who’s got the answers now?’, so this is a nice vote of confidence. Or at least tolerance.” Re-launched in November 2012 with Proehl at the helm, the trivia contest convenes on Mondays at 9 p.m and Bob promises to get you home in time for the 11 o’clock news. When Bob is out of town being a rock star author, Ben MumfordZisk fills in. B

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carries a lot of Pacifica programming.

Best Public Radio Station | WSKG

The highest vote-getter, Z95.5, is not actually a public radio station. Well, it’s a public radio station in the sense the the public listens to it but we were looking for a public-radio station, as in commercialfree and generally broadcasting NPR or Pacifica programming. The top public-radio station votegetter was Binghamton’s WSKG-FM (90.9 on your dial in Ithaca). The station broadcasts NPR shows like “All Things Considered,” “Morning Edition,” and “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.” Other public-radioish station runners-up included WICB-FM (91.9), the Ithaca College station, and WRFI, the community radio station (88.1) that

Best Location for a Party | Stewart Park

The two most popular places to have a party were both more or less outdoors and available for reasonable rates. Ithacans, it would seem, are not out to impress their guests, but to put all the resources into food and drink and have a gosh darn good party. Stewart Park, owned and maintained by the City of Ithaca, racked up the most votes. The park has no entrance fee. If you want to rent the Large Pavilion and are having up to 24 guests, then it costs $40. The application form (which includes all the rules) is available at cityofithaca.org. The second most popular location

was collectively our three state parks: Taughannock Falls, Robert Treman, and Buttermilk Falls. Pavilion rental there ranges from $50 to $175 and can be done through NYSParks.com.

Best Place to Go Dancing | Lot 10 Lounge

Each Wednesday night Djug Django convenes for an evening of gypsy jazz, singing and dancing. The collective features a group of regulars (Doug Robinson, guitar and vocals; Dave Davies, guitar, vocals, and trombone; Harry Aceto, guitar; Eric Aceto, six string violin; Brian Earle, clarinet and occasional vocals; Jim Sherpa, low-down washtub bass; Al Hartland, drums and; Chad Lieberman, piano) and their guests. Vocalists are

Newman Municipal Golf Course (Photo: Casey Martin)

invited, as are dancers. Things get going gradually after 5 p.m.

Best Local Theatre Production of 2016 | In the Heights at the Hangar Theatre

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Many balloters took this to mean “Best Local Theatre” and they voted for the Hangar Theatre over others in town. We were actually looking for everyone’s favorite production and the one mentioned most often was In the Heights, the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical that packed the house in July. “It killed,” said Michael Barakiva, the newly appointed artistic director at Hangar. “It was something like 90 percent capacity for the run.” In the Heights was programmed before Barakiva came aboard, but he called it a “dynamic musical” and liked the “diversity that it offered.” Barakiva accounted for the popularity of the 355-seat Hangar by its support for both local and national artists. He noted that the cast of In the Heights was just such a mix. “It is the foremost learning theater in town,” he claimed. “We put seasoned veterans together with beginning actors. It’s a grand space where great things can happen.”

Best Local Art Exhibition | The Electrical Utility Boxes

In July our reporter Erica Dischino attended a meeting of the City of Ithaca Public Arts Commision. They were deciding among proposed murals for more the electrical utility boxes around town. Our readers made it clear that this is the Best Art Exhibition in town. As with the Best Theatre Production question, many folks listed a gallery rather an exhibition. The art on the power boxes was the only exhibition that people recalled, obviously because it is part of their everyday lives, rather than on a gallery wall for a month. There are currently around 35


electrical-utility-box murals to be found around the city of Ithaca. The mural information will be posted on neighborhood listserv, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance will send a notification to their members and a postcard will be sent out to anyone who lives within 200 feet of the box, informing of the new murals. According to Dischino’s article: “The boxes have a high level of creativity and diversity,” said CAP executive director John Spence. “They were all created by individual artists and almost everybody has a favorite box or one that will stop them in their tracks. The level of work and detail put into these creations is just amazing. There’s really something for everybody.” “When you’re taking something that is usually an eyesore,” PAC member Carol Mallison said, “and turning it into public art, people are going to want to do it.”

management option could be re-evaluated in three years. In the meantime, the report suggested following an “emerging management plan.” We haven’t heard as to whether this idea has been revisited, but according to our reader, this is the most popular course in the city.

Best Fundraiser | Women Swimmin’

“We’re grateful for all the support,” said Melissa Travis Dunham, the manager of community relations at Hospicare. Women Swimmin’, which was just swum for the 13th time, has raised $3.6 million for Hospicare since its inception. This year’s event has raised $423,000 and the donations are still coming in, according to Travis Dunham. This year 320 women got in the lake and swam across. Nineteen more, who were not up to the trip, but wanted to help, swam laps in a pool for the cause. 2016 is on track to being the most successful fundraising year ever. This is a long way from Hospicare board member Joan Jacobs Brumberg suggesting to her doctor, upon getting an examination while turning 60 years old, that she would like to swim across Cayuga Lake to raise money for an organization that meant much to her. She thought she might get 50 women together, said Travis Dunham, but 127 women signed up that first year and they raised $54,000. Since then 1,300 women have made their way across the longest Finger Lake for Hospicare.

Best

ESSENTIALS Best Local Not-For-Profit | SPCA

Jim Boudreau is the executive director of the Tompkins County SPCA. “Because we’re in the ‘pet business,” he said, “it’s natural to feel great about your own pets and where you got them. People appreciate our hard work.” Boudreau has been director for about six years, but the SPCA has been a “no kill” shelter for 15 years. “The movement started here,” said the director. “That shows you the amount of support we have. Other places try it, but they can’t afford it. We’re very proud; there’s a lot of community spirit here.”

