Just returned from a recent visit seeing family for Thanksgiving. Tried a few "newer" places that have eluded me for one reason or another.
Fuego Coffee Roasters - 3rd wave coffee shop located downtown. I've been interested in visiting some of Rochester's better coffee options and was happy to check this off my list. Grabbed a seat at the bar and was tended to by one of the owners, Renee, who answered all of my questions regarding bean origins and their roasting facilities in the back. Ordered an Americano (Costa Rica) and an espresso (Ethiopia) and enjoyed both. Want to return to try their French Quarter made with chicory during the warmer months.
Joe Bean - Hard to believe, but I've never been to Joe Bean before this last visit. Very accommodating staff, answering lots of questions. Beautiful space, lots of natural light and a lab located in the back where they host cupping events. Ordered an espresso and a machiatto (no cortado) and enjoyed both. Will return for their Bottled Kyoto in the future.
BC's Chicken Coop - Located next to a shoe repair store in Webster, I made the trip on advise that this "shack" produces some of Rochester's best fried chicken. Ordered six pieces (2 breasts, 2 thighs, a drum and a wing) that came with two sides (house made chips and green beans) and two corn muffins. The chicken was excellent, freshly fried to order, it arrived grease free and pipping hot. The egg wash/flour dredge produced a crisp crust that was well seasoned. The chips were well fried and nicely seasoned but the green beans cooked with tomato and bacon had a great depth of flavor. Additionally, I can't say enough good things about the owners. Both took our orders, cleared our plates and seemed very interested in how we enjoyed the food. Details such as bringing us a side of their coop sauce after we ate our first piece of chicken "because they wanted us to try it sans sauce" really made our visit especially memorable.
Cheshire - Located in the upstairs of Solera in the South Wedge we initially visited this cocktail bar shortly after it opened a few years ago. Based on two more visits during this trip, it seems that Rochester is well aware of this bar, as it was packed both nights. Ordered an Old Fashioned, Ramos Gin Fizz and a Whiskey Over Easy (made with scotch and based off a flip). Drinks were good, perhaps a tad too sweet for the Old Fashioned, also features a few interesting mocktails for those that cannot or do not drink.
The Revelry - Had lunch here the Friday after Thanksgiving. Interested on low country food in Rochester, we were seated upstairs which featured tons of natural light. Started off with a half dozen chicken fried oysters with tartar sauce. The oysters were well seasoned and nicely fried, a fine appetizer. We ordered the shrimp and grits (added 62 degree egg) and the po boy (we really like oysters). The shrimp and grits fared much better than the po boy, which was way too busy (srirancha and avocado?) and detracted from the flavor of the fried seafood. The shrimp and grits contained some interesting items (peas, cherry tomatoes, pearl onions) but fortunately, the dish highlighted the creamy grits, shrimp and andouille sausage. We also shared an order of the cast iron skillet corn bread which featured a nice crust but was perhaps a tad heavy handed on the honey. To drink, a ginger beer and a Mr. Mule which featured a housemade basil and strawberry shrub.
Branca - The second restaurant by the same group that owns The Revelry. Located in Bushnell's Basin, I was shocked at just how crowded the restaurant was when we arrived. Our server was knowledgeable about the menu and really helpful by coursing out our order. We were given complimentary sliced baguette and kalamata olive oil while we drank our glasses of Barbera. We shared the octopus appetizer which was extremely tender (perhaps too soft) and would have benefited from a bit more char from the grill. Also, the shaved black truffle was flavorless and failed to add anything to the dish. The pastas fared much better. The housemade tagliatelle with a wild mushroom sauce was very good. More flavorless truffles aside, the mushrooms were earthy and the pasta had a wonderful texture considering it was homemade. We were told that the ricotta gnocchi with a meat ragu was the signature dish of the restaurant and it was excellent. The gnocchi were textbook texture, light in the mouth and complimented the rich sauce perfectly. Failing to realize the significantly larger portion sizes compared to NYC restaurants, we grossly over ordered with a pizza to share with proscuitto and arugula. Told that they were in the process to become VPN certified, the dough had a slight char and well seasoned. Overall, the pie was good, but far from great. We didn't have enough time to visit Fiamma again but in our experience both fell short compared to the Neapolitan pies we have in NYC/Brooklyn area. Still, it is nice to see better pizza options come to Western New York.
Aunt Rosie's - I planned a family meal here after hearing positives about Chef Vroman's restaurant. The staff were polite but aloof at times, forcing me on multiple occasions to literally flag them down as one would in a classroom. As we looked over the menu we were given homemade focaccia bread. The meal started strong with the appetizers. Aranchini containing white truffle (not present) with a tangy goat cheese fonduta were very good. Also very good was the romaine salad with pickled onions, fried potato and an anchovy dressing. The re-imagined caesar salad was well balanced. We also split the spaghetti with a soft egg, guanciale and potato gnocchi with pork belly. Both pastas packed plenty of flavor. Unfortunately, the gnocchi were far from the platonic version found at Hearth or Craft and worse, the pork belly hadn't been rendered enough, resulting in flabby bites. The spaghetti was better in theory (modern carbonara) than in real life, as the pasta was cooked well past being al dente. The mains were fine but uninspiring. The pork shoulder was replaced by a chop and grilled. The sole was cooked fine but the lemon butter sauce lacked acid. The margarita pizza was fine, but was otherwise non-distinguishable style wise. But the worst offender was the cavatelli which was described as being served with a wild mushroom ragu and fried egg. Our expectations were dashed when it was served in an extremely thick red wine and tomato based sauce. I suppose it was our fault for not asking specifically as to the sauce for the pasta, but compared to the housemade pastas at Branca we left disappointed. The chocolate budino with salted caramel was okay, but too sweet in our opinion. The caramel wasn't salty enough for us and we thought it could have been cooked a bit longer to further develop more complexity. Overall, a bit disappointing. Perhaps Aunt Rosie's better suited for a post work glass of wine and a few appetizers.
Flour City Bread Company - Open Wed and Friday, we visited on Saturday morning. After locating the correct building and navigating the end of the line I ordered an almond croissant, a pain au chocolate, two canales, sausage egg croissant and a breakfast danish with bacon and egg. Both breakfast sandwiches were very good. Both, the croissant and danish were excellent quality, the eggs were perfectly poached and the quality of both the sausage and bacon were top notch being sourced from Swan market. The almond croissant and pain au chocolate were fantastic. Buttery, flaky and not too sweet, I was extremely impressed. But IMO, the best of the bunch were the canale. These notoriously difficult pastry sported a dark crunchy exterior and the perfect custardy interior. Still warm, these ranked among the very best I've had with L20 in Chicago and Boulette's Larder in San Francisco.
Last but not least was Hedonist Ice Cream. Easily my favorite ice cream in the city, we made two visits so I could sample something other than the salted caramel and chocolate sorbet. The caramel apple tasted like apple pie and the pumpkin was heavy on the ginger. Both were good, but don't come close to the salted caramel or chocolate sorbet.
Hopefully residents/visitors will find this post helpful. I plan on writing more reviews in hope that it might spur some more dialogue about the Rochester food scene.