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Mar 4, 2002 10:40 PM

Rochester, MN - Where to EAT

  • b

Looking for GREAT places to eat in Rochester, MN Area. Thanks

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  1. I can tell where you shouldn't eat--Victoria's. We had the worst dining experience. The service was so terrible that we should have tipped him because we're still laughing. (We had to ask 3 times before our water was refilled and then the waiter decided to interrupt mid-pour to have a conversation with another table--terrific slapstick.)

    The presentation was non-existent. They just dump a ton of pasta on your plate and pour a bunch of sauce. My pasta with artichokes was completely bland. Oh, I bet the staff hasn't even heard of the term pasta!

    If you find anyplace, please post.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Lisa

      It seems the list of where not to eat is a lot longer than the list of where to eat here!

      So far I've found that the Indian Garden, on Broadway beween downtown and silver lake, is pretty good. Be sure to make it clear you want your food spicy as the default here in Rochester is to make food quite bland -- much of the local population seems to fear spice more than tornados and considers Doritos to be adventurously spicy.

      I hear from a friend who is from El Paso and should know that Fiesta Mexicana, off highway 52 near the second street exit, is pretty good. I haven't tried it yet.

      Chardonnay is an okay gourmet-style place, but if you're going to spend the money for an expensive meal, best to head up the twin cities for something really good. Chardonnay's desserts however were divine - I had a wonderful champagne and rose petal sorbet last time. The atmosphere is pleasant and the decor attractive, so I'd recommend this as a great place for drinks and dessert.

      I also hear Roscoe's BBQ is great.

      Haven't found many more places but would love to hear suggestons!

      1. re: Lisa

        Victoria's was bad but nothing was worse than Sontes. A national NY and SF food critic here, and I have to tell you: at Sontes, the food is overpriced and extremely mediocre at best. Worse, when I hastened to send back the nauseating shitake risotto (and I love shitakes and hate to send anything back), the chef responded by telling us that the food tastes good to him but that he'd do us the favor of taking it off the bill. Nice guy, huh? Nice and stupid, and bad-palette-ed, which is even worse. This city has no idea what good restaurant food is, sadly, and to throw together expensive-seeming ingredients in a faux-sophisticated tapas environment is just quick cash to prey on the Mayo patients with money--or some hope of a nice culinary experience. Avoid this place. As for City Cafe, it's OK, but a bit too Emeril-ized. Best food so far in Rochester? Good sandwiches we made ourselves with premium bread, fresh seasonal veggies, and locally raised meat cooked on someone's home grill. The Zubay deli is Ok, too.

        1. re: laurelcnyn

          Yeah, as a rochester resident who dines out at least 1 dinner a week, I really wanted to like sontes. A non-chain restaurant that was doing something completely different in the city was exciting. But after the novelty wears off and you actually evaluate the food, you realize that it is just not very good. I agree that the chef has an odd palate. Its been weeks since i ate there last, but I remember thinking that the sauces (the area where the chef's palate shines through the most?) seemed like oddly flavored square pegs that didnt compliment the food. I find your experience with your complaint to be consistant with my experience, my sister-law's and a friends. Three separate occasions and each time management was argumentative. The tone is "you clearly don't understand our genius."

          I disagree with you that Sontes is worse than Victorias. Nothing is worse than Victorias. I just find their gloppy, huge Americanized take on Italian cuisine to be really offensive. I love italian cuisine and It actually makes me angry.

          1. re: laurelcnyn

            Bill started this post nearly 6 years ago by inquiring about "GREAT" places to eat in Rochester. Little has changed as evidenced by the majority of comments. As much as I enjoy the pleasure of dining out, the absolute best advice in Rochester is to avoid the temptation and dine in. Otherwise you will leave dissatisfied. The competition for well created food is so nonexistent that restaurants can survive and linger without consequence for years if not decades. I loathe the times when friends, family or colleagues are visiting and I am obliged to entertain for dinner. I can not count the number of late night drives down dark Hwy 52 after incredibly satisfying dining experiences in Mpls/St Paul just an hour away and am stunned that even a remotely similar experience is not possible in Rochester. It is always worth the drive, but realize not everyone is up to it. laurelcnyn is dead on with the report on Sontes - mediocre (a complement) food, priced unwisely & insultingly, and a sense that it is the bomb. I am thinking that since Sontes occupies the space where Wong's (really, really bad chinese-american restaurant that lasted for way too long in town), perhaps it is a carryover effect. Although not as large as several years ago, drug company expense accounts and unknowing visitors are paying the bills here. It is not the locals & regulars. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of choosing between Victorias & Sontes, recognize that both are highly subpar. It will be a roll of the dice if you even find something on the menu to which you can sincerely provide a true Minnesota-nice compliment of "it's ok". I applaud the independent startup restaurants (Prescott's is probably the best at the moment), but none have done anything noteworthy thus far. I believe that quality dining in a community begins with the little things - a quality bakery (Prescott's or Daube's are as good as it gets in town, not a great start), a delicatessen (none in town), grocers that select products based upon goodness (not margin) (Just Rite market on 6th ave @ 2nd st sw tries), simple ethnic eateries (none of the latino, vietnamese, or east african places are worth mentioning), an ice cream parlor (none in town), etc. Rochester puts out good science, medicine and technology, but quality food is its achilles heel.

        2. Dos Amigos has excellent Mexican food. There are two locations, one on 4th street in the old depot (original restaurant) and a newer one on the west side of 52 by 16th street.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hmelcookie

            Azteca on 9th st. across from K-Mart has great mexican food!

          2. John Hardy's BBQ on Hwy 52 near Hwy 14 is phenomenal. Some like Roscoe's better, but I'm a JH's fan.

            Do a search for Rochester threads though, as there are many around here.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ike.

              GREAT Places?!?! Here is my cream of the crop...

              Jaspers Alsatian Bistro & Wine Bar
              14 Historic 3 St SW
              Rochester, MN 55901

              City Cafe
              216 1st Ave NW
              Rochester, MN 55901

              1201 So Broadway,
              Rochester, MN 55902

              Redwood Room
              300 1st Ave NW
              Rochester, MN 55901

            2. Second all of Chefschmitty's suggestions.

              Second the opinion that Victoria's sucks. They sure pack em in on the weekends tho, so piles of bad pasta drowning in cream must be haute cuisine and I'm missing it.

              Not a big John Hardy's fan. It was amazing years ago and I remember john greeting everybody from behind the counter, but now it seems like the meat is consistently really dried out and tough. Roscoes borrowed the Jo Jo Potatoes from Hardy's menu so that was the missing piece to put them over the top.

              Phnom Phen has some pretty good Thai food, but I'm a pushover with that cuisine.

              I like Fiesta and Azteca for mexican, but Dos Amigos is not gonna get my vote. Eaten there 4 times and done my best goose impression three times (all three at the hwy 52 location)

              Some people go the Chardonnay, but for some reason we never think of it when we are going out. Will try it again and report back.

              1. One more addition I have to make is Cafe Presto on 2nd street (directly across the street from St. Mary's Hospital. Their service and menu offer simple yet wonderful! It has diner style feel with natural and healthy food. Their staple foods are the Gyros, breakfast crepes, and award winning chicken with a choice of four glazes (yep, I've had them all and can't decide on the best). Check them out if you're looking for something unique and different from the Rochester "chain" dilemma.


                1 Reply
                1. re: chefschmitty

                  i've only been there once and really like the ham and cheese crepes!