Best Retail Store | Wegmans

Best Fitness Classes | Island Fitness

James Bradac, the marketing and sales manager at Island Fitness, said that the popularity of their fitness classes might have something to do with their number and diverity; they over 100 group fitness classes per week. They offer everything from yoga to Zumba. Bradac singled out the Les Mills programs as especially popular. “The instructors are very dedicated and they get people psyched up,” he said. “The number one thing is the instructors.”

Best Yoga Studio | Mighty Yoga

There are a lot of yoga studios in Ithaca, which saying something like “There is a lot of tea in China.” Sixteen different places got a vote from our readers. Mighty Yoga, however, got more than twice as many votes as its nearest rival. Upon hearing that they were in effect number one, instructor Zainab Thomas, pumped her fists straight (very straight) up into the air and said, “Yes!” And then, very quickly realizing this was a little more track star than yogi, offered a more moderate response about being

Mighty Yoga instructor Zainab Thomas (top); Bob Gates, Chi Chi, Dakota and Sherri LaTorre of Salon Salon (middle); Beth Passmore and Gary Woloszyn of Wegmans (Photo: Casey Martin)

thankful and appreciative. This might be Mighty Yoga in a nutshell; they are serious about yoga, but do combine it with a certain very American athleticism. The instructors offer a broad spectrum of approaches that represent varied blends of Eastern consciousness raising and a Western zeal for accomplishment.

Best Golf Course | Newman Municipal Golf Course

In 2013, according to then-reporter Dialynn Dwyer, the Friends of Newman Golf Course are exploring options for making the course budget neutral for the City of Ithaca. The municipal course, once the city’s dump, was built by the Civilian

Conservation Corps in 1935. In the fall of 2012, the City of Ithaca Board of Public Works asked the Friends of Newman, a group of Ithacans who dedicate time and effort to enhancing and preserving the Newman Golf Course, to evaluate whether private management would be a viable option for the municipal course and see how the city asset could be sustained without the taxpayer support it currently relies on. The report generated found that private management of the course is not a viable option currently, because the golf course’s “current situation” limited “its attractiveness to a for-profit entrepreneur.” Instead, the report suggests the private T

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Wegmans usually wins some sort of “Best of ” award and this year Ithacans showed just how much they care about food by picking a grocery store—out of all possible kinds of retail store—as their favorite. “We’re very proud,” said service team leader Chris Loviglio. “We thank everyone for the recognition.” The runner-up, with slight more than half the votes Wegman’s got, was Sunny Days, a relatively new gift shop located at the corner of East Green and North Cayuga streets. Upon surviving its first year in business in April 2015 co-owner Deirdre Kurzweil said, “We opened in April [2014] in anticipation of The Commons being done last August—but the response from the many people who have shopped or browsed in our store has been overwhelmingly positive. We regularly meet new customers who tell us, ‘I drive by all the time and I’m so glad I’m finally able to get in here to check it out!’ which motivates us to maintain our mantra… The Commons will be amazing again soon, the awesome businesses are still here with hardworking owners at their helm, and the products that we love are still being sold inside.”

Best Green Business | Home Green Home

“We’re thrilled to hear that our name is out there organically,” said Joe Nolan, co-owner with Megan Vidler, of Home Green Home. The store, at 2,300 square B

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The staff of Northside Wine & Spirits (Photo: Casey Martin)

Megan Vidler and Joe Nolan, owners of Home Green Home (Photo: Casey Martin)

feet, is one of the larger ones on the Commons. When it opened nine years ago it was even larger and had a larger focus on furniture. The Great Recession, said Nolan, caused them to reorient their approach. They increased the variety of their offering and now sell everything from mattresses to lunch boxes and candles, which Nolan said has proved popular. “We refine our offerings based on feedback from customers,” he said. “We have brought in non-plastic kitchen and lunch ware and natural yoga mats.”

Best Wine/Liquor Store | Northside Wine & Spirits

“That’s pretty cool,” said store manager Joe Pendergast, when he was told of his store’s popularity among Best of Ithaca votes. “We’re very excited.” When asked why his place of business was the people’s favorite, he said, “It’s definitely because of the customer service. We help you find the wine or spirits that your looking for and are going to make that occasion special.” Since March of this year Northside has been owned and operated by Christina O’Hara, Danny Wegman’s stepdaughter. It had been owned by the Borow family since 1959.

Best Hair Salon | Salon Salon

Bob Gates, who owns and operates Salon Salon on East Buffalo Street with Sherri LaTorre, was delighted to hear that his salon had been voted Best of Ithaca. “It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s a great feeling. The reason we’re popular? Probably because it is just Sherri and me together here for the last 19 years. It’s relaxed and friendly, and it’s just the two of us. It’s a joy and pleasure for me to be here and I think people know that while they’re here. We’re not so ‘mini-mallish.’”

X Ambassadors at the State of the State Benefit (Photo: Casey Martin)

Tim and Colleen Foley of Ithaca Community Acupuncture (Photo: Casey Martin)

The salon is in a frame house located in the East Hill Historic District. The hominess of the place is increased by the presence of two other staff members, Chi Chi and Dakota, Gates’s two white Maltese dogs. “They,” he said, “are our official greeters. Dog lovers love them.” “People leave here looking and feeling really good,” said Gates. “That’s the best part of it for me.”

