An Eater’s Guide to the Finger Lakes

Eater’s guide to the Finger Lakes

10/22/2021 4:15:00 PM

Eater’s guide to the Finger Lakes

On par with Napa or Sonoma, the booming Finger Lakes wine region has seen a huge influx of chefs, farmers, and winemakers. Time to plan your visit.

Whether you’re coming from the East Coast, Midwest, or Canada, half a day’s drive will land you in the lush hills of Central New York and the serene region known as the Finger Lakes. Packed with restaurants, farmers markets, fishing lakes, and cozy B&Bs, it’s a place where farm-to-table dining is (and has always been) just the status quo. For years, it has also been a regional haven for high-quality vineyards growing riesling, chardonnay, and cabernet franc, making it a go-to spot for NYC residents escaping the city and giving it a not-so-quiet “if you know, you know” reputation among oenophiles.

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These days, the secret seems to be out. Chefs, farmers, craft food purveyors, distillers, brewers, and winemakers have flocked to the Finger Lakes for the convenient location, bounty of natural resources, and lower housing and commercial rents. The COVID-19 pandemic kicked the trend into overdrive, shutting down centers of hospitality in major cities nearby and inspiring enterprising food expats to head for Central New York. While the area has always had its fair share of culinary pride, the recent growth has given the largely rural region a booming food scene to rival West Coast wine destinations.

Lake houses fill in the summer and farmers markets overflow with fresh produce in the spring (the ski slopes of the Catskills still have a lock on winter vacations). But the Finger Lakes really flourish in the fall, when the air is crisp, the lakeshores offer gorgeous views of changing foliage, fresh apples plop off trees at local orchards, and vineyards spring to life for the autumn harvest. headtopics.com

A trip to Central New York, and the Finger Lakes in particular, hits the sweet spot between “super active” and “indulgently lazy.” You can book a guided wine tour at your indie B&B or sit around with a gourmet breakfast spread; fish for your dinner in the namesake lakes or grab a bite from a pop-up food stand; stay on trend with buzzy new arrivals or fall back into the region’s long-time favorite haunts. There’s plenty to see and plenty to do. From Seneca to Skaneateles, Cayuga to Canandaigua, here’s all you need to know about dining through the Finger Lakes.

Skaneateles on the Finger Lakes in upstate New York in autumn.Getty ImagesWhat are the Finger Lakes?Depending on how you count, there are 11 eponymous lakes that give the region its name; the spindly, parallel bodies of water in western New York state look a bit like claw marks on a map. From east to west, they’re named Otisco, Skaneateles, Owasco, Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka, Canandaigua, Honeoye, Canadice, Hemlock, and Conesus. Together, they define a huge chunk of the state, tying together a ragtag bunch of quaint towns, a sneaky-good cold-weather wine region, and a vibe that oscillates between pastoral repose and artistic flair.

The region is roughly bounded by three midsize cities: Rochester to the west, Syracuse to the east, and Ithaca to the south. The quintessential boho college town,Ithacais home to Cornell University, Ithaca College, and all of the bars and lively restaurants that go along with them, plus lots of international cuisines.

Rochesteris the third-largest city in New York, not far behind Buffalo, providing a great compromise between upscale and everyday staples, including the garbage plate, the city’s greatest culinary contribution to the national food dialogue (more on that below). headtopics.com

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Syracusegets a lot of love for its affordable restaurants that make the most of local ingredients. It’s home to the original location ofDinosaur Bar-B-Que, which still slings the pulled-pork sandwiches and unique sauces that helped the chain rampage across the state.

Then there are all the smaller towns that make the Finger Lakes so darn bucolic. Syracuse residents often make day trips to nearby waterfront hamlet Read more: Eater »

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