Eat well – like a local – in NY’s Finger Lakes region: Charlie’s Cafe’

When you travel, do you ever have a moment when you just want to relax, take it down a notch, while eating the type of food you crave? Elmira, New York — Mark Twain Country — has a little cafe’ hidden on a side street in its quiet historic district: Charlie’s Cafe. I was happy to be hosted to experience it!

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The owner and executive chef of the restaurant is a graduate of the extremely prestigious Culinary Institute of America. But that doesn’t mean it’s prissy or serving fussy food! The ambiance is cafe’ meets welcoming pub, serving American favorites sprinkled with a few gourmet treats. Classic rock plays in the background.

You might think Honey Walnut Prawns seem like they’d be at a Chinese restaurant — this is an example of how eclectic the menu is — but it’s a fun, luscious starter. It’s lightly sweet, lightly sauced, but on sizeable, tender shrimp.

Real chefs make things in-house: they take too much pride to serve corporate-created foodstuffs. Charlie’s Cafe’ makes their own ranch dressing and it’s good. It’s richly flavored, with a nice garlic hit.

Sure, you can get a burger or sandwich here, but it you want to step if up for the lamb loin chops, you won’t be sorry. The meat is excellent quality, perfectly cooked and presented on top of fresh veggies.

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They make their desserts onsite, too. I enjoyed a turtle candy-like cheesecake: rich, not overly sweet.

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