Ithaca Community Acupuncture. “We were floored.” They opened ICA a little over a six years ago with a very different model than most acupuncture offices. Treatments are administered while clients are in reclining easy chairs. These are scattered around a large L-shaped room with diffuse, indirect lighting and hypnotic Asian or South American music filling the air like an aural sleeping draught. “It’s accessible,” said Foley, “in terms of price range and being accessible to local people.” Located in the West End off West State Street, the office is easy walk or drive to. “There’s a sense of community,” Foley said. “There are multiple practitioners and a communal feeling of healing.”

Best Alternative Health-care Provider | Ithaca Community Acupuncture

“We were really excited,” said Colleen Foley, who with her husband Tim owns T

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FOOD & DRINK Best Unique Sandwich | Gorgers

Matt Shrieder, the manager and chef at Gorgers, is pretty sure that his sandwich shop won for their Chupacabra, a new variation on a regular pulled pork sandwich that includes sharp cheddar cheese, tomatoes, onions and cilantro with chipotle, chimchurri and sriracha. That’s right: three different kinds of hot pepper sauce. “It’s the newest one,” he said, “and it’s definitely one of the most popular.” Owner Bart Diamond came up with the original roster of sandwiches, but customers often ask for a custom sub. Shrieder said that those customers keep coming back and the word starts to B

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Manager/chef Matt Shrieder of Gorgers with the Chupacapra (Photo: Casey Martin)

spread through the electronic grapevine, and more people order the sandwich, until finally it gets added to the menu.

Best Inspired Dining | Just a Taste Best Wine Selection | Just a Taste Best Service | Just a Taste

This mainstay of Restaurant Row, located on the west side of North Aurora Street, almost always has a line outside of it, particularly on the weekends, particularly when its nice outside. They don’t take reservations (except on graduation weekends), so you have to plan if you want to eat at this tapas restaurant. Like The Thai Cuisine, Madeline’s and most recently Mia, Just a Taste is another creation of restauranteur extraordinaire Lex Chutintaranond, who opened it in March 1990. He sold it to Cornell hotel school graduate Jennifer Irwin and her partner Stan Irwin in 1994. We haven’t reviewed Just a Taste since 2009, when Henry Stark said this: Irwin met Walton in a restaurant in San Francisco where he was the salad chef and she was the pastry chef. He describes his role at Just A Taste, “I run in the back and hide. I’m a behind the scenes kind of guy. Jennifer does everything. I try to give her a lot of support.” Actually, the last time I encountered Walton he was in the kitchen trimming the meat off a lamb carcass. This complementary partnership seems to work like a charm.

Best Cheap Drinks | The Chanticleer

During the winter of 2012-13 Becky Lane and her crew at Nice Girl Films made three episodes of a Web series called The Chanticleer in the Ithaca bar of that name. Inspired by lesbian pulp fiction from the 1950s the plot centers on

Michael Barakiva and Josh Friedman (Photo: Rachel Philipson)

a woman who returns to Ithaca from the big city in order to run her late father’s now-seedy bar. Lane showed the episodes at Rochester’s Image Out Festival in October 2013 and screened them at the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Center in Greenwich Village in November 2013 and at Cinemapolis in December 2013. They were well received, and some of her colleagues Lane was encouraged to make a feature film of the story. More episodes were indeed made and they can be found on line. Lane and company didn’t have to change that much to bring the Chanti back to the 1950s. The place definitely has a noir feeling, even here in bright, shiny electronic 2016. The drinks aren’t really especially cheap, but they aren’t expensive either, and when you order one and hunch over it to stare at the Art Deco bar through its thicket of bottles, you feel like you ought to be wearing a trench coat and be a little down on your luck, even if you aren’t.

Best Cheap Night Out | Viva Tacqueria

“We’ve won this one before,” admitted Jill Lippencott, long-time bartender at Viva. “We’re happy that people come back. We keep everything the same for a reason: to keep the quality up.” Viva Tacqueria has been open for 20 years and Lippencott has worked there most that time. The tacqueria opened first and then a year later the cantina opened to include the bar and more sit-down dining (there had been only seven tables). Lippencott said that they have making their own chips and salsa and providing them free on the table for the past 18 years, something that some customers just can’t seem to get over. On keeping the prices down, she noted: “You can only charge so much for rice and beans.” A visiting regular customer, overhearing Lippencott’s diplomatic answers, chimed in: “Hey, when you eat cheap, you should tip better.”

Best Place to Take Your Parents | Boat Yard Grill

Best Daily Specials | Agava

“What has rough dark sugar cubes and strong coffee,” wrote Peggy Haine in a recent review, “a monumental list of tequilas and beers (including a $6 sixpack you can send to the kitchen as a thank-you), an adventurous and lengthy menu, a four-buck loaded fruit salad they can’t possibly be making money on, and a brunch item called the “Fat Elvis?” I’d be fibbing if I said it was anything other than East Hill’s Agava Restaurant, a neighborhood favorite that always seems to be bustling. “We enjoyed the asparagus farotto: a bowl of locally grown faro, asparagus, and aged Parmesan, hip comfort food. Then we went for the properly unctuous

Daily special at Agava (Photo: Casey Martin)

fettucine Alfredo, basking in a tomato cream sauce punctuated by scallion slices, and topped with chunks of grilled chicken. A bowl of shrimp and grits was our other choice, and was equally memorable, with chewy bits of tasso (a smoked pork beloved in Cajun country), plump shrimps, and a sauce that was unexpectedly sweet and expectedly spicy—I’d say the chef batted that one out of the park.”

