Around midnight in Collegetown, the streets come alive. As crowds fill the streets, one building lures the late-night wanderers to its doors.
Built with state-of-the-art equipment and amenities, the Green Café seems to glitter as lights shine on the steel tables and chairs. Flat-screen TVs hang on the walls, some showing the menu items for the day and others displaying the headlines from the news. Music, food and people all intermingle in the shining glow of the restaurant.
At the tables, enthusiastic patrons of the Green Café watch the one-man band playing a guitar in the corner. Others talk enthusiastically to each other, enjoying the food and atmosphere of the new restaurant in Ithaca.
A small slice of New York City glitz and glamour, the Green Café opened March 26 in Collegetown. The grab-and-go designed restaurant offers a variety of foods for a diverse range of visitors.
The restaurant is modeled after the flagship café of the same name on South Park Avenue in New York City. The owner, Charles Park, heard from his friends who graduated from Cornell University and Ithaca College about the college town atmosphere in Ithaca and saw an opportunity for this style of restaurant.
Jeong Kim, the nighttime manager at the café, said the owner was trying to bring dining that combines quality and convenience to Ithaca.
“The owner has had great success in this industry for 25 years, so he thought he would bring a little culture from the city to the suburbs,” Kim said.
Ithaca College freshman Madeline Spencer said she was drawn to the place because of its stark difference from the other cafés and restaurants in Ithaca that are much less contemporary.
“It’s not as hippy-laid back as The Commons, because it’s such a modern place,” Spencer said.
This is not to say, though, that the café is any less sustainable than the other eco-friendly options in Ithaca. Holding close to its green title, the restaurant gets as many ingredients as possible from local farms and tries to use all compostable products.
Holly Kintz, the catering and events manager at the restaurant, said the restaurant is not yet as sustainable as it would like to be but hopes to change that in the future.
“It’s not always cost effective to start with all green wares, but we hope to do it in the future,” Kintz said.
In keeping with the city atmosphere, the café is open 24 hours. Whether it be eggs, a smoothie or even quality sushi a person craves in the middle of the night, it is available at the Green Café.
Kintz said becoming a 24-hour restaurant was an easy decision because the cafeteria style easily transforms to full-time service.
“It’s not really a question of why,” Kintz said. “It’s more of a question of why not.”
As the night passes along, some people wander into the restaurant, placing their bags and jackets on the nearby tables. They decide to enjoy the atmosphere while eating. Others simply walk in the door, grab the food they crave and wander back out into the night.
Freshman Jen Samples visited the café and said the vibrant, modern-city atmosphere and the sheen of the long smoothie bar are what set this restaurant apart from other places in Ithaca.
“It’s like a café, but it has a club feel,” she said.
Kintz said many people assume that in order to get great food, it’s necessary to go to a restaurant and wait on service. The Green Café aims to dispel that myth.
“We want to offer the same quality [as sit-down restaurants] but offer it in a way that is fast and is made for the busy students, which is about 90 percent of our demographic,” said Kintz.
Attempting to accommodate all appetites and cravings, the café menu offers many options to snack on, from
sandwiches to spaghetti. Kim said the Green Café is not just about offering good food fast but offering all types of food in a convenient place.
“It’s kind of a little gourmet one-stop shop,” he said.
John Ringwood, a visiting graduate student from the University of Michigan said he was most impressed with how it took the cafeteria dining style and brought it to a new level.
“At first, it looked a little like a college dining hall, but it’s almost an alternative to that style,” he said. “It’s all in how everything is just kind of glimmering in here.”
Kintz said the presence of New York City atmosphere in Ithaca is a great change.
“The ambience is extremely upbeat, vibrant and modern,” she said. “It has a real cosmopolitan feel that you don’t see much of in Ithaca.”