This was originally posted as a guest post on Buffalo Eats on March 7 as a primer to some of the places I like in Rochester. Donnie will be returning the favor and bringing us some of his favorite Buffalo stops in the next week or two, so stay tuned for that!
I consider myself to be a citizen of Rochester, but it wasn’t always this way. I grew up in small town Boston, NY south of Buffalo and knew very little about Rochester until I came here for college. Hell, I barely knew anything about Buffalo before I left town other than going to Sabres games and indulging in Mighty Taco and chicken wings.
Living here the past 8 years, I have come to find that Rochester isn’t just Kodak, Xerox, chicken french and garbage plates. The main goal of mine when traveling is to find delicious and interesting food. This has enticed me to venture into areas I wouldn’t normally go and has shown me how the passions of individuals can contribute to the overall vibe of the town.
For those of you that haven’t made the short drive east on the Thruway to the Flower City, I have made a list of 10 places that I frequent and are well worth visiting. These aren’t necessarily the fanciest or most popular stops in town, but places I believe in and feel that are great representations of what is going on in Rochester now.
Thanks for having me and I hope to see you all in Rochester soon!
Fiamma Pizza e Vino
Located in Gates just a bit outside of the city, Giuseppe Paciullo at Fiamma is making Neopolitan pizza at a high level in relative obscurity. It is one of the few places in WNY that serves this traditional style originally from the Naples area of Italy and their margherita pizza is my favorite food in the city. Their crust is equal to any I’ve ever had and day after day they continue to dish out amazing pies. Highlights include the staple Margherita, the butternut squash and pancetta Positano and creative calzoni and panuozzi offerings.
If you’re looking for a nice night out around Rochester, a meal at Aunt Rosie’s before a show at the Eastman Theatre downtown is a great way to start. Head chef Paul Vroman was a big part of the Brick-N-Motor food truck that some of you might have tried at Larkin Square last year and he has moved on to this new Italian restaurant in November 2103. Paul is serving up Italian comfort food with a bent toward the seasonal and has also started hosting pop up dinners with more creative fare. My recent dinner there featured braised rabbit, Roman gnocchi with squid, and a wild mushroom ragu with a sunny side up egg among other dishes all of which were well thought out and prepared.
The Buffalo ties here are obvious with Jon Karel bringing his expertise from Vera Pizzeria to the bar at The Revelry and the 15 custom cocktails on their menu. Since their opening in June 2013, they immediately became a key part of the cocktail scene in Rochester and at the same time offered something a little different on the food side. The dinner menu has an upscale feel with hints of the lowcountry with dishes like dry aged duck breast with grits and pea tendrils as well as a seasonal venison dish. The brunch menu goes farther down that path with rib-sticking classics like shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and a po’ boy.
Voula’s Greek Sweets
Greek. Vegetarian. Eclectic. Engaging. I could keep on coming up with single words to describe this gem on Monroe Ave but that wouldn’t do justice to the food here or the character both from the people and the environment. Their Greek themed dishes like the tria nissia and the lemon potatoes are what turned me around on going out for breakfast foods in general. Voula is one of the most engaging people I’ve met in my food travels and her passion is evident in the huge selection of desserts that are offered on a daily basis including my current favorite rice pudding.
Flour City Bread Co.
The Rochester Public Market is a great reason to be in Rochester on a Saturday morning at any time of year. One of the many businesses that call the RPM home, Flour City Bread Co. kicks out some of Rochester’s finest breads, croissants and breakfast goods on Thursdays and Saturdays. They really understand balanced flavors here from the potent breads like the miche to the breakfast sandwiches and the toppings for the mushroom and fruit danishes. Regardless of what they put their minds to from tarts to macarons to a portable wood fired oven for bread and pizzas, they have found consistent success.
When it comes to the base ingredients, Dogtown utilizes some of Rochester’s signature items to make simple delicious. Zweigle’s famous red and white hots are the typical base with options for veggie and all beef and the custom cut French bread roll from Martescuillo’s cradles them perfectly. 20 topping options are on the base hots menu including regional favorites from Chicago and Cincinnati as well as some more unique combinations like a Greek dog and a full Reuben. Yum! They also have what I consider to be the best “plate” around. For the uninitiated, a garbage plate was originated at Nick Tahou’s and traditionally had homefries, mac salad, 2 hamburgers or hots and a meat based hot sauce on top. Dogtown takes all these ingredients and does a cleaner and better seasoned version that leaves you not completely hating yourself and very satisfied.
Joe Bean Coffee
OK. I know you’re thinking that coffee isn’t food. Fair point. I’m going to talk about Joe Bean Coffee anyway because they are one of the best representations of passionate people delivering an amazing product to our town. Coffee at Joe Bean is roasted in house to emphasize specific flavors from each lot and then can be brewed at the bar in different manual methods including the Hario, Clever, Chemex and the showy siphon brew. Along with brewed coffee, Ben Turiano and the rest of the crew make some mean espresso, offer slow brewed Kyoto drip and a curated selection of beer, wine and snacks to be eaten at the bar. As with any great bar, the conversation here is lively and can cover any topic you can think of.
Located on a quiet residential section of street in Irondequoit, Atlas Eats is creating some of the most diverse and delicious food coming out of the Rochester area. Chef Gerry Brinkmann and his wife Diane create a completely new menu every 2 weeks that is inspired by different regions of the country and around the world for their Edible Atlas series. Not only are these 5 course prix fixe meals consistently on point flavor and presentation wise, they are one of the the best deals in fine dining at only $35 a person. They only do 4 dinner seatings a week (2 Friday and 2 Saturday) with a capacity of under 20 people per seating so reservations are a must. Breakfast and lunch are also served Thursday – Sunday and all their food features local produce from their daughter’s farm.
Two of Rochester’s finest food trucks combined into one (relatively) short paragraph! I mentioned the Brick-N-Motor truck earlier and I feel confident that Nate Hurtt will continue the strong legacy of dishing out restaurant level food all around the streets of Rochester. Along with the benchmark BNM Burger, the constantly evolving menu is strongly seasonal and brings finesse and diversity to portable food. On a different note, Marty’s Meats is delivering some of the best cooked meats in the city as the main focus of their menu. Last year I had tacos served with beef tongue and rare sliced heart and one of the best pieces of brisket I’ve ever had on a BBQ sandwich. They are consistently one of the most popular trucks at the Food Truck Rodeos at the Public Market and are always experimenting with new ways to deliver meat to their customer’s faces.