Disclosure: The Corning’s Gaffer District sponsored this post, however, all opinions are my own. All of the photos were taken by me.
Corning, New York’s Gaffer District is a vibrant downtown area with unique architecture, restaurants and bakeries, shopping, and museums worthy of a visit. Many people refer to it as the Gateway to the Finger Lakes, a region of Upstate New York known for its outdoor scenery and wineries. As a return visitor, I always appreciate exploring Market Street, the main corridor of activity, in the town’s Gaffer District.
During a recent visit to the area, we checked into the Radisson Hotel (125 Dennison Pkwy E.) for an overnight stay. The hotel is across the street and a short walk from Market Street. After settling into our room and checking out the hotel’s many amenities from the on-site restaurant and bar lounge to the outdoor patio, we headed out for a night on the town.
We soon found ourselves at Liquid Shoes Brewing Company (26 E Market St.), a fantastic spot to enjoy an unfiltered craft beer while people watching. The taproom has a massive retractable window facing the activity along Market Street. It’s not uncommon to chat with passersby as they stroll in front of the brewery. You’ll see them carrying shopping bags from nearby boutiques and restaurant to-go boxes. Another benefit of choosing the window seat is that you have an excellent view of the historic architecture. Built in 1887, the Williams Block building directly across the street is beautiful thanks to its intricate design and custom arched windows.
Liquid Shoes Brewing Company was founded by two brothers who decided to take their love of beer and share it with others. The tap list is ever-changing and also includes guest brewery selections from places such as Upstate Brewing Company. If you’re traveling with someone who doesn’t prefer traditional craft beer, encourage them to try “Squeezy,” a smoothie-like beer made with fruit, granola, and marshmallow. I recommend sipping on “Scottie” or the “26 East” while getting to know the local clientele.
With beer in our bellies but food on our minds, we headed to The Cellar (21 W Market St) for fusion cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients. Owners Michael and Ellen Lanahan have devoted themselves to providing guests with the best atmosphere and dining experience in the Gaffer District. They say, “atmosphere is as fresh as the ingredients” and that is true! A tapas and wine bar, open since 2007, they expanded the menu to full-service a few years later. The walls are covered with Wine Spectator awards and glass sculptures setting your expectations high for a grandiose dining experience.
With guidance from the knowledgeable server, I chose a dry red wine selection from a Keuka Lake winery. Forty selections of wines can be ordered by the glass. Wine connoisseurs will appreciate their extensive menu of 350 bottles of wine. My choice paired nicely with the Brussels Sprouts and Walnuts drizzled with balsamic glaze, an appetizer I had tasted during an earlier visit to the restaurant and fondly remembered.
Later, we dined on a charcuterie board aka as a “wood plank” of New York deli meats, mustard, and honeycomb. The enchiladas, which were made with slow-roasted chicken, masa tortilla, salsa verde, quinoa, and vegetables were delightful. Other popular dishes on the menu include Chicken and Waffles and the Butcher’s Son Burger. You can’t go wrong with any selection from The Cellar’s wine or dinner menu – high praise I shared with the owner when she visited our table to inquire about our dining experience.
With a smile on my face and a full belly, I had just one more stop for the evening. Dippity Do Dahs Homemade Ice Cream (46 E. Market St.) was just the comforting dessert that I needed to end my day of travel. I was on a mission to enjoy thick, creamy ice cream in a vanilla-scented waffle cone. As we approached the front door, I knew I was in the right place.
The ice cream shop’s menu board is a long list of flavors – combinations that you remember from your childhood and some that remind you of nostalgic desserts. I opted for two scoops of Peanut Butter + Chocolate inside a freshly made waffle cone. One bite in and I was happy with my choice. More than happy. I was feeling blissful.
Funny, my boyfriend who doesn’t EVER eat ice cream must have seen the approval on my face after the initial bite because he asked for a sample. Seven bites later, I was shouting “look who loves ice cream!” Dippity Do Dahs is one of many ice cream shops in Upstate New York. There are dozens of roadside stands selling ice cream cones as you travel through the county, but Dippity Do Dahs is hands down the highest quality homemade ice cream I’ve tasted in the area.
The evening had come to an end and it was a wonderful experience in the Gaffer District. The next day was a full itinerary and I was up to the task.
Just as I was craving caffeine for a boost of energy the following morning, I found myself in front of a flight of specialty coffee drinks and baked goods at Soul Full Cup. To my surprise, I was greeted by a tray of drinks only a coffee snob would love. They must have known what I needed. The Americano was assertive in bold flavor. The Cake Batter Smoothie was a dessert lover’s dream. The Ghiradelli Mocha was by far my favorite. In short, Soul Full Cup makes a delicious cup of Joe anyway you prefer it.
Popular with locals, there is usually a line of anxious coffee drinkers stretched to the door. On this day, I sat relaxed in my chair sipping coffee and enjoying baklava while watching Corning’s residents file into the cafe. Take it from me, you need to add Soul Full Cup to your morning’s to-do list when spending the day along Market Street.
Just as my coffee buzz took effect, I found myself stepping inside Poppleton Bakery & Cafe (23 W. Market St. Suite 104) in search of a hearty breakfast sandwich to balance my sweet tooth. I was in luck. Since 2013, Poppleton’s has served locals and tourists crepes, soups, salads, and desserts. I chose a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a buttery croissant with a side of their ever-popular Cheesy Potatoes. Once we gathered our goodies, we strolled down to Market Street’s square to devour it all under a treelined courtyard. The same place that I often visit when in Corning for the Christmas holiday, but this time I spotted the Farmer’s Market in the distance. Small business owners were setting up to peddle their goods and I needed a closer look.
