Rochester, NY is a quaint town in upstate New York, a well-known area of the United States, best known for being the Kodak headquarters, the city where Wegmans was born, and for its magnificent colleges, such as the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the University of Rochester (U of R). While these are lovely, notable features, the food scene in Rochester often gets overlooked and those who do this are missing out on some delicacies.
What Rochester is known for
Nick Tahou’s Garbage Plate
One of the iconic dishes in Rochester is known as the garbage plate. While this may not sound appetizing, and yes it often causes heartburn, it is well worth it. A garbage plate can come in many forms from a multitude of local restaurants, but native Rochestarians will usually tell you to get one from Nick Tahou’s on Main Street in Downtown Rochester. The traditional garbage plate begins with macaroni salad and home fries as the base layer, then it can be piled up with 2 hamburgers, 2 cheeseburgers, or 2 hot dogs (or any combination thereof). It is then topped with a meat-based hot sauce, onions, mustard, and any other condiments of your choosing. A garbage plate is truly the ultimate guilty pleasure and for those like myself who went to college in Rochester, they feel like home.
Zweigle’s White Hots
Another well-known delicacy in Rochester is Zweigle’s hot dogs, particularly white hots. Many people outside of Rochester have never seen a white hot dog, commonly referred to as a “white hot.” Much like the traditional red hot dog, the white-hot is a pork-based hot dog. These hot dogs can be found at numerous locations, ranging from sports arenas to diners and even at Nick Tahou’s as part of a garbage plate – everything in Rochester comes full circle!
We cannot have a discussion about Rochester without acknowledging the magical being that is Wegmans. While Wegmans is technically a supermarket, many people here in Rochester regard it as one of the best places to eat. Their sub sandwiches, prepared meals, cafe, and restaurants (yes, we have restaurants attached to and ran by a grocery store) have some of the best eats in town. Wegmans also does a great job representing international cuisines in their offerings and always has something new to offer their deeply loyal customer base.
Where Rochester is heading…
The food scene in Rochester, while still offering the classics is evolving nicely. Rochester is seeing the development of many small businesses in the food & beverage sector, ranging from innovative fusion cuisine restaurants to local breweries and distilleries. If you are a self-proclaimed foodie and/or craft beer,m wine, and spirits lover, then this is the place for you!
Craft Beer & Spirits
ROC Brewing & Three Heads Brewing
When in Rochester, be sure to check out places such as ROC Brewing and Three Heads Brewing. Both of these establishments are locally-owned and operated microbreweries featuring a wide array of selections of craft beers made in house from locally sourced ingredients. Whether you are a pale ale, lager, or IPA person, you will find something satisfying at both of these establishments.
Muller’s Cider House
For those looking for a particularly refreshing alcoholic beverage, try Muller’s Cider House where they offer a large selection of various hard ciders. If you are someone like me who has a hard time choosing from a large menu, go for one (or a few) of their flights to take your taste buds in the journey of a lifetime. They also offer some food pairings to accompany their delightful ciders.
Black Button Distilling
On the spirits front, take a ride over to Black Button Distilling, where they make a wide array of spirits in small batches from locally sourced ingredients. They make Gin, Vodka, Bourbon, and Whiskey, in addition to some unique seasonal offerings. They even offer tours of their facility as well as classes on the fermentation and distillation process, for those interested in learning more. Their products are also sold at some of the local liquor stores.
Flight Wine Bar
For my wine people got to Flight Wine Bar in Corn Hill to sample some amazing wines. They offer an array of whites, reds, and roses, which you can purchase by the glass, bottle, or flights by theme. On a nice summer day, they are located right on the water with a scenic view of downtown Rochester. They offer some lovely cheese and charcuterie platters to accompany their wine flights. A great place to gather with friends and unwind.
Innovative & High-Quality Food
One of the author’s favorite spots is The Revelry, which features contemporary American cuisine with a Low country flare. They have a unique take on deviled eggs called “Beet Deviled Eggs”, which should be on everyone’s bucket list to try at least once. In addition, the biscuits and cornbread are amazing. They also have a wide selection of beer, wine, and craft cocktails. You cannot go wrong with anything on the menu, food or drink wise at The Revelry. Their unique combinations of flavors are a one of a kind experience.
Sticky Lips BBQ
For something a little less formal, try Sticky Lips BBQ, which is a casual and fun environment serving carefully seasoned and slow-cooked barbecue delicacies. The pulled pork and Memphis-style ribs are some of the author’s favorites, along with as many side dishes as I can possibly get.
If you are someone with a flair for Italian cuisine, go to Grappa, located in the trendy CollegeTown area of Rochester. Grappa features modern approaches to traditional Italian fare. Like many of the innovative restaurants in Rochester, they do this through both food and craft cocktail menus. The author is particularly impressed by their take Pork Osso Buco and their dish called Grilled Eggplant Involtino, which presents eggplant in a whole new way. If you think you do not like eggplant, I challenge you to try their eggplant and I bet you will become an eggplant enthusiast.
The Current State of Rochester’s Food
