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Best Bets in Rochester, MN

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Chicago hound looking for best eats in Rochester - husband will be spending a week there...

Never been to the area and have NO clue what's around! Any help would be wonderful.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Think Daube restaurant or for lighter fare try Daube bakery /cafe.

    Can't remember the name of the good Chinese restaurant but worth trying to find. East of Mayo clinic to first light.(right)South 2-3 blocks on West side of that street. Looks like was pizza joint in earlier days. Big fish tank decor. Carved veg as decoration on plates. Not authentic but good Americanized asian.

    12 Replies
    1. re: stevieBcanyon

      You're thinking of Wong's I bet. Not great, but for Rochester you can't ask for too much.

      My two favorite Rochester spots are Cheap Charlie's and John Hardy's BBQ.

      Charlie's is on North Broadway downtown, and you'll find some of the best diner fare around. And the "Cheap" thing is no lie. This stuff is practically free. Here's a picture I took of the menu when I was there in June:
      And here's a picture of the place. Don't write it off as dingy either. It oozes character.

      John Hardy's has been billed by some as the best BBQ in the state. I'm not good at quantifying like that, but I'll tell you that it's really damn good. The ribs were some of the smokiest I've ever had, and there's an abundance of sauces from which you can choose. I got the rib & pork combo, which was fantastic. Hit up the original location on Hwy 52 & Hwy 14 for a true bbq experience. Here's a picture of my plate:

      Other than that, you've got your choice of other fine dining establishments such as Olive Garden, TGIFridays, Applebee's and Pizza Hut. :)

      1. re: ike.

        Nope. Not Wongs. Had to call a friend... China Dynasty. 701 S Broadway, Rochester, MN 55904 · 507-289-2333

        Been there? Unless it's changed, it was quite good. Used to got to the Mayo quite frequently but luckily I don't have to anymore. I live 90 miles north or Rochester.

        1. re: stevieBcanyon

          I'v been to China Dynasty. It's ok - but nothing compared to Phnom Penh - 1647 South Broadway Rochester 55902 - (507)287-6336.

          They have the *best* selection and variety of all Asian dishes in Rochester. No one can compare to their menu...at least 8 pages with dishes ranging from tradional Chinese to Cambodian and Thai. They offer soups, noodle dishes, fish and seafood. My wife and I visit here at least once a month to get our fix.

          1. re: chefschmitty

            That must be south of the canning factory? Never have seen it. Sounds like a manditory stop on my next trip south of the TC. Is this a relatively new restaurant because it sure doesn't ring a bell?

            Is China Dynasty still the same good quality as it was... considering it's nitch as an Americanized Chinese food restaurant? Or, has it gone down in quality? Your comment suggests you weren't completely happy with it. Or is it just that Phnom Penh is overwhelmingly better in it's multi ethnicity menu?

            Thanks for the heads up.

            1. re: stevieBcanyon

              China Dynasty still has good quality Americanized Chinese food and I was quite happy with it. But it's like you said, the multi ethnicity menu and selection at Phnom Penh puts it #1 on my list.

              btw - Phnom Penh is in the old Perkins Restuarant location right next to The Ranch restaurant.

              1. re: chefschmitty

                haven't been to china dynasty. been to phnom penh once and was quite happy with it - had a coconut curry dish with fish and it tasted pretty good (you get to choose what fish you want... i forgot what i had, and it came with bones, which is fine with me since i'm chinese so i'm used to that :) definitely more authentic than wong's. haven't tried other chinese restaurants in town as i assume they're probably americanized...

                i went to whistle binkies (the new one in south) once and ordered the egg rolls - and they taste quite close to the egg rolls (or what we call 'spring rolls') in hong kong, and that was a surprise!

        2. re: ike.

          I will second the John Hardy's recommendation. If you are looking for more ethnic ideas, I spotted a West African/East African(?) place in the downtown area the last time I was down there. Didn't have a chance to stop in as I had already eaten at that point, but it looked like it was pretty highly patronized by "natives" (for lack of better way of phrasing it at the moment).

          1. re: ike.


            Gosh dangit, why did you have to post the photo of your plate of barbecue?? Now I have John Hardy's on the brain and I am in Minneapolis. Hey, maybe I'll visit my mother this weekend...