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Not that many people take part in the maritime culture of the Finger Lakes these days. Even on the most brilliant, breezy summer days, Cayuga Lake is not exactly crowded. That doesn’t stop the Boat Yard Grill from mounting a convincing interior design that is one part yacht club and one part hunting lodge. It is definitely the kind of place that a certain kind of parent feels right at home and another kind of parent probably holds as an idealized image of upstate New York décor. You certainly can’t beat the view. Perched at the northern tip of Inlet Island, the large windows open out to moored boats, rambling storage buildings, and an expanse of water that includes lighthouses B

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Spike behind the bar of the venerable and affordable Chanticleer (Photo: Casey Martin)

and distant cliffs. When it comes to lakeside dining in general, the Boat Yard Grill on Cayuga Lake rather splits the difference between the Switzerland Inn (on Keuka Lake) and Seneca Harbor (in Watkins Glen). Like the Switz, parts of it are literally hanging over the water, but like Seneca Harbor it is located at the south end of a lake in the West End neighborhood of Ithaca. Like that of Seneca Harbor the Boat Yard lunch menu is weighted toward seafood with a smattering of beef and chicken dishes. The dinner menu is more extensive and adds a number of different cuts of steak. Unlike the Switz and Seneca Harbor, the Boat Yard Grill serves a separate brunch menu on Sundays between 11:30 a.m and 2 p.m.

Best Ethnic Restaurant | Hawi Ethiopian

A lot of people have been waiting for an Ethiopian restaurant to open in Ithaca. For a few years you could get it at the Congo Square Market, but last year Hawi opened in what had been an apparently cursed location on South Cayuga Street. So far they seem to be doing quite well. Finger crossed. Well, except when you’re there of course, when you’ll have to use your fingers to eat. Our restaurant critic Peggy Haine loves the place: “Having discovered Ethiopian restaurants in D.C., Toronto and Rochester, we’ve been longing for an Ethiopian place closer to home, so we were pleased when Hawi opened its doors. The restaurant is on Cayuga Street, in the same location that spawned the successful Daño’s—now on Seneca—and we hope it will similarly prosper. “An Ethiopian meal at Hawi arrives

on a large platter meant for sharing, though you can order single portions if you like. The platter is lined with injera, and colorful mounds of meat and vegetable stews are scattered about on top. The injera, a large crepe-like pancake whose batter has been fermented and is pleasantly sour, is made from teff flour, ground from a tiny, gluten-free grass seed. Your injera serves as plate liner, napkin and spork; tear off pieces of it to scoop up the various vegetable and meat stews and convey them to your mouth. This might be awkward for a first date or job interview, but for dining with friends or loved ones, it is delightful and fun—think Tom Jones, the 1963 movie whose oyster-eating scene titillated audiences awakening to ’60s sensuality, clips of which are available online. “Try the appetizers, but beware of eating too much injera early on—it can fill you up long before you’ve managed to transmit every other thing on your plate to your mouth. We’ve enjoyed the yater kik fitfit appetizer, a lemony combination of injera bathed in butter and mixed with yellow split peas and jalapeños, served with even more injera. The avocado salad—fresh tomatoes, onions and avocados mixed with a house dressing served with injera—was tart and refreshing.”

Best New* Restaurant | The Rook

The Rook opened restaurant in Ithaca’s downtown, near the intersection of North Plain and West State streets, in Fine Line Bistro’s former location. The restaurant is named for a type of crow—Corvus frugilegus means “foodgatherer” in Latin—not the chess piece. T

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The silhouetted image of the bird adorns the new sign on the storefront. The Rook’s culinary mission claims a modern take on old favorites, and it delivers. Our critic Annemarie Morse adored the place: “The menu presents varied options: New York strip steak and oysters, grilled trout and ricotta gnocchi, to name a few. We decided to order from the smaller plate selections and shared some delicious grilled dates, smoked trout, salad and fries. The “dirty” option is also delicious. (For those not keeping up with this kind of thing, “dirty” means anything sprinkled with cheese, chopped meat and/ or vegetables and/or spices.) The Rook also serves up a spaetzle (German egg noodle) dish made with Gruyere, cream and crispy shallots, which is a must try. “The Rook’s owners include a lineup of experienced industry professionals. Head chef Gentry Morris previously served as sous chef at Le Café Cent Dix and was the chef/owner of Belly (the recurring pop-up restaurant at Lot 10). Lila Donaruma worked in the hospitality/ restaurant industry for 15 years in various capacities and Autumn Greenberg, with more than 10 years in hospitality, most recently tended bar at the Argos Inn, which is well known for a drink menu that boasts numerous unique craft cocktails.” *Opened within the last year.

Best Local Cider | Bellwether

Bellwether, on Rt. 89 just north of Trumansburg, is one of the earliest cideries to be established in the Finger Lakes and now the region is becoming cidery central. When asked about their continuing popularity, Cheryl Barton, who with her husband Bill, owns Bellwether, said, “Longevity and name recognition doesn’t hurt, but I think our style of cider helps too. We try to make approachable, everyday ciders, and I think that’s what appeals to people.” Barton appreciates what other cider makers are trying to do when they go for something distinctive and perhaps esoteric, but it just isn’t Bellwether’s mission. She and her husband were introduced to hard ciders in Normandy many years ago, where a pitcher of it would be put on the table as a matter of course in most restaurants. So they decided that they would like to recreate that sort of casually drinkable beverage here in the Finger Lakes. And their ciders are meant to pair well with food. “They have a slightly lower alcohol level than wines,” said Barton, “and they are less filling than beers, so they are well suited for having with a meal. That’s not say though, they I don’t like to sit down on a hot day with a nice cold glass of cider all by itself.”

