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Good Restaurants Near R.I.T.-Rochester Institute of Tech in Rochester, NY


My son will be going to the Rochester Institute of Technology in under a month. We've only visited the school a few times, which is on a highway, and not in the heart of Rochester. We've never been to the heart of downtown Rochester.

Can anyone recommend good places to eat near RIT? We'll be bringing him up to school soon, then we'll be back a few months later for visiting day, and I'm sure we'll be going there other times of the year during vacations.

Any help would be appreciated. All I know is that we'll be staying at the Holiday Inn on Jefferson Rd (252), the same highway that RIT is on, near the Marketplace mall and across the street from an Alligator Themed Barbecue restaurant that wasn't very good, and I found out is a chain.

Thank you.

Rochester Institute of Technology
139 Lomb Memorial Dr, Rochester, NY 14623

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  1. Chains tend to dominate the area around RIT, but if you look carefully there are some good ethnic places hidden among the strip malls. If you like Indian you might try the lunch buffets at Tandori of India (on Jefferson) or Thali of India (Winton near Jefferson). For Korean try Seoul Garden on W. Henrietta, north of Jefferson. More and better choices in the city; check some of the threads here.

    Thali of India
    3259 Winton Rd S Ste 9, Rochester, NY 14623

    1 Reply
    1. re: jmoryl

      And furthermore... one thing I forgot to put into my preceding post is the necessity of your son indulging in an authentic Nick Tahou Garbage Plate. It's a rite of passage around here, and I'm at risk of having my Rochester Card revoked for leaving it out of my original reply. Fortunately, there is now a suburban Nick Tahou's on West Henrietta Road, not far at all from RIT. (Trust me, this is far better for all concerned than the original in downtown.)

      And what is a Garbage Plate, you wonder? The components can vary, but the basic deal is macaroni salad (cold) and home fries (hot), with two split, grilled hot dogs (either red or white in color and hot) on top, all covered with raw onions, mustard, and a thin, liquid-y, lightly spiced meat sauce. Two slices of Italian bread and a few pats of butter come with ... Plastic utensils and paper plates ... Why they don't offer a swig of Pepto Bismol is a mystery to me.

      There are lots of local variants of this dish, usually billed with similar but slightly different names: "Messy Plate," "Dumpster Plate," Rubbish Plate," etc. Lawyers have been involved in keeping this straight, and the originators are VERY protective of their creation (their own family members having been targets of their litigation). Your boy ought to have the real McCoy if he's going to venture into local culinary legends. Most people survive it; some go back for more.

    2. One of the beauties of greater Rochester is that you can get from ANYWHERE to ANYWHERE ELSE in 20 minutes or less. Partly it's a good road system, partly that those roads were built to accommodate several hundred thousand more people than now live here ...

      Anyway, a highly recommended "special event" place for us is Black and Blue in Pittsford Plaza. As the name suggests, it features steak and seafood, kind of high end for this area. I'm wondering if your disappointment on Jefferson Road was the latest Sticky Lips BBQ, a small local chain-let, that's usually pretty good. If you like such food, check out (the legendary) Dinosaur BBQ downtown on Court Street and Beale Street Cafe on South at Gregory in the City (wherein there is no actual "Beale Street"...).

      If your son is under 21, the attractions of Tap and Mallet (also on Gregory) might be diminished, but it's the best gastro pub in town (vast, constantly changing selection of curated beers, subdued atmosphere, no TVs), with decent food, too. One of the several local MacGregor's is a similar place on Jefferson Road quite close to campus, but it is more of a sports bar, and the food is inferior to T&M.

      The village of East Rochester is notable for a number of very authentic "red gravy" Italian places, with Perlo's and the Northside Inn being among our favorites. Mario's on Monroe Avenue in Pittsford is Italian of a different sort, more elaborate preparations and a focus on steak dishes.

      Hope you and your son enjoy your time here.