            John Hardy's received a great review from Dara Moskowitz a few years back:

            1. re: ike.

              I'll second John Hardy's. If you like KC style (vinegary) BBQ you'll love this place. If you like hot BBQ sauce, you'll really love this place - they've got several mild, several medium, and several hots, including one that, especially for Minnesota, is freakin' HOT.

              It's not the best BBQ in the state - that honor falls to American Pasttime BBQ in Raymond, MN (no one's ever heard of it but it's got some of the best brisket I've ever eaten), and it's not even the best in southern minnesota (That would be Piggy Blues in Austin) but it's certainly very good and well worth a visit.

            2. re: stevieBcanyon

              If the Chinese place is called Wong's, run (don't walk) to the nearest exit. This is a third level chop suey joint if there ever was one. Rice and bean sprouts and some grisley diced and steam cooked "stuff" floating around some viscious cloudy looking semi-liquid.

              Victorio's on Broad street is pretty good. The grill at the Kaehler Hotel is not bad. Micheals is the best known place in town and probably overrated, but for a good martini and a piece of meat, it's not bad. There is a greek place on the north side of town whose name I can't remember (something catchy like "Zorba's"). The Broad Street Cafe is very good and the saloon below it is kind of funky.

              1. re: bkastner

                Wong's closed. A tapa place will open later this year i believe.

                1. re: Ummm

                  Finally.... There is a God!

                  Thanks for the info

            3. There are a number of threads found at --

              Rochester has a lot to offer what's your favorite style?

              1 Reply
              1. re: chefschmitty

                I wrote a little review of the Rochester restaurants a little while ago, here is the link http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                1. Rosco's ribs are the best in Rochester.

                  I like the skyway and subway conecting the mayo to the galleria. there's a smoothie place across from teh caribou coffee, called Robeks, it has awesome acai berry meals (healthy).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: hidetherum

                    Roscoe's is good, but nowhere near John Hardy's.

                  2. Roscoes won the prestigious Great American Rib Cook Off a few years ago all the way out in Cleveland, Ohio. Make no mistake about it - this place is good. That huge trophy is showcased in their all-season location. I've tried all the Rochester BBQ joints - Roscoes comes in first in my book and most of the locals that I've spoken to. Roscoes has really good specials depending the day.

                    Witht that being said, I do think John Hardy's is good, but not as good as Roscoes. I know lots of folks also frequent John Hardy's as well.

                    1. redwood room is ok. some of those on that link got bad reviews in prior threads...and pannekoeken isn't even on there! if you are in rochester, you MUST go to pannekoeken at least ONCE - make sure someone at your table orders the pannekoeken so you can see the waitress hop and yell "pannekoeken" as she brings it to your table.

                      1. After spending most of my life in the Rochester area, I can say with passion that the following are some of the "best eats" I have had.

                        Roscoe's BBQ- similar to what Famous Daves offers, but they have their own style. Fridays they have Shrimp and Ribs on special which is great. Otherwise I always order the loaded baked potato with brisket on it. (dave's also offers one at select locations that is also quite good.) They have good rootbeer and a fun little atmosphere. There are two locations, one downtown east of the Law Enforcement center. There is one on the north end of town east of best buy near the fire department and flower shop... you can't really miss either of them.

                        Cheap Charlies is great. They are a small town mom and pop shop with "diner" type food.

                        Canadian Honker is great. Right across the street from St Mary's hospital. They have a great homemade food quality.

                        Brothers Bar and Grill off on broadway, their burgers and buffalo wings are really great. Some of the best wings I've had outside of my own kitchen. - head south from downtown on broadway towards the big ear of corn, it will be on your left in a strip mall by the snappy stop. (also has good cheap burgers and great fries, but it is a pepsi joint.)

                        If you are willing to drive a little and want to get out to see the "countryside of MN" there are a few other places I can recommend.

                        Wabasha, MN -Fresh Wok Chinese food. Get the orange or general's chicken.

                        Anderson House- this is a little nicer for the area, but their fish is out of this world. If you go during lunch their burgers and sandwiches are also better than average.

                        The Pioneer Club, South of Wabasha on the river
                        They have some of the best prime rib, I've had, their fish on fridays is great and they recently remodeled.

                        Winona- ZaZa's pizza on Huff near the campus down town. They have wing night, and great pizza, but look out for the college kids, they are back and there are plenty of them.