Lona Isenberg Gutchess and Anna Isenberg at Lona Cakes (Photo: Casey Martin)

cakes, she only opened the doors of her storefront in Community Corners on June 17 of this year. Her cakes have apparently made an impact right away, as they edged old favorites: Madeline’s restaurant and Sarah’s Patisserie. Anna Isenberg, Lona’s younger sister, moved up from Chile to help run the business. “We are adamant about quality,” said Anna. “Lona wants just the right amount of sweetness and the right amount of richness.” Every ingredient is carefully vetted and selected, and everything is prepared on site, and the cakes are custom made for customers. “We are about you,” said Anna. “It is

Viva Tacqueria cantina (Photo: Casey Martin)

just for you.”

store on Cayuga Street about a year and a half ago, says that the situation will give them time to work out the kinks in the business. “‘I just figured that because the place is finished inside, it might as well be open. It’ll give us a change to work out the bugs and get the system running, so when we do get a street out front, we can be prepared,’ he said. “Cuddeback noted another upside to the State Street construction. ‘We have secured the regular, routine business of the construction people,’ he said. ‘On Monday of one week, they were drinking regular coffees. By the end of that week, they were

Best Coffee | Gimme! Coffee

Gimme! is the coffee that started it all in Ithaca and it is still on top. Now for a ride in the way-back machine. Here is an excerpt from a 2001 article by Jessica Keitz: “Gimme Coffee’s new incarnation, Gimme! Amour, located amidst the State Street construction, still seems scattered and sparse. The SoHo decor - pale oak tables, bright walls and metallic light fixtures and roasters - contrasts with the dust and noise outside. But Kevin Cuddeback, who opened the first Gimme!

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Best Place to Eat Cake | Lona Cakes

Best Place to Eat Cake | Lona Cakes Although Lona Isenberg Gutchess has many years of experience baking T

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The staff of The Rook (Photo: Casey Martin)

drinking vanilla lattes and mochas. It’s kind of funny how it all evolved’ “Besides, Cuddeback said, he expects only about 40 percent of the new location’s business to be from the espresso bar. The rest comes from roasting coffee, a new enterprise for Gimme and for Ithaca. “Gimme now roasts all of the beans for its own stores, in addition to selling them to local retailers. John Gant, who has roasted coffee in Alaska and certified coffee crops in India, is in charge of preparing the beans. “‘He’s someone in the who’s who of the coffee world,’ Cuddeback said of Gant. Gant demonstrated the roasting process, from evaluating the raw beans to brewing the perfect espresso. His manner is like that of a wine taster, describing the way a new Ethiopian blend feels on the palate, or the aftertaste of a more common Indian roast. “‘Ethiopians are almost wild coffees,’ he says. ‘They’re not really plantation coffees.’ He compares the beans, showing how the Ethiopian ones come in different shapes and colors, with some defective beans thrown into the mix. By contrast, the Guatemalan blend in a nearby bag is a near uniform bluish-green. Gant says that quality control is important, but that the nuance of an exceptional coffee like the Ethiopian can override the need for uniformity. ‘I wouldn’t want to get rid of the excitement that comes out of that coffee,’ he said.”

Best

PEOPLE Best Friend to Addicts | Svante Myrick

In February Mayor Svante Myrick rolled his “Ithaca Plan” for combatting our growing illegal drug problem. Our reporter Josh Brokaw cover the event: “Myrick touched on some key aspects of the plan in his opening remarks, including opening an Office of Drug Policy, a 24-hour crisis center, lowcost or free hepatitis treatments, and increasing awareness about New York’s Good Samaritan laws - which allow people to call emergency personnel when overdoses happen without fear of legal repercussions. The plan also calls for increased access to methadone in Ithaca -- right now, the closest clinics are in Syracuse and Binghamton -- and for more doctors trained to prescribe Suboxone, used to treat opioid addiction. The plan also calls for safe injection facilities where heroin users can shoot up under supervision, which has been a focus of media coverage since details started coming out when an AP report on the plan was released Monday. There are four “pillars” to the plan: Harm reduction, treatment, prevention, and enforcement. All of those topic areas had committees of people, part of the Municipal Drug Policy Committee

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formed by Myrick in April 2014, dedicated to coming up with recommendations.

Best Massage Therapist | Meredith Carpenter

There is a massage school in Ithaca, so there are a lot of massage therapists. How in the world do you stand out from the pack in the event that are one of the many, many graduates who decide they would like to stay here? We actually got 35 different responses to this question, more than any other category, even “Best Winery.” This tells you something about Ithaca and about your relationship with your massage therapist (everyone thinks theirs is the best). Meredith Carpenter, who is at Rasa Spa two days a week, got more than twice as many votes as the next runner up “I love practicing massage,” she said, “because using my body to facilitate other people feeling comfortable and happy in their own bodies is an incredible privilege and a wonderful experience. I feel we are alive in order to enjoy ourselves, and to learn and grow. Working with our physical selves is such an important part of that. “When I graduated from massage school over a decade ago my mom gave me a picture frame with this Rumi quote written in, and I still think about it every day when I work. “‘Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.’” “Thank you to everyone who chose me. I am so honored and grateful!”

Best Street Performer | William Metro, “The Magic Man

“I’m glad to be recognized,” said William Metro, one of the many aliases

of the “Magic Man,” upon being told that he had received the most votes in this category. Only Hilby the Skinny German Juggle Boy came close. Metro started his magic business in 2011, but he has been learning and doing magic tricks since he was 10 years old. “I got the tricks from the old-time magic shops,” he said, “and then I put it together to make a business.” He arrives on the Commons between 9:30 and 10 a.m. and moves along the pedestrian mall until he breaks for lunch. Then it puts in an afternoon shift and breaks for dinner. He closes out each day by setting up outside the downtown bars between 10 p.m. and closing. Magic is only one of Metro’s undertakings. He also has a television show about politics on the Time Warner public access cable channel. He no longer owns the equipment to produce music, but for many years he also made his own rap tapes.

