3458 55th St. N.W., Rochester
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday-Wednesday and Sunday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday.
I’ll always choose a local, one-of-a-kind restaurant over a franchise, but it’s tough to beat the food, beer and atmosphere at BWW. First-timers may have a hard time figuring out how to order, especially with 14 sauces to choose from, and it’s often crowded to excess at dinnertime, but you can’t go wrong with the wings. The service is friendly and on-the-spot, and the people-watching is always good. Always go for bone-in — the boneless wings are gooey and more like General Tso chicken than buffalo wings. The hottest sauce, Blazin’, is used as an initiation test for area hockey players, I’m told … you have been warned. (January 2010)
7 First Ave. S.W., Rochester
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Plan on ordering a lot of antipasti when you dine here because it’ll take you forever to decide what to eat for the main course. The menu is vast and enticing — every permutation on the classic Italian dishes are here, including ravioli emiliani (with shiitake mushrooms), gnocchi al pomodoro and baked mostaccioli. Two of the many secrets to Victoria’s success are heaping portions and good value, including a sizable number of entrees for less than $10. In that category is one of my favorites: penne alla arrabbiata, a simple and spicy serving of perfectly cooked penne pasta with capers, kalamata olives, pepperocinis, mozzarella and a light touch of marinara sauce.
As Victoria’s veterans know, they serve some of the best, crustiest bread in town — another of their secrets. (January 2011)
121 Parkway Ave. N., Lanesboro
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Pedal Pushers, a popular downtown spot for bicyclists on the Root River Trail, is loco for local, and it shows in everything they do. They buy their beef and chicken from area farms, ditto for much of their produce, and they even make their own tangy root beer, called Burro Brew after the Lanesboro High School sports teams. Grab a second fork and a partner to help with the bowlful of apple crisp, buried with a pile of WW Homestead Dairy ice cream, whipped cream and a cherry. The apples are firm and tangy, and the crumbs are spicy-sweet.
If you listen closely, you’ll hear the apple crisp crying out for coffee — “Coffee! Pair me with coffee!” — and the cafe roasts its own beans (and has an espresso bar), so do as you’re told. You might also plan to take a pound of coffee beans home, since it’s cheaper than most places in Rochester.
The decor is vintage bobby sox, with early rock ‘n’ roll posters on the walls, 33-rpm vinyl twirling from the ceiling on fishing line, and black-and-white checked tile on the floor. (October 2012)