      The Tap and Mallet
      381 Gregory Street, Rochester, NY

      Northside Inn
      311 N Washington St, East Rochester, NY 14445

      Beale Street Cafe
      693 South Ave, Rochester, NY 14620

      Perlo's Restaurant
      202 N Washington St, East Rochester, NY 14445

      1. I live in the Rochester area, and are in the Henrietta/RIT area occasionally. I don't think it's a great food area.. Lots of chains (my wife said Red Robin's tasty..never been there.)
        But.. I did go to the Crab Shack for my birthday. It is on east henrietta road and is local (owned by same folks who own Mario's . I liked it...quite pricey..but a good "destination" place..for a special night out. They have all kinds of fresh seafood and "boils "and "pots." I loved the fried pickle spears with the chipotle aiole as an app. More extensive seafood selection than a Red Lobster. Service was good and a pleasant atmosphere.
        For more casual..I like Bill Gray's. it is a local Rochester chain. never eaten on the one on Jefferson Rd, but have at other locations. A pricier fast food type burger joint. Food made fresh on the premises and serves a Rochester style burger..which features a somewhat spicy meat sauce that is somewhat indiginous to Rochester. their crispy chicken sandwich was tasty as well and of better quality than you will get at at a fast food place. A bit pricy, but fresher..more unique burger joint.
        Finally, you may want to check out The shanghai chinese rest on west henrietta rd. It is an older style place with a sit down service instead of a buffet. They have dim sum on weekends,on carts etc. There are a couple of Hibachi style places nearby that may or may not be to yourt tastes.

        1. Thank you everyone. We now have quite a number of suggestions. My son is now interested in Nick Tahou and the Garbage Plate, but then again, why wouldn't an 18 year old be interested in something called a Garbage Plate! Hopefully his future new friends and roomate will also be interested. He just turned 18 so I don't think he'll be going to the pubs mentioned, or I hope not anyway. Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse was the barbecue chain that we went to across the street from the Holiday Inn and near the Marketplace. It reminded us of a Disney-themed restaurant, and I'm sure that children like the animatronics, but the food was so-so. I've been to the Dinosaur Bar in Syracuse, so perhaps we'll try the one in Rochester? But now we have some other choices, which I greatly appreciate. Thank you once again.

          6 Replies
          1. re: barbgail61

            The garbage plate has an aura that comes from the time when Nick Tahou's was on a very seedy part of W. Main St. in Rochester. It was traditional for area college students to wind up there at 3 am on a weekend to mix it up with the pimps and dealers. I can't imagine a garbage plate, served in suburban sterility to a completely sober person is the same thing.

            1. re: jmoryl

              The original NIck's is still on West Main Street downtown, but is no longer a late night operation. The West Henrietta Road branch is not exactly 'sterile,' but it admittedly lacks the years of grease build-up that imparted a day-long aroma to your clothing upon even the briefest of visits. And, not to upset barbgail61, but there is no requirement that the son be completely sober upon his visit ... This being more a food website and less a 'pimps and dealers' site, I stand by my recommendation.

              1. re: budgetrick

                OK then, what is your take on Sal's or Smitty's birds? These were U of R late night necessities.

                1. re: jmoryl

                  I first discovered Smitty's when he was operating out of a storefront on South Avenue, where the Convention Center now sits. So addictive did that chicken become that I followed him to that place on the eastside - Garson? Parcells? - and then to the 19th Ward. RIP, Snuffy Smith. (No, barbgail, not 'riT,' 'riP.')

                  Sal's sauce was indeed 'sassy' (not to mention sweet), but sauce alone does not a good chicken make, I never found those birds to be of the best quality. Perhaps they made the mistake of changing the oil in the deep fryer, a foolishness that you would never find happening at Smitty's.

                  How about Campi's, almost at the airport on Scottsville Road (just up the road from Sal's in fact), that had the huge sandwiches? - their Eggplant Parm was outstanding.

                  Lots of deep fat frying talk going on here... I'll be back after I take my Lipitor.

                  1. re: budgetrick

                    I need to confess that I was never a fan of Sal's or Smitty's - I'm more of a Buffalo chicken wing guy (Elmwood Inn had good ones back when I was at U of R). Did have more Campy's bombers than I care to admit - is that place still around?

                    1. re: jmoryl

                      Bombers!! That's what they were called !!! I don't think that Campi's is still around - the one on Empire Blvd. is gone for sure, the one on Scottsville Rd. probably is.

                      The Elmwood is still going strong, but it has upscaled its menu a bit. Wings can still be had, but Jeremiah's Tavern is probably the gold standard locally for wings (even 'tho' there are now two branches of Buffalo's famed Anchor Bar (which reputedly 'invented' chicken wings) now in town). The Distillery, just up Mt. Hope from the Elmwood, is popular, and it has expanded to 3 - 4 other locations. Alas, they no longer brew beer in-house.

                      Jeremiah's Tavern
                      1104 Monroe Ave, Rochester, NY 14620

          2. I would also keep in mind Phillips European especially if you are looking for a place for dessert / coffee. And, if you are ever in Rochester on a Saturday morning, the Public Market is a great scene for anyone who enjoys food!

            Phillips European Restaurant
            26 Corporate Woods Ste 8, Rochester, NY 14623

            1. And yet more of my opinions!! Hope your son breaks from his eating adventures and gets time to study... RIT is no walk in the park.