Best Stylist/Barber | Demitra Karakantas at Satori

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Karakantas was honest about the fact that she told her friends and clients about the Best of Ithaca contest when the ballots appeared in the paper and on line. But really this is just part of her natural gregariousness. “I’m a people person,” she said, “and I love what I do. My clients feel like we’re friends and they can tell that I love what I’m doing. Karakantas, who is one of the senior stylists at Satori on Hanshaw Road, has been at it for 13 years. She is a New York State licensed cosmetologist and her style is described as “edgy.”

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Luke Fenchel (Photo: Casey Martin)

Best Developer | Travis/Hyde

During the past year Travis/Hyde has probably received the most attention for their attempt to re-develop the site of the old county library at the corner of North Cayuga and West Court streets. Now the whole thing is bogged down in county politics, but Frost Travis has maintained admirable cool through it all. Travis was taken off guard by his company’s win. Developers don’t tend to get a lot of love in Ithaca. “Thank you!,” he said, “I was not aware of this honor, and I am humbled. We understand that what we build is something that people are going to have to live with a long time so we do our best to get it right. We also feel it’s important to reach out and listen to community stakeholders when we start a project— some of our best ideas have come from unexpected quarters. Environmental sustainability is a strong value in our company—we are by no means perfect, but we try to improve with every project.”

Jim Boudreau of Tompkins County SPCA (Photo: Casey Martin)

peace of mind can be monumental. “My mission is to provide a compassionate, knowledgeable, creative, and economical complete legal defense that is narrowly-tailored to my client’s unique needs and in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Because my practice is client-centered, I strive to be an effective and efficient communicator as well as a zealous advocate. “The criminal justice system focuses on a single incident, a terrible day. My job is to step back and provide context and clarity to a byzantine process. I honestly hope you never do need a criminal defense lawyer, but if you do, I hope you

don’t hesitate to call.”

weren’t really like that. That, as they say, is when you pull the other leg. “I hate to break it to you, but that’s what Ira Kamp’s iDental Spa is really like. In fact, it’s exactly like that.”

Best Dentist | Ira Kamp at iDental

If you were going to try to pull a newcomer’s leg about what a dentist is like in Ithaca, you might tell her “Well, my dentist is a certified acupuncturist and he integrates sleep therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, nutritional guidance, and natural remedies into his traditional dental services. In addition to other dentists and hygienists, he also has three massage therapists on his staff.” Your newbie friend would probably start laughing and say she was still glad to have moved here, even if the dentists

Best Veterinarian | Anne Shakespeare at Cornerstone Vet Hospital “It’s the personal interest that the doctors take in the patients,” said Joan Shaw, the hospital manager at Cornerstone, in response to the question we ask everyone. “The staff is stable over the years, so we know all our clients quite well.”

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Best Attorney | Luke Fenchel

As a freelancer arts journalist, Luke Fenchel is more visible than a lot of attorneys in this town. He has always gotten votes in past years, but this is the first time he’s come out on top. Never shy about providing us with copy, Fenchel had this response to the news of his win: “I practice almost exclusively in criminal defense, which is rewarding in that it offers an avenue for me to be of service. No one ever wants to need a defense lawyer—going to court even for a traffic ticket can be incredibly stressful. Being charged with a crime is overwhelming, frightening, or worse! The effect on your job, on your reputation, and

Demitra Karakantas of Satori (Photo: Casey Martin)

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William Metro, the Magic Man (Photo: Casey Martin)

Cornerstone has been at its present location on Third Street in the shopping center that includes the DMV for 10 years, but the veterinarians—in addition to Shakespeare, the staff include Bridget Barry and Christine Armao—have many years of experience before that. The hospital is accessible to out of town clients, as it is right off Rt. 13 and is one of the few veterinary offices downtown for pet owners without cars.

health department. “The board hasn’t decided one way or another,” said trustee Rordan Hart. “We’re looking for feedback.” Two people who work in downtown Ithaca, where smoking has been banned on the Commons, spoke against it. “It’s a health problem, not a civic matter,” said Don Ellis. “Banning smoking on the Commons has shifted smoking to adjacent areas,” said Jennifer Schlassberg. In Trumansburg, “It’s a solution to something that’s not a real problem,” said Mark Kaplan. He would support restricting tobacco sales in the village, however. Trustee Ben Carver channeled Ted

Schiele, the spokesman for Tobacco Free Tompkins, saying that the aim is to prevent youth from smoking by not normalizing it in public places. Jessica Bauer, who tends bar at Little Venice, said, “I’ve been a bartender in the village since Camels was Camels. When the law banning indoor smoking was passed, we supported it. But, I can tell you, we will lose business if this passes.” When no one seemed to be speaking in favor of it, audience members proposed a show of hands; they were overwhelmingly against banning smoking in the village. “That’s different than I expected,” said Petrovic.