                        La Crosse, I still strongly recommend Kate's on State. I went there recently and got some take out. Drove an hour and a half home, and it was just as good as I remembered it when I was there the first time. They treat you like a king or queen whether you are dining in or taking out. It is SO GREAT!!

                        Alma WI, Smokehouse BBQ at Pier 4. They added BBQ this year and they do a fantastic job. Alot like John Hardy's.
                        They make their own vinegar sauce for the bbq and bbq sauces to choose from. It is worth the trip. They also have great burgers and breakfast.

                        Good Luck and enjoy.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: WIburgergirl

                          I just recently discovered Café Presto. What a jewel of a restaurant. A complete unsung hero in the restaurant scene of Rochester. It's located across the street from Saint Marys Hospital. They offer an eclectic menu of Greek and Asian fusion. Some of their items include a fire-grilled tuna sandwich, ham and cheese panini, chicken rancho wrap, Thai chicken salad and chicken penne pasta salad.

                          The menu also includes breakfast sandwiches, fruit-filled crepes, gyros, suvlaki, pastries, desserts and 1/4, 1/2 or whole chickens served with glazes including honey-Thai-chili, Cuban mojo criollo, lemon-garlic “Vesuvio,” and mesquite barbecue. Side dishes include fire-roasted Latino corn, chinois slaw, and fire-grilled antipasti.

                          I had the chicken which was cooked to perfection! Nice and juicy with the perfect amount of glaze. They even offered an additonal side of glaze for those who like to "dip" their chicken. It was also served with a grilled pita on the side. My wife had the Gyro which again was cooked to perfection. A nice char on the meat, accompanied by a good combination of onion, tomato and tzatziki sauce.

                        2. We came to Rochester to spend a week at the Mayo Clinic. We knew we would be eating out a lot, and as many on the boards have alluded to, the food here in general sucks.

                          The two places we liked for dinner were Jasper's and Prescott's.

                          At Jasper's we were impressed by the quality of the ingredients, the service and the ambience. We relished the house salad (mixed greens, asiago cheese, sunflower seeds and kalamata olives), the soup (black bean and jalapeno jack) and our entrees (a broiled haddock with red risotto cake, jaeger schnitzel with sauerkraut and spaitzel). We tried the chocolate carrot cake, but I think the plain carrot cake would have been better.

                          At Prescott's we liked the salads and the desserts (bread pudding). The duck breast was delicious and tender.

                          We did NOT like the food at Victoria's, India Garden and City Cafe. They were overpriced. The food wasn't tasty or inspiring. The ingredients seemed stale. All three seemed to be heavily marketed to out-of-town guests.

                          We know good dining when we see it, having lived in Houston and Seattle.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: omega3

                            My sentiments exactly, Omega3!!!
                            Have you tried the Vegan Deli at The Good Food Store? Even if you're not a vegan or a vegetarian, the quality of the food here is outstanding because everything they use is fresh. No airs, no overpriced gourmet, just good food that's good for you! Can't rave enough about this place - check it out!

                            1. re: rviot

                              I wholeheartedly agree with you rviot! I don't normally eat veagen (though sometimes vegetarian) but the salads and soups at the Back Room Deli are fantastic. I've also had their Spicy Spelt Burger which is to die for. Check out their menu at http://www.backroomdeli.com/

                          2. Thanks for the link! would be a cool place to check out.

                            1. A few new places I'd been:

                              BB's pizzeria by Chateau - we had the taco pizza (with medium base) and meat pizza (with pan base). pretty good pizzas! nice and clean as well. suitable for families.

                              Paradise Pete's by Miracle Mile - we had the crab cakes which i think is okay (have had better), had the mahi mahi which was pretty good. ribs were okay, roscos' better (haven't tried john hardy's so can't compare). I was most impressed with their creme brulee cheesecake!!! there are so many diff cheesecakes but i just love everything about theirs (except i want a bigger piece!). I think they also have mango cheesecake too, don't remember. i wonder if they made their own cheesecake?!

                              Canadian Honkers - been a couple of times and it's better than I expected (probably because I don't know what to expect beforehand?). good family casual dining. their coconut cake is good (what they're famous for.)

                              still waiting to try prescott's and sontes.