This dining review was written by and republished with the permission of Mark H. Anbinder of

Ithaca, N.Y. — We can hardly believe it’s been over eight years since the drab old Coal Office building on Ithaca’s Maple Avenue was converted into a cafe, opening first as the Queen of Tarts.

The latest incarnation, the Coal Yard Cafe, offers tempting breakfasts and lunches with lots of comfortable seating.

Courtesy of the cafe's Facebook page
Courtesy of the cafe’s Facebook page

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This fireplace will be popular over the winter! 
If you haven’t been by since the Queen of Tarts days, you may be astonished at the roomy new interior, which has counter and stools, plus tables and chairs, and big cushioned armchairs by the cast iron fireplace, in an addition to the building added a few years ago.

The kitchen area has been expanded, as well, with a proper stove and plenty of prep space for real cooking.

A sausage, spinach, and gruyere breakfast sandwich on French peasant bread.

A sausage, spinach, and gruyere breakfast sandwich on French peasant bread.Each morning, the Coal Yard has coffee and pastries, but also breakfast sandwiches cooked from scratch and served on bagels or, even better, French peasant bread. (Really, they’re handmade omelets served on bread.)

There are beautiful omelets (not served on bread) made to order, and there are daily breakfast specials such as french toast (made from that same peasant bread) served with real maple syrup and bacon, or sweet potato hash with sausage and fried egg. Breakfast is available through lunch hours, and the cafe is also open for a couple of hours for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Fried haddock special with fries and cole slaw.

Fried haddock special with fries and cole slaw. At lunchtime, there’s a daily soup or two, made from scratch, often with a vegetarian option like creamy butternut squash. A wide variety of sandwiches and salads is often joined by such lunch specials as beef or mushroom lasagna, salisbury steak, pesto chicken pasta, or, especially on Fridays, fried haddock. The haddock is both tender and crisp, and served on a roll accompanied by perfect french fries, a bit of fresh cole slaw, and tartar sauce.

We’re now in an era when Gimme! doesn’t offer the only freshly roasted local coffee, and the Coal Yard is brewing up freshly ground beans from Seneca Roasters in Montour Falls, like their Bali Blue Moon fair trade organic french roast.

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.