Within reachLunch with friends is always a treat, and when it takes place at a restaurant I've never visited before, it's even more special – because I have another cool place to write about!

People have remarked that there is a block in Ithaca that could have been transplanted from the Big Apple. Aurora St's restaurant row is such a place, just around the corner from the commons. In the middle of the block is a very rich looking façade with Mahogany Grill on marquee above the awning. Although the woodwork inside is exquisite, the feeling of informality makes us comfortable, whether wearing suit or jeans – it doesn't matter. Our server treats with friendly pride – it's obvious he likes working here. Looking around, there is a spacious dining room curtained off from the bar, lending a bit of privacy and protection from the cold breezes near the outside door.

The entire establishment is populated with the warmth of mahogany – tables, chairs, walls, the bar and even the frames of the art work on the walls. I expected the feeling to be oppressive with so much dark wood – but instead, the feeling was nicely cozy.

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But you don't go to a restaurant just for looks and ambiance, you expect to be fed well, and the Mahogany Grill does that wonderfully. Their menu changes with the seasons so that they can provide fresh local foods. The entire food menu, wine list, and cocktail list has been changed to include locally sourced ingredients.

My lunch was the roast pork sandwich with sweet potato fries on the side. Big, juicy chunks of pork smothered in mozzarella cheese and mushrooms inside a freshly toasted roll, presented very nicely. The pork was not spiced heavily, allowing the true essence of the tender meat visit the pallet.

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Many vegetarian choices are on the menu – this is, after all, Ithaca – and I'm told that their offerings are among the best in the area. High praise because there are some extraordinary places within a few blocks that specialize in vegan food.

Prices are mid range with entrée salads beginning at $12, up to the 'Filet Oscar', the Mahogany Grill's re-interpretation of Surf & Turf at $49. My bill including tip was about $23, and well worth it.

Frankly, the biggest obstacle to eating downtown is the parking situation. I dislike (intensely) the parking machines which have kept me from dining and shopping in downtown Ithaca ever since they were installed. It is, in my humble opinion, not helping either the city or the downtown businesses.

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The Magogany Grill, however, may be incentive enough to battle the parking toll monster. There are a great many selections on the menu that cry for further study.

Come down to 114 N Aurora St. and enjoy the fare. During busy times, reservations are a good idea. Just call (607) 272-1438 and they'll set you up!

And best of all, it's within reach!!


'Within Reach' highlights the food, wine and fun of places 'within Reach' of Lansing NY.  Of course, your reach extends exactly as far as you want it to. I am Monroe Payne, Uncle Monte to some. Come with me as I visit, taste and play in our own back yard, the beautiful Finger Lakes of Central New York.