With new restaurants opening nearly every other week in our fair city (my recent favorites? Aboba, Casablanca and Terza), it’s easy to keep moving on to the next new thing.
Believe me, I know the struggle.
So next time you’re going out to grab a bite, why not remember one of your old favorites and pay them a visit? If you need reminding, here is a list (in no particular order) of some of my favorite Rochester mainstays. Never heard of it or never been there? Trust me, these places are worth a visit.
The Half Barrel Bar and Kitchen (304 First Ave. SW) is hard to miss, sitting on prime real estate downtown on First Avenue and Third Street. But since its transition from Bilotti’s, I haven’t heard enough people rave about their food. Try the pork belly slider appetizer or the bacon-wrapped blue cheese dates. Their flatbread pizza menu is creative and diverse, too, with options such as duck confit and brie quail.
Locals know to pull into the parking lot just after the tattoo sign on Broadway Avenue for some of the best Vietnamese food in town. Pho Chau (1014 Broadway Ave. N) serves up big portions of pho at great prices, as well as perfectly seasoned fried rice and clay pot entrees. Don’t forget to get the spring rolls.
Saints on Second (161 13th Ave. SW, inside Courtyard by Marriott) has popular local Chef Pat Reding at the helm, who owned the Aviary years ago. Hotel restaurant dining isn’t for everyone, but some of Reding’s signature dishes bring customers back again and again anyway, and the posh remodel a couple years ago doesn’t hurt. Try the blackened steak sandwich, chicken and asparagus penne and the banana bread pudding.
My husband and I used to go to India Garden (1107 N. Broadway) nearly once a month before we had kids. While we’re waiting for their tiny, terrible palates to mature, we still get takeout once in a while. Don’t miss the chicken tikka masala, aloo gobi or sag paneer, naan bread (of course!) and add some raita for a fresh kick to your dishes.
Wood-fired pizza has been popping up everywhere lately, including food trucks, but the Rochester original was Pi Pizza (3932 Marketplace Drive NW), and they’re still doing what they do. Have the red barn pizza or the chorizo pi-zini (wood-fired sandwich), then top it off with cinnamon pi-knots for dessert.
Looking for a fresh lunch with an ethnic twist? Stop by Opa Opa (1106 15th Ave. SE) for a bite and maybe a little entertainment, if you order the saganaki “flaming cheese” appetizer. Share the gyro tacos or one of the combination specials, and save room for baklava or rizogalo (rice pudding).
Can you find good sushi in Rochester? Sushi Nishiki (2854 41st St. NW) helped me fall in love with the cuisine, and I bet they can do it for you, too. I always get the firecracker roll and an avocado bubble tea, but I also love their softshell crab and yaki udon noodles — and they also offer $8 bento box lunches.
For those who never have been there, I have to swear, hand to God, that Pappy’s Place (1635 U.S. 52 North) serves up some really fantastic food. The menu options hint at the creativity in the kitchen, with options such as a turkey, apple and gouda sandwich, a pear and candied pecan salad or the flatbread pizza. The sandwiches, burgers, fries and cheese curds are just as good, though. Seriously — give this place a shot.
Have you been to La Poblana yet? It’s definitely a best-kept secret in Rochester, but it can’t be for long with two locations (1121 Civic Center Drive NW and 909 37th St. NW). The dining room may be small and you might wait for a bit, but it’s worth it to get an authentic taste of Mexico.
The only time I ever have loved catfish was on a sandwich at The Lost Cajun (2025 S. Broadway). Grab some delicious N’awlins cuisine such as gumbo, jambalaya and beignets for dessert, and don’t miss their occasional traditional crawfish boil, which you have to sign up for ahead of time.
What’s your favorite Rochester place that doesn’t get enough love? Send tips my way and I’ll include them in a future column.