Shopping is a sought-after activity in the Gaffer District. With my sidekick in tow, I dipped in and out of boutiques throughout the day. Shopkeepers sell everything from lake-inspired home decor to on-trend clothing. For visitors looking for the ideal gift for their best friend, mother, or child, Connors Mercantile (15 E. Market St.) is the place to shop. I consider it one of my favorite stores along the corridor for its large inventory of jewelry and whimsical gifts. My recommendation is to head to the back of the store and scan the chocolate truffles case. You’re bound to purchase a few treats you can’t live without.
For women in search of stylish clothing, Threads + Co. (24 E. Market St.) carries dresses, tops, bottoms, and accessories with new arrivals added often. A newer boutique in the Gaffer District, it’s one of those stores where you’re pleasantly surprised to find the perfect addition to your closet. They pride themselves on carrying the latest trends for any age. The clothes were stylish and young at heart. I definitely felt inclined to update my wardrobe after flipping through the clothing racks.
Corning is home to over 100 specialty shops, retail stores, and boutiques. Heathered Grey Home & Gifts (42nd W. Market St.) opened recently in the heart of the Gaffer District featuring women-owned, black-owned, and socially conscious business’ goods. The shop’s tables and shelves are stacked high with everything from dishware to cocktail mixes making shopping local a breeze. Shopping for the man in your life? You’ll find socks with zany sayings, stylish belts, keychains, and glassware for dads and dudes.
Impressed by the shopping options, I walked into one more store, Finger Lakes Unique (99 E Market St.). This shop houses over 100+ vendors’ handmade and refurbished creations from candles to home decor and jewelry to clothing. While scanning the shelves I saw colorful creations made by artists as young as age 10 up to 90 years old. A dog-friendly store that also carries treats, I encourage you to visit and get to know the friendly staff.
With shopping behind me, I knew it was time to experience what the Gaffer District is best known for…incredible glassmaking.
Dating back to the early 1900s, the town has been the principal location for glass creation and artistry. In fact, it all started when the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company moved to Corning on barges to be closer to a fuel source to make glass and to escape labor disputes in The Big Apple. Since 1951, Corning Museum of Glass (1 Museum Way) has educated visitors about the craft and provided a space for gaffers in residence to perfect their craft. In fact, many of the glass forms we appreciate today were invented in Corning from all-purpose Pyrex to household decorative pieces.
I had an eye-opening experience while at the Corning Museum of Glass through watching a live glass demo show and participating in a glassmaking class. Watching the process of glassmaking and being a part of the process stretched my imagination and forced me to consider the steps involved in crafting something so many of us take for granted.
I chose a front-row seat for a Hot Glass Demo, which is offered to museum visitors all day, every day, year-round. I watched master glassmakers stretch, pull, shape, and gingerly form a glob of fiery glass into a beautiful vase. The gaffers, a term used to describe glassmakers, narrated the process giving onlookers an education about the technique. When visiting the museum, I suggest starting your visit by watching a flameworking demo. It gives you a deeper appreciation for the museum’s displays.
Speaking of the exhibits and galleries, the museum invites you to explore “Dish It! Corelle at 50” which details how the dinnerware many of use every day was developed, Corelle. You’ll gaze in wonder as you walk thru the Contemporary Glass galleries. 35 Centuries of Glass showcased artful pieces from around the world. To view these galleries and more, view this page.
Inspired by the experience, I participated in Make Your Own Glass, a session devoted to teaching me how to create my own hot glass project. I selected my glass sculpture design, colors, and began the process in The Studio. Let’s be honest, I didn’t make the entire sculpture. But, I did use a pedal to pump the air into it while an experienced glassworker finessed it to its final design. The work took about half an hour and was incredibly rewarding to witness. To learn more about this creative opportunity open to all ages, view this page.
Having worked up an appetite at the museum, I drove a short distance from the museum back to Market Street for a delicious lunch at Aniello’s Pizzeria (68 E Market St.). A must-stop for anyone craving authentic Italian subs, pizza, and salads, the restaurant has been in business for over four decades. During my return visit to the eatery, I ordered a slice of pepperoni pizza and the Meatball Parmigiana. Frankly, I would eat anything off their menu. True to New York-style pizza recipes you’d find in the big city, the flavors deliver.
I had the pleasure of meeting Gina, the restaurant’s originator and recipe creator, during my visit. I was invited to accompany a veteran employee into the kitchen to meet her. As the door opened, I found myself dodging a busy cook holding a pot of hot pizza sauce. I maneuvered past trays of oven-fresh sausage links. There, around the corner sat, Gina. She was smiling back at me from her rocking chair and was dressed to impress. She said she recognized my face, although we had never met, and quickly I felt endeared to her. What a treat! Gina sits every day in the same spot giving guidance to the rushed kitchen staff as they prepare her recipes. I can’t emphasize enough how honored I was to meet her. When in Corning, I will always return to Aniello’s Pizzeria and you should as well.
I can’t think of a better way to end the Market Street experience than to stop for dessert at Laurabelle’s Cupcakery (12 E. Market St.). A scratch-made bakery serving custom cakes, scones, and cupcakes, the shop is decorated with vintage cake stands and elaborate chandeliers. I chose the chocolate and strawberry cupcake for dessert, which I was told was a popular choice amongst locals. My food tour of Market Street wouldn’t have been complete without this tasty treat.
I hope I’ve inspired you to visit Corning, New York to enjoy all that the Gaffer District offers for entertainment and dining. The scenic town is consistently ranked as a top-ranking tourism destination by publications and remains one of my favorite places to return to when in New York. I’ve also written a past post about my wintertime experience in the town, which you can read here, and a write-up about Four Fights Distilling located in South Corning.
Feel free to ask me questions about the town or comment with your suggestions below!