Eat Here Now: Hal’s Deli
By Meredith Clarke
Whenever I suggest breakfast at Hal’s to a new person, too often I’m met with the unsettling question, “What’s Hal’s?” Despite its convenient downtown location, many young Ithacans have no idea that they have access to one of the best homestyle delicatessens in Upstate New York.
Hal’s Deli sits unobtrusively on Aurora Street in downtown Ithaca. The rarely-lit yellow lightbulbs surrounding Hal’s name tend to get swallowed up by the bright red and white of Collegetown Bagels and the cool purple and black of the Ithaca Ale House. But flash and bang isn’t why you go to Hal’s. You go to Hal’s when you’ve slept past 11am and need to get full fast. You go to Hal’s when you want every part of breakfast brought to you on three giant plates. You go to Hal’s when you’re homesick and want a family to feed you food they’ve been serving to their own children for generations.
Hal’s is everyone’s home. You won’t recognize the great grandparents and great grandchildren in the photos that adorn the walls and counters, but you’ll feel you’ve spent your whole life with them when you take your first bite of the hot, juicy mini latkes, accompanied by a dollop of sour cream and a healthy scoop of apple sauce, of course. You may have never stepped inside the place before, but owner Jackie will greet and serve you like her own child who’s been away for too long.
In my opinion, if a restaurant serves breakfast all day, it’s asinine to order anything else. My friends and I find ourselves stuck on their most popular breakfast option: The Coach. It’s hard to beat two eggs, two pieces of toast, choice of breakfast meat, and a hearty dose of those amazing potato pancakes. And Hal’s doesn’t mess around when it comes to breakfast condiments. None of those little foil-wrapped pats of margarine and creamer-sized syrups. They’ll hand you a full carafe of the sweet stuff and a small bowl of butter in that it’s-good-for-your-soul kind of way. Add bottomless coffee (or hot chocolate in my case) and you’ve got yourself a wonderful afternoon.
Hal’s also offers a full menu that anyone with a taste for Kosher meats should take full advantage of: a whopping 50 different kinds of sandwiches. But somebody’s got to let me know how the rest of the food is. It’s wonderful, I’m sure, but I can’t seem part with The Coach.
So whether you’re a displaced college student far from home taking it easy with a sandwich or French toast on a Saturday afternoon with new friends, or a lifer looking to spend some time with Ithaca’s biggest family, Hal’s is there for you.
Open daily 6 am-4 pm
115 North Aurora Street Ithaca, 607.216.6119
Meredith Clarke is a summer writing intern for Edible Finger Lakes.
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