“Way different,” said Morse. Trumansburg mayor Marty Petrovic, upon hearing his village was the county’s favorite, had this to say: “That is fantastic! Many of us have believed that Trumansburg is a great village, and it is good to hear your readers agree. “I believe the reason that Trumansburg is so popular is the strong sense of community. The community in a broad perspective is centered around support of the arts (music, art, etc), churches, farmers market, schools, and the many small and large events that happen from GrassRoots, the fair and Winterfest. “The community is so supportive of

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PLACES Best Village in Tompkins County | Trumansburg

The founding families of this village, the Tremans and McLallens, came from the border country between New York and Massachusetts, and a slight New England flavor does linger over 200 years later. Trumansburgers are pretty opinionated and very proud of their village. And they like putting their own oar into decision making, a la the annual town meeting tradition that you find in New England. The analog in Trumansburg is the annual “State of the Village” meeting, held in February. Here’s what Finger Lakes Community Newspapers editor Glynis Hart reported about the most recent one: “Dozens of residents of Trumansburg village packed the fire hall last Saturday to listen, complain, and share ideas in the annual State of the Village meeting. Mayor Marty Petrovic and village board members presented updates on the sidewalk improvement project, the deer management plan, and capital projects for the wastewater treatment plant and the new village well. “Most people don’t come to our regular village board meetings,” said Petrovic, encouraging people to save their comments until presenters were finished: “Today is all public comment, essentially.” After kicking around a proposal to make downtown Trumansburg a smokefree zone, villagers returned a verdict by a show of hands: they’re against it. The proposal was from the county

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on their 1000-acre farm. “I had done a lot of research,” said Joe Myer when asked what kind of experience he had with distilling spirits. “I went to a conference at the Geneva experimental station, and I grew up working a dairy farm, so I know about pasteurization and sterilization. I’ve got a practical background; I’m used to working with equipment.” Myer let his assistant distiller, Mark Thomas, serve as the construction manager for the building of the distillery itself. “He has the craft skills,” Myer said. “He’s a timber framer, and he repairs barns and houses.” The building is modelled after a Scottish malt house, right down to the tower built of hand-trimmed stone.

His brother John grows all the grains that go into the spirits. “He has been farming for over 30 years,” said Myer. “He chooses the varieties that he thinks will work the best. He goes by flavor, and narrows it down to a particular strain [of wheat or corn]. We use a different wheat for the aged versus the unaged whiskey.” Their gin is a “London style,” which is to say very dry. Tasting room manager Lindsay MacIntosh compared it to Bombay Sapphire. “Somebody told me that gin is vodka that someone has dropped a tea bag into,” said MacIntosh. All gin is flavored with juniper berries, but Myers Farm also adds coriander and other herbs, which gives it a distinct floral taste that is much more nuanced than

most gins. “Spirits that are produced commercially have such a limited range,” said Myer, “so because this is an artisan operation we thought ‘Why not experiment?’. People who haven’t had gin in years because they thought they didn’t like it try ours and get a surpise.”

Best Best Regional Winery | Six Mile Creek Vineyard

Mary and Amy Renodin purchased Six Mile Creek Vineyard about a year ago, so they had never heard of the Best of Ithaca awards and Mark was therefore a little puzzled about being told that his winery had been voted the most popular. “We’re happy about it, of course,” said

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our library, schools and many tangible projects that would not happen without the efforts from volunteers like all the structures at the farmers market and the many feet of sidewalks that have been installed. “We value our history and in the last year have celebrate two historic sites with events and placement of historic marker, Dorsey Hill for Loyd Dorsey that is believed to be the first black property owner and voter in trumansburg to commemorating a day long event to horror Robert Moog the inventor of the music synthesizer. “Even though the village proper is small there is a lot to do. On weekends the are no fewer than 10 places to have dinner, three places for ice cream in the summer, several establishments with live music and a boutique 1950s retro bowling facility with great food and drink. There are great things for kids to enjoy from the minivillage to bowling. “What else can I say but I feel there are very few villages in New York that can compare with Tburg!”

Best Regional Distillery | Myers Farm

When Myers Farm Distillery first opened we went up to their Ovid facility, which is built to resemble a traditional Scottish distillery, to sample their beverages, and discover the virtues of connecting an organic farm with an outstanding value-added product: Joe Myer’s family has been farming in Ovid since the 1860s. His brother John went organic in the 1970s, making it one of the earlier organic farms in the state. In October 2012 they opened Myer Farm Distillers and began selling spirits that had been made from the organic grains grown

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Hawi Ethiopian Restaurant (Photo: Cassandra Palmyra)

a little puzzled about being told that his winery had been voted the most popular. “We’re happy about it, of course,” said the hesitant vintner, as if he thought there might be duties and responsibilities that came with the honor. He and his wife are from the Watertown area and for 10 years before deciding to move here, they would drive down at least twice each year to visit the wineries. “We didn’t even know you could buy a winery,” he said. “We thought they were all probably passed down through families or something.” Mark had been in the restaurant business for the previous 16 years and his wife had been in retail managment for even longer. You could say they know something about customer service, so maybe that helped their popularity among “Best of ” voters. “We’re very hands-on,” said Mark. “We actually work in the tasting room a lot. The previous owners were retired and let someone else manage it for them. We are right there.”

In spite of the time he spends in the tasting room, Mark said that his favorite part of owning a vineyard is the amount of time he gets to spend outside working. Twenty-seven other wineries got at least one vote in this contest with Sheldrake Point and Americana Vineyards coming in a strong second and third behind Six Mile Creek. But Ithacans were loyal to their homies: Six Mile Creek Vineyard is the only winery in Tompkins County.

the medical team the medical you can trust

team the medical team you can trust

NewborNs to age 21.

you can trust NewborNs to age 21.

all physicians board certified. Participating with many major insurance companies. NewborNs to age 21.

all physicians board certified. Participating with

1301 trumansburg rd, steParticipating h all physicians board certified. with many major insurance companies. 22 arrowwood Dr, ste a many major insurance companies.

