By now, you’ve probably seen that there’s a new, trendy restaurant in Ithaca, as advertised on some form of social media. In case you missed it, CoreLife Eatery is a fast-casual, healthy food hotspot located in the downtown shopping center on South Meadow Street (rip Yogurtland). It’s new, it’s hip, and will surely add a different vibe to what Ithaca already has to offer.

CoreLife opened its first location in Syracuse in 2015 and has since expanded to other areas mainly in upstate New York. In the near future, you’ll be able to find CoreLife eateries in the South and Midwest as well.

CoreLife reminds me of similar eateries in New York City and other urban areas that many of us frequent when we’re home–Sweetgreen, Roast Kitchen, Dig Inn and the like. You get to build your order while walking along the salad bar, a skill at whichif you frequent Terrace and Trilliumyou’re likely a pro. Listed on the menu are green, grain, and broth bowl combinations, or you can opt for the ‘make-your-own’ option, choosing a base and any toppings you want.

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The Pros

The scene outside is likely to catch your attention. There are several tables underneath a wooden structure with strings of lights that give a chill nighttime vibe. The opening of this trendy eatery conveniently comes with the arrival of warm weather in Ithaca–on a nice night, eating at CoreLife will allow you to enjoy both the beautiful weather and a good meal. What better way to celebrate Spring than eating outside in the fresh air and knowing you’re eating a healthy, locally-sourced meal?

Photo provided by Alanna Fichtel

The inside seating options are also very cool and comfortable, and the space is relatively large. I came during the week at peak dinner hour and had no problem finding a seat. Several booths and tables line the room much like Panera or a similar eatery style.

As the self-proclaimed most annoying customer when it comes to ordering food, I am relieved when I go to any eatery that has a variety of options and offers a ‘make-your-own’ option. Toppings at CoreLife range from Mexican, to Asian, to Greek cuisine. So when you or your dinner group can’t decide on the type of food you want, CoreLife would essentially allow each of you to eat the cuisine of your choice.

The southwest chicken bowl sounded appealing to me, but after realizing I would have asked for it without half the toppings, I just added whatever I wanted to my bowl. I ended up going with a bowl consisting of lettuce, wild rice, chicken, avocado, cheese, and cucumbers topped with tortilla strips. It was a salad I genuinely enjoyed eating and was sufficiently full after finishing the whole bowl.

Photo provided by Alanna Fichtel

There are a variety of dressings to choose from, and the staff will gladly give you a recommendation as to what best goes with your meal. The staff was also very friendly, not even getting too impatient when my indecisiveness slowed down the line a bit, and happy to give me that extra scoop of a topping upon request.  

Everything is gluten free, except the bread they offer on the side, so if you have allergies, this place is very accommodating. Many menu options are vegan as well. They also offer several freshly made juice blends, both traditional lemonade and green tea, and unique like cucumber basil or beet lemonade. All ingredients are ~natural~ and free of artificial flavors, sweeteners, additivesyou get the picture.

Photo provided by Alanna Fichtel

The food is also reasonably priced, considering the size and quality of your meal. My bowl was approximately $9, which is cheaper than what you would pay at most eateries on Cornell’s campus. The salad or rice bowl is a generous size, and they definitely don’t skimp on the toppings.

CoreLife in Ithaca is one of the few locations that offers the option to order online and pick up to go. You can make weekday lunch or dinner that much easier by grabbing a healthy meal to go when you are too lazy to cook one yourself. Hopefully, CoreLife will offer delivery soon, and then we’ll really be set.

The Cons

The food is limited in that the options are only salads or some salad-like bowl. While there are endless combinations of bowls you could create, if you’re looking to sink your teeth into a sandwich or something meatier, this place isn’t for you. However, the menu also has some dinner plates with your choice of protein and roasted vegetables, so the menu could possibly expand in the future.

Additionally, the location is a bit out of the way for us Cornellians. Walking isn’t really an option and if you don’t have a car, you probably don’t frequent this area. But if you find yourself near Wegmans, Staples or other stores in this shopping center, CoreLife is a good place to grab a quick bite when running errands.

Overall, I had little to no complaints about my experience at CoreLife. I was excited to try it and had pretty high expectations, and was surely not disappointed. Ithaca needed something like CoreLife–it’s a healthy and quick food option that will round out the other food choices in this area of Ithaca. If you’re leaving Ithaca soon for the summer, definitely check out CoreLife to feel good about what you’re eating, and be up to date on the trend.

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