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Apr 26, 2012 12:30 PM

Rochester - anything great?

We will be spending a few nights in Rochester in June, and are wondering if there are any terrific dining venues in this city. We like all food...except we avoid Asian cuisines when traveling because we have great Asian food at home.

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  1. Really depends on what you're looking for. I live in NYC but am from Rochester and routinely visit each year and have found the variety and quality of restaurants on the rise. Some personal favorites include: Good Luck (small plates/good cocktails), Warfield's at High Point (modern cuisine/tasting menu), Rocco's (Italian/pizza) and Lento (farm to table/good cocktails/raw bar). Others include Max at Eastman Place and The Owl House as well as some ethnic restaurants but that may not interest you as much considering your from CA where there is an abundance of good Asian food.

    Further away in Canadaigua there is Rheinblick (German/decent beers) and Rio Tamatlan (Mexican). If you're looking for anything particular then please specify.

    14 Replies
    1. re: TheDegustationAsian

      Those are all good suggestions. In addition, what I have found to be a fun, casual, great dining experience is at Wegmans Pittsford store. I have started taking all out-of -town visitors there for at least one meal because no one has ever seen anything like it! Wegmans includes food bars (Asian, hot entrees, cold salads, sushi, dimsum), sandwich stations, pizza stations, desserts, juices. The variety and quality is very satisfying to carnivores, vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free diners. "The Food Bar" restaurant is also worth a try. Wegmans is more than just a "grocery store" and the Pittsford location is their flagship location. I am not a Wegmans employee, just a fan and consumer.

      1. re: jrgilpin

        A few more ideas to throw into the mix, after checking in with my relatives in Rochester. Their favorite place for special occasion Italian is Lucano's. Rooney's and Black and Blue are other favorites. Amaya is a new place serving Indian food in French style, which they found interesting and enjoyable. Flight Wine Bar is recommended for wine and appetizers. And Dinosaur BBQ is an experience of its own! For a terrific but really casual Rochester evening, I like to go down to the lake at Charlotte to get a frozen custard at Abbott's and walk on the pier. There are some char broil burger places by the lake too that have loyal followings if you are interested in that sort of thing!

        1. re: refinnej

          +1 on Dinosaur BBQ. Not the best BBQ I've ever had, but it is the best I've had in New York. If you combine that with the live music offered it makes it a place I try not to miss whenever I'm in Rochester.

        2. re: jrgilpin

          When i look up wegman's for pittsford I get two choices. One is in pittsford NY the other is on Monroe in Rochester. Which one are you recommending?

          1. re: lindabyb

            Don't know anything about the one on Monroe. The Wegman's in Pittsford is truly amazing!!

              1. re: lindabyb

                The Pittsford Wegmans is on Monroe Avenue. They are one and the same. The "Rochester" may be attached to the second listing as a Post Office designation. Several of the suburban towns have "Rochester" listings despite not actually being within City limits. It IS worth finding your way to the Pittsford Wegmans, by the way.

                1. re: budgetrick

                  Thanks for clarifying. We are out-of-towners and were taken to the amazing Pittsford Wegmans, having no idea as to the street location. It is really a not to be missed stop for any foodie visiting the Rochester area.

              2. re: josephnl

                Clarifying the Wegman's situation: Wegman's is located on Monroe Ave in the Pittsford Plaza. It's city address is "Rochester." Nevertheless, this is the flagship Wegman's -- the one everyone means when they say "You have to visit Wegman's"

                The newest Wegman's -- the renovated East Ave store -- isn't as large and lacks the full selection of Wegman's Pittsford.

            1. re: jrgilpin

              I also bring out of town visitors to Pittsford Wegmans. The huge cafe area is impressive, along with the grocery store itself. I will probably get some flack for saying this, but I just don't find the food in the cafe to be that great. It is certainly adequate and worth visiting, but don't expect it to be as well seasoned and adventurous as a "foodie" might like. It is what it is. It's meant to please the average person whether they are looking for healthy or comfort food, sushi or Indian, etc. That being said, I would still suggest visiting.

            2. re: TheDegustationAsian

              We like nice cocktails, good regional American, Italian or French food, good wine, pleasant ambiance (not too noisy), and good service. We do not need haute cuisine, but want well prepared food using great ingredients, locally sourced if possible. Often, simpler is better...although we're open to "fancy" if we'll done. Warfield's and Lento sound pretty good. Other ideas welcomed.

              How do you know we're from CA? We are!

              1. re: josephnl

                Haha, I looked at your profile and saw that you were from Irvine, CA.

                Given your preferences I think Lento would be a great choice. Not too loud, excellent cocktail menu, local produce driven cuisine, etc. I've had a few good meals there in the past as well as with my family and really applaud what Chef Rogers has brought to Rochester. Depending on which day you dine, be sure to check the weekly specials as they have free corkage, raw bar and cocktail deals on various weeknights.

                Warfield's at High Point is another personal favorite. Although, much more refined, I've been waiting for cuisine of this caliber in Rochester. Chef Williams is a CIA graduate and sources some very good products. I've done tastings on both occasions but think you'd be fine going a la carte if you should choose.