              My favorite pizza in Rochester can be found at John's Brooklyn Pizza in the Top's Plaza at Jefferson Road and East Henrietta (in the small, stand-alone strip of stores by Jefferson). These are the same guys who ran the pizza stand in the (late, lamented) Midtown food court.

              They have both a thin crust, greasy, NYC style and a thick, Sicilian style; both are great, and I go back and forth. And, conducive to sticking to one's studies at RIT, they serve only soda and energy drinks. They do not deliver, and my take-out ventures have been disappointments, as the heat of the pie in its cardboard box ends up steaming the pizza, crispness of crust being the unfortunate victim. Go there, have a few slices, and drink a soda (which the counter guy may instead call "a pop").

              Brooklyn Pizza
              751 Upper Glen St Ste 5, Queensbury, NY 12804

              1 Reply
              1. re: budgetrick

                Boy, I'm the one getting an education from you fellow Chowhounders! Thanks a million. As for my son, he wasn't the one asking about restaurants, that I did all on my own, and I can only hope that he spends most of his time studying when he's there and not eating out because as Budgetrick said, it'll be no walk in the park I'm sure. When we visit we'll be taking him places, and will definitely look for John's Brooklyn Pizza. I had read on this board about the Public Market, and my son wants to check that out so I'm sure we'll also try that. I wish we knew about Phillips European when we went there for a tour of the campus, because we ended up with coffee and donuts from Dunkin, near the hotel.

                As for my son being completely sober when he and his friends go out off campus, well, I guess I'll try living in my dream world a little longer! It's been many years since I went to Binghamton (they call "soda" "pop" there too) and in those days drinking age was only 18, so campus was not as strict as I hear they are now because now with drinking age having gone up to 21. Parents are told that RIT does not allow alcohol on campus regardless of the student's age. But when the kids go off campus, who knows what happens.

                Thanks again.

                Phillips European Restaurant
                26 Corporate Woods Ste 8, Rochester, NY 14623

                Brooklyn Pizza
                751 Upper Glen St Ste 5, Queensbury, NY 12804

              2. Please forgive me. I have no idea what fuels my obsession with undermining your son's health, but here's more:

                I just returned from the Public Market, and it is, indeed, a 'must do' while in Rochester. Lots to enjoy there, and much of it is healthy. However, I urge he patronize Zimmerman's stand at the west end of the Market and order a Balogna Supreme: a thick-cut piece of grilled balogna, a fried egg, grilled onions, and melted cheese on a soft roll. The healthiest part of this may be the paper plate upon which it is served. Start you day with one of these, end it with a Garbage Plate, and you are a few steps closer to heaven (literally ...).

                A few Market basics: It operates on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (barring special events, of which they have lots). Hours are from 'way before any college student is awake (say 5:30 - 6:00 AM) to about 2:00 PM. Relatively few vendors are there on Tuesdays, and Saturdays can be VERY busy / crowded during the growing seasons. It operates year-round, but, again, in deepest winter, the number of vendors drops 'way off.

                They lay-out can be confusing: It consists of two open-air sheds, one of which is 'C' shaped, and an enclosed, heated 'winter shed.' There is also a row of shops immediately to the north of the market proper. These are known as the commission houses, and, for all practical purposes, are part of the market. A number of coffee roasters, a cheese vendor, a game (as in bison, elk, etc.) vendor, an outstanding bread bakery, and a few other neat places are to be found there.

                Other than these commission houses, the prepared food is mostly to be found at the south side of the Market in small stand-alone shops with counter seating. Highly recommended are Empanada Stop, Scott's, and the aforementioned Zimmerman's. Cherry's - featuring eastern European fare - is also good, but it seems to keep spotty hours.

                1. The local TV news just ran a feature stating that Adam Richman and the "Man vs. Food" crew were in town to film a piece on Nick Tahou's and the Garbage Plate. I'm not aware of Nick's doing any of these "eat 10 of these in 10 minutes and you get a t-shirt" challenges, so I'm guessing that this will be one of the "while we were in town, we also visited ____" parts of an otherwise hideous show. One ought not to fight with one's food ... No air date for this segment was given.

                  1. What if a poster began to reply to your question AND HE NEVER LEFT? No need to wonder: Here I am again.

                    Another update on the Man vs. Food filming in Rochester - the "challenge" aspect of the show was just filmed at the previously-mentioned Sticky Lips BBQ (the original on Culver Road, not the new one on Jefferson Rd.). I think I had said it was "usually pretty good;" I may need to reassess after learning that they indulge in this kind of nonsense. I'm not sure of the details, but it's something like a 4 pound burger, pulled pork, assorted slop, all to be consumed in 30 minutes. Makes for neither good eating nor good television, although host Adam Richman is seemingly an engaging guy.