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Within reachWhen I was young, REALLY young and the Rt 13 hill didn't exist, the Hangar Theater was still an aircraft hanger and the inlet hadn't been dug, our family's recreation was completely centered on the boat, a 17' Penn Yan with a 40HP Evinrude on the back. We would make our way out to the lake, going past the Ithaca Municipal Airport where Cass Park is now, and soak up the sun and whatever else the lake had to hand us.

Beautiful times – fun times – but then I wasn't even in grade school then. I DO remember Dad being upset that the gas pump at the dock was 48 cents per gallon. The price we paid for our cars was about 32 cents…

Johnson's Boat Yard was on the golf course side of the inlet where we bought all our ropes, bumpers and the stuff necessary to operate a respectable boat on Cayuga Lake, Recently closed (by my reckoning), the site will host the new 'City Harbor' project.

monroe Boatyard 1

In the years from 1965-1969, the US Army Corps of Engineers constructed the long, straight waterway we now know as the Inlet, to keep disasters like the flood of 1935 from recurring. No, I was not there then. Not even thought of. A side benefit of this waterway was giving the Cornell and IC Crew teams a great place to practice.

Why am I going on about this? The point of land that connects the old inlet and the new straight one is home to a very cool place to dine, The Boatyard Grill, and like everything in Ithaca, there is a history involved.

The Boatyard is a favorite of many Ithacans, catering to Cornell sports fans – Hockey and LaCrosse – if I am to believe their frequent radio ads. It IS one of our favorites, we've never been disappointed.

Last weekend we dined with a group of friends and experienced a typical Boatyard Grill meal. Our server was friendly, busy and had a great sense of humor. The evening was cold, and they sat the ten of us at an appropriate sized table next to the fireplace.

The ambience is nautical – with a name like 'The Boatyard Grill' it's necessary. There is a bit of whimsy in the décor. They don't take themselves too seriously – they just want you to have a great time and a tasty meal. In the warmer weather you can eat out on the deck while the boats glide in and out of the inlet.

The meal started with a selection of appetizers we shared, Tuna Tataki, Calamari (perfectly done), Coconut Shrimp (also excellent) and a variety of other yummies plus a couple glasses of wine which got us in the mood for some excellent entrees.

monroe Boatyard 2

I decided to try the Seafood Fra Diavolo. The name should have given me a clue to the quantity of spices – it was a truly 'hot' dish, but not so much that the heat overrode the excellent quality of the seafood. The quantity of shrimp, clams, lobster and more was better than I had anticipated. This had to be consumed to the last morsel.

My daughter had the Lemon Garlic Shrimp & Grits. She did tell me that the shrimp was wonderful, but she could do without the grits. Lesson learned. Gutenburger for her next time.

Desserts abound, most involving chocolate (The Chocolate Volcano is a feast by itself) but there are other choices that skirt around that issue. The Key Lime Pie is especially good – it has plenty of taste without assaulting your tongue with lime.

The Boatyard is a great venue for friends and families with offerings to fit most budgets. Their handheld platters (burgers, tacos) run from $11 to $14 and the entrees about $15 to $30. It's a fun place to go for your well-deserved night out. And it's well within reach!

For a little Aviation history, click here.

'Within Reach' highlights the food, wine and fun of places 'within Reach' of Lansing NY.  Of course, your reach extends exactly as far as you want it to. I am Monroe Payne, Uncle Monte to some. Come with me as I visit, taste and play in our own back yard, the beautiful Finger Lakes of Central New York.

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