                Dinosaur is very popular in western New York (although we usually visit the Harlem location). My family is divided between this and Sticky Lips for BBQ.

                Hope you enjoy whatever you choose!

                1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                  Thanks a lot! I totally forgot that I have a profile!
                  Lento and Warfield's both sound like great choices.

              2. re: TheDegustationAsian

                I know this is an old thread, but it had so many responses that I thought I might add my two cents. Future visitors to Rochester will most likely be reading this. I think Good Luck is fantastic and we just had a wonderful meal there last weekend. I cannot agree about Lento. Their $1 oysters on Tuesday are great, but the food just does not deliver. I have eaten there 3 times in the past year or so, and while the menu sounds delicious, I have been disappointed by the actual dishes every time. I recently ordered a beef carpaccio and had to dress it myself by requesting lemon, salt, and pepper. I really want to like it there, but don't think I will be ordering food again. Rocco is wonderful but I am partial. Owl House (across the street from Rocco) does a good job of catering to both veggies & carnivores and I have always enjoyed my food, although have never been wowed. Cure has opened at the Public Market and that is quite delicious. Oh yes, and I did have dinner at Warfield's this summer and expected great things and found it didn't deliver. This is just my opinion...

              3. I would add Mario's and The King And I to the list. The King and I is Thai that you probably will not find in Cali. Warfield's is good too. Hope you get time to drive to the finger lakes for some wine tours.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Enigma3

                  We have many, many Thai restaurants in southern CA. Is there something unique about The King and I?

                  1. re: josephnl

                    They do a dish called "phat prigkhin". It is a red curry I have never seen in any other Thai restaurant. Very good! Their menu is extensive and well described. It is popular but large inside. They like to do fast service, so we always tell them to go slow. Don't order the next course until the one on the table is done.


                    1. re: josephnl

                      I went to college in Rochester but I haven't been there in about 10 years. However, based on my time there, I wouldn't call either Mario's or The King and I particularly chow-worthy. Mario's is just a typical Italian place - we used to go there for Easter brunch and the like, but the food is nothing you can't get elsewhere. The King and I is definitely no different than most Thai restaurants - we always preferred Mamasan's anyway (not that Mamasan's is particularly special either, just better, IMO, than The King and I).

                  2. When visiting our son at RIT, we like to go to the Dinosaur. As others have said, it's an experience. We've been to the one at Syracuse too, but the view of the falls from the Rochester one adds to the charm. It's really unfair for me to compare though, because the night we visited Syracuse and went to the Dinosaur was freezing cold, and we had to wait over an hour. It was impossible to wait outside so it was very crowded waiting inside. In Rochester, there wasn't as long of a wait, and there was more room for us to wait inside, plus the weather was lovely. You said you avoid Asian when traveling, but we do also like Wok With You at Park Point, near the RIT campus. They have sushi, Thai, and Chinese and are near the Barnes & Noble, so if you're in that area, you may want to check them out, or the pub TC Riley's nearby. The college students go often to Buffalo Wild Wings, and if you're into chain-type fast-food type joints, this location is pretty good.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: barbgail61

                      Where do the college kids eat? We are coming to look at schools and would love to check out those places.

                      1. re: lindabyb

                        Which schools and will the student have a car? The University of Rochester is in the City , RIT is off by itself in nearby Henrietta, and St. John Fisher and Nazareth are clustered by one another in Pittsford. SUNY schools Brockport and Geneseo are pretty remote (relative to the City) and have their own, sort of insular scenes.

                        1. re: budgetrick

                          Sorry we were traveling. He's looking at U rochester and RIT. He won't have a car.

                          1. re: lindabyb

                            There is a "college town" evolving around the U of R, but it's not likely to get all that far in the next four years. For now, and within reasonable walking distance in the immediate area are some chains (Chipotle, McD's, Bruggerers Bagels), a few pubs that are OK (Distillery, Elmwood Inn), a branch of a local Vietnamese place of note (Mamasan's), and, across the river, a nice coffee house with sandwiches (Boulder Coffee). The U of R's music school is downtown, and I think there is a shuttle from the River Campus to downtown. That would give access to Eros (a decent Italian place) 2Vine (for special occasion$), and another coffee house with sandwiches and wood-fired pizza (Spot Coffee).

                            Not too familiar with RIT's offerings, but it actually has a nascent "college town." There is a good pub (Lovin Cup) and some other eating places in it, and a pub with OK food down Jefferson Road a bit (McGregors, of which there are many in the area).

                            Good luck to you and him in your search - those are two very impressive schools to be considering.

                        2. re: lindabyb

                          It's been many years since I graduated from UR, but in my day by far the most convenient and cost effective way to eat was through a campus meal plan. I'd be very surprised if this were not still true. Of course we went out for an occasional pizza or other treat, but ate most of our meals on campus.