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Best Regional Brewery | Ithaca Beer Company

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We saw the same pattern here that we saw with the cideries; a lot of new breweries have sprouted up recently in the Ithaca area (and indeed throughout the Finger Lakes, yea the country), but one of the earliest artisan brewers in the area has remained the most poplar. In recent years Beer has made allIthaca physicians board certified. Participating with the news more often for its various many major insurance companies. expansions than for its beer. But Luke Fenchel went out there to review the beer and food in 2014: 140 The Commons ® Ithaca, NY ® (607) 272-1810 “It wouldn’t make sense to discuss

NewborNs to age 21.

1301 trumansburg rd, ste h 22 arrowwood Dr, ste a T h e

607-272-6880

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2016 2017

COMING UP NEXT...

SEASON

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West Main Street in Trumansburg (above); trivia master Bob Proehl at Silky Jones (Photo: Casey Martin)

the Taproom without talking about the beer—which the Ithaca Beer Company offers onsite in flights. In addition to the year-round offerings of Apricot Wheat, Nut Brown, Pale Ale, and Cascazilla, the Taproom offers seasonal beers as well. This week, the Taproom is set to unveil Cayuga Cruiser, a summer seasonal Berliner-Weiss. Other seasonals include Ground Break, an America-style hoppy and rye brew, a Gorges Smoked Porter, and a Belgian variant called White Gold.” A year earlier beer connoisseur Charley Githler did a round up of local breweries and marveled at the new digs that Ithaca Beer had made for itself: “The entire brewing and tasting operation recently relocated to a nearby brand new facility. It is spectacularly different from the previous building, with a dining area, a beautiful outdoor German-style beer garden with nearby bocce court and fire pits (described by the marketing director as a “grown-up playground”), a taproom selling pints and flights and weekend brewery tours. The public part of the new building is open and airy and the outdoor portion has a sort of California-meets-southern-Europe feel to it. The menu is pub-style food with an emphasis on the local and sustainable. With four full-time brewers and the new, larger capacity, Ithaca Beer is looking to further saturate its existing territory,

comprised of six northeastern states and Ohio, rather than extending its reach to more far-flung territory.”

Best View of Cayuga Lake | From Ithaca College

This view is so spectacular that we decided to have a picture of it lead off this entire special section (page 3). The view from Cornell is a bit more storied (in the school song, no less), but when you are on South Hill you are looking straight up the valley with the entire expanse of the lake laid out before you. You can tell that it disappears around a bend to the left, but you can’t actually see it, adding to the mystery. The other upside to the view from the Ithaca College campus is that you can actually see out from the grounds. Cornell has added so many large buildings that, if you are a mere member of the public, you have to make your way to the top of Libe Slope or climb to the top of either the Johnson Museum or McGraw Tower to get a spectacular view. In contrast, the Ithaca College campus design has left a big gap between the Peggy Williams Center and Job Hall. You sit by those lighted fountains that do their own intricate dance while you stare out from your perch 500 feet above Cayuga’s waters, with its waves of blue. §

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Apple HArvest

What should be an Ithaca holiday?

Sale

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Sale runS thru Sunday, Oct. 2

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O f f A l l ThroughouT enTire sTore

Suits • Sportcoats • Shirts • Sweaters • Outerwear Shoes and Boots for Men and Women

April 20th | Ithaca Festival days | Election day | Grassroots | First day of spring | Wizarding Weekend | Cornell move-in | Bernie Day | May Day | Pride day | Waterfall Day | Day after Memorial day | Chili Fest | Slope Day | Monday after Super Bowl | UN Refugee Day (June 20) | Juneteenth | Summer Solstice | Halloween | Doggie Day | Liberal Day | Kale Day | Small Business Saturday | Weird hat day | August 15th | Kendall Day | Addiction Recovery Day | Mate Day | Pokemon Hunt | Tattoo Day | Mayor Birthday | Grateful Dead Anniversary | Transgender Day | Veteran Day | Parade Day | Dog Day | Commons Day | Earth Day | Ice Cream Day | Porch Fest Day | Snow Day | Carl Sagan Day | No Shirt Day |

Best Reason to Stay In Ithaca? People | Beautiful | Ithaca is Gorges | Natural Environment | Community | Waterfalls | Trails | Lake | Summer | Farmers Market | Location | Acceptance | Progressive thinkers | No place like home | Family | Love/ Mate | Festivals | Children raised here | Parks | Cornell | Centralized | Commons | Long Term Friends | TCPL | Mayor | Food | Vibrant | Farmers | Museums | Job | Be Yourself | Easy Living | Cornell | Activism | Music | Art | Schools 28

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Best Reason to Leave Ithaca Winter | Cost | Students | Taxes | High rents | Traffic | Parking | Liberals | Jobs | Reality check | Hippies | Death | Love/Mate | Potholes | Swimming prohibition | Too many people now | Looking for partner over 30 | To appreciate Ithaca | Ocean | Too small | Vacation only | Development | Tom Reed | Gray Skies | Find yourself | Mall | Conceit | Cornell | None | Construction

Best Reason for More Development in Ithaca Affordable housing | Taxes | More jobs | Wages | More kids | Everyone wants to live here | Economy growth | People | Retain young people | The Commons | Fire-hazard housing | Increase diversity | High rents | Affordability | Bigger airport | Go with the flow | Small businesses need more money | Need more shopping | Organic farmers locations | Share what we have created | Space | Tourism | None

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Bank by phone. L I V E I N T H E M O M E N T.

Life shouldn’t revolve around depositing checks and paying bills.

That’s why Tompkins Trust Company makes mobile banking incredibly easy—so your life can revolve around the things that matter most. We also make banking more meaningful—by donating thousands of hours and thousands of dollars to local causes, and by keeping our loans focused on local communities. So bank by phone. Live in the moment. And all the while, help to make great things happen.

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September 28, 2016  
September 28, 2016  
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