The area covers approximately 9,000 square miles, and the lakes provide a multiseason playground. Mother Nature has added to the beauty of the area with waterfalls, gorges, and miles of shoreline.
The region is also known for its wineries and cool-climate wines. There are more than 130 wineries in the area, and the two most famous wines produced in the region are riesling and gewurztraminer. There’s also an abundance of breweries, distilleries, and cideries.
Along with the wineries, there are many excellent places to eat in the Finger Lakes region. I've picked out some of my favorites from the area. These places, listed in no particular order, all shine in terms of location, unique offerings, and delicious food.
1. Waterfront Restaurant
Located in the heart of the Finger Lakes region, the Waterfront Restaurant is an excellent place for a four-course dinner along the dock overlooking Keuka Lake. It is a beautiful view, and the food is scrumptious.
Friday and Saturday nights, their special is prime rib, and they have a fish fry every Friday as well. Try the salmon with roasted vegetables over a mushroom wild rice. There are also burgers, pizzas, and salads.
Enjoy a drink with dinner or by the firepit. The restaurant only serves New York wines from the Finger Lakes region and local microbrews, so this is your chance to enjoy the local flavors.
Pro Tip: If you happen to be in the area on a Sunday evening between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you’ll enjoy live music outside on the dock.
2. Seneca Harbor Station
If you’re looking for a spectacular view of the water and landscape and a unique restaurant setting, visit Seneca Harbor Station at the southern end of Seneca Lake.
There are so many delicious things on the menu that it is hard to recommend just one or two. The filet mignon salad with the house balsamic vinaigrette is a favorite. Seneca Harbor Station is also famous for its New England clam chowder, and the Faroe Island salmon with orange ginger glaze is delightful.
Enjoy dinner in the dining room that was originally a train station. Constructed in 1876, the fanned ceilings, mahogany bar, and original hardwood floors are stunning, and the room overlooks the lake through windowed walls.
If you prefer outdoor dining, you could enjoy eating on the peaceful covered deck as you watch boats leaving the marina. They even have an outdoor beach patio that sits lakeside and features live music on the weekends during the summer. And for something truly special, book one of the meal cruises on the Seneca Legacy.
Regardless of which setting you choose, you will have a memorable dining experience.
3. Reisinger's Apple Country
The name gives it away! Reisinger's Apple Country is known for its delicious, juicy apples of just about every variety. They also sell pears, plums, and peaches. While it’s not an actual restaurant, it does offer food -- and some of nature's finest.
You can purchase fruit by the bag or bushel or pick your own fruit. The staff picks fruit from the top of each tree to sell in the store, allowing all the fruit from the middle and bottom of each tree to be collected by people who wish to pick their own. Visitors come from all over the world for the delicious Reisinger apples.
The store features jams and jellies made from the apples and other fruit, as well as maple syrup and honey grown by neighboring farmers. Reisinger’s makes and sells apple cider, and you’ll also find pumpkins, squash, and gourds outside near the barn.
When we visited, we enjoyed sampling the different homemade fruit jams with crackers.
The business recently changed hands, and the new owner once worked in the orchards under the previous owner. He plans to keep the same traditions and the same quality products that customers have come to love.
Pro Tip: Be sure to try the apple cider donuts. They are freshly made every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and they are a delight. You won’t want to limit yourself to just one of these tasty treats.
4. Ports Cafe
What was once a convenience store is now a modern bistro near Seneca Lake. Ports Cafe pairs fish, steaks, and local produce with regional beers and wines. Their signature menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, and entrees, along with friends and family specialties.
In addition, the chefs create specialty dishes each day. Some of these specials have included Thai-chili-glazed pork chops served with sesame green beans and sweet potato mash and charred octopus served with chorizo and roasted potato salad. These are not your run-of-the-mill menu items.
I would visit this restaurant just for the house potato chips. If you enjoy seafood, try their south Baltimore shrimp boil with garlic butter or cocktail sauce. Sold by the half-pound or pound, it has just the right amount of spice. Their house-smoked Carolina spare ribs with honey cornbread will please meat lovers.
Online reservations are recommended. If you don't have a reservation, you might not get in.
5. Ventosa Vineyards
Voted a top winery in the Finger Lakes region, Ventosa Vineyards is noted for its estate-grown fruit and old-world wines. From their location, you can enjoy spectacular sunsets and the eastern shore of Seneca Lake.
There are several ways to enjoy the delicious wine at Ventosa Vineyards: at the tasting room, at the cafe, and with full-service dining.
The tasting room is open every day. A limited number of people are permitted in the room at one time, and there is a minimal tasting fee.
The Cafe Toscana is open daily and offers both indoor and terrace seating. There are also picnic tables on the lawn, and you can get a picnic to go to enjoy in the vineyard. The cafe serves Mediterranean cuisine like salads, sandwiches, wraps, and artisan pizzas. Reservations are recommended but not required.
The full-service dining is available Thursday through Sunday and is served in the banquet room and on the terrace. The menu includes some of the lunch items and then several main entrees. I recommend the chicken marsala with the homemade mushroom marsala wine reduction. Reservations are required for full-service dining.
The menu changes daily, so you might want to check the website in advance of your visit.
It is easy to spend half a day at this winery. Enjoy a wine tasting, walk around the vineyard and admire the view, and have a delicious dinner on the terrace.
6. Eric’s Office Restaurant
Eric's Office is the place where the locals go for a great meal. There’s a little bit of everything on the menu, including taproom favorites, pub classics, daily specials, and homemade desserts. No one leaves this place hungry.
If you're wondering what to order, just ask a local for a recommendation. Steaks, chicken, or pasta -- you won't go wrong no matter what you order at this restaurant in Canandaigua.
7. F.L.X. Table
For a unique dining experience in the Finger Lakes’ Geneva area, consider the F.L.X. Table. Seating is by reservation only, and reservations must be made online.
The F.L.X. Table is an indoor dining experience that accepts up to sixteen people per meal. It is meant to be an interactive and intimate premier dining experience with no boundaries between the kitchen and the guests.
The menu changes daily but always involves seasonal produce and locally sourced products. You won't know what is on the menu until the day you visit.
Known for their culinary innovation, the F.L.X. Table was named one of the 10 best new restaurants in the country by USA Today in 2017. Eating here is an experience.
Pro Tip: Reservations open six months in advance, and dining slots fill quickly. So plan well in advance if you want to eat here.