You guys, it’s a record — I’m going to fill up September’s column docket with all “first bite” columns, where I give you the run-down on my favorite dishes and drinks at the newest Rochester restaurants. We are hoppin.’
This week, I checked out the just-opened-yesterday Five West on West Circle Drive and 19th Street Northwest. The gorgeous new space was conceived by the same four hometown guys behind downtown’s The Loop — Ryan Brevig, Todd Jensen, Derek Link and Josh Paulsen — the irony being their second Rochester restaurant is actually on “the loop” of Circle Drive.
The freestanding building is big and beautiful, with a large, open dining room, tall ceilings and mixed materials such as subway tile, warm woods, marble and metal. Several large booths and tables line one side of a large central bar, while the other side is made up of mixed seating including long, narrow tables with barstools, perfect for a happy hour or bachelorette party.
You’ll have to go out the doors to find the highlight of the space, though. Just outside the front door is a beautiful open-air bar with surrounding patio seating that extends the length of the restaurant’s west side, all overlooking a fountain out in the water overflow area (side note: I love how we take advantage of any kind of “lake” we find — or make ourselves). Heaters and what I’m sure will be an extremely popular fireplace table will keep the space open at least three seasons.
The food and drinks
If you like The Loop, you’ll find lots to love on Five West’s menu.
Many of the favorite dishes over at the Loop appear on Five West’s menu, too. Think of Five West as a bigger, broader restaurant with a bigger, more diverse menu.
My favorite dish during my first bite was the wood-roasted meatballs, which are cooked in the restaurant’s wood-burning tandoor oven, which apparently is good for more than making naan bread and tandoori chicken a la India Garden.
All the appetizers seem like mini-entrée dishes, featuring complimentary ingredients and flavors that showcase the main app. For the meatballs, the russet potato puree and smoked tomato salsa sang next to the spiced meatballs. Put all of that on a sweet balsamic-drizzled crostini, and it’s worth closing your eyes to taste it better.
Other highlights include a huge salad list including a blackened chicken quinoa salad, grilled flank steak salad and, my favorite, the Loop’s almond cherry salad. A couple of the entrees are also cooked in the tandoor oven, such as the Manhattan strip steak and the tandoor roasted chicken. All the Loop pizzas are here under different names, and I can’t wait to try the togarashi spiced tuna burger.
For dessert, do me a favor and don’t miss the drunken blondie.
Five West is also serving breakfast starting at 7 a.m., with a nice long list of options, including a breakfast burrito, bananas foster French toast, along with plenty of sides. They even have a weekday “third shift” happy hour, where you can show your medical badge from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays for 15 percent off your bill.
For drinks, in addition to healthy draft beer and wines-by-the glass lists, the craft cocktails shine at Five West. I enjoyed a (couple) honey crisp mojitos, but the caramel chai tea (with caramel vodka) and the tiki colada look pretty darn good, too.
Five West is at 1991 Commerce Drive NW in Rochester, and they’re open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.