                      2. I'd just like to throw in another two thumbs up for the Dinosaur. It is much less formal than you seem to want, but it's a worthwhile trip. They have a full bar and make generous drinks. Whatever meat you try will be beyond good. Ribs, chicken, brisket or a steak. I guarantee you will NEVER find a barbeque restaurant in L.A. even remotely close to the Dino. California does many things well. Barbeque is not one of them. This small chain is so good that George Soros bought in as a major player.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Enigma3

                          I'm sorry but have to disagree. As much as I enjoy Dinosaur it is a far cry from world-class BBQ. My main issue with it being that it lacks any regional distinctiveness that would otherwise distinguish it from any other BBQ restaurant, and is instead, a hybrid of many regional styles all executed ok, but none exceptionally.

                          While the food and atmosphere are pleasant enough, its brisket is a far cry from anything you'd expect or find in Texas, the ribs aren't comparable to the ones in Memphis, the pulled pork is weak compared to the whole hog style you'd find in the Carolina's and the sauces aren't anything quite like those of Kansas City.

                          I won't comment much on The King and I, seeing as how I've never eaten there, but a quick glance at the menu lacks the regional distinctiveness the OP was looking for. The lack of regionalized Thai dishes (say Isan-style), coupled with the number of Americanized Chinese dishes are both red flags to me.

                          Far more interesting should the OP want to go less formal would be dishes distinct to Western New York or Rochester such as a garbage plate, Beef on Wick, Buffalo Wings, Dibella's Subs, Abbots Frozen Custard, etc.

                          1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                            Your regional choices are fine if you wish to downgrade your dining experience. I did not get that the original poster wanted a "rough around the edges" time. I've had the garbage plate. There's a reason they call it that. Beef on weck or buffalo wings are more Buffalo regional than Rochester regional. Abbot's custard is not worth it and a sub, from wherever, is not exactly regional. Casa Italiana in Canandaigua makes the best sub in the area by far.
                            Google "phat prigkhin" and the ONLY Thai restaurant you will find this served is The King and I. Mamasan's would be another excellent choice for Thai (or Vietnamese), but they do not have as extensive a menu as King and I and they don't have phat prigkhin. There's a reason the King and I is so popular and consistently wins local dining awards.
                            As to your criticism of the Dinosaur, just wow. They have been judged best BBQ in the nation on several occasions. Their mac and cheese got the attention of an NBC crew from NYC. They do a Memphis style dry rub on the ribs, and if you wish to sauce them, they have four unique in house sauces to try. It is a regional chain (up to 4 now). And I guarantee (in the spirit of Justin Wilson) you will not find a better BBQ place in all of California. Good BBQ is quite rare there. If the OP wants a unique, regional, yummy, generous drinks place to try, Dinosaur BBQ wins. Hands down.

                            1. re: Enigma3

                              To clarify my previous suggestion, I made those recommendations to the OP in the context of experiencing dishes distinct to Western New York and not just specifically to Rochester. Visiting from CA, I find these suggestions may be far more interesting than generic Thai or BBQ. I fully stand by my original suggestions of Lento, Warfield's, etc., given the OP's stated preferences.

                              If by "phat prigkhin" you mean phad prik khing, a traditional Thai dish characterized by prig khing curry paste and use of long beans, kaffir lime leaves and ginger then you are mistaken. In fact a quick google search of "phad prik khing rochester ny" yields results showing that The King and I isn't even the first result. In fact, the google search shows multiple rochester Thai restaurants serving this dish including: Sak's Thai Cuisine, Curi's Ice Cream Parlor & Authentic Thai Cuisine, Thai Taste, Pattaya Thai Restaurant, etc. Again, my comments towards The King and I weren't meant as an insult inasmuch as a general observation that it lacks any regional distinctiveness that would lend itself to being a destination restaurant, in light of the fact that the OP had mentioned there being many Thai restaurants in CA.

                              In regard to Dinosaur, I want to be clear that I enjoy the restaurant and think it produces perfectly acceptable BBQ. However, I wouldn't go as far as to say that its destination worthy by any stretch of the imagination. In context of Texas, Kansas City, Memphis and Carolina regional BBQ, Dinosaur just isn't exceptional. While I find most superlatives such as "best" a boring exercise, I would be interested to hear who judged them the best BBQ in the NATION. I find their mac and cheese to be fine, but I doubt John Stage prides his sides over his meat. My main complaint of Dinosaur is that they don't offer burnt ends or the deckle cut of the brisket. I'd also be interested in about what you consider Rochester-style BBQ is.

                              1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                Thanks. Your recommendations of Lento and Warfield's seem right on. Will definitely try to do them both next month when I'm in Rochester. Will report back!

                                1. re: josephnl

                                  No problem. I'm actually headed back this week by way of the Finger Lakes for my sister's graduation. In addition to home cooking with family I'm going to try to revisit Lento, Warfield's, Good Luck and hopefully stop by Cheshire, a relatively new "pre-prohibition era" cocktail bar that focuses on classic cocktails.

                                  1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                    Some folks I know just recommended Woodcliff's Horizons. I don't think they are really CH's, so wonder what others think.

                                2. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                  Dinosaur is yummy and fun and loud and certainly worth visiting. I always enjoy the food, but am far from a BBQ connoisseur so I can't say a whole lot more than that. Just go!

                          2. Josephnl, I hope your time in Rochester allows a visit to Wegman's in Pittsford. There is nothing in Cali that compares and it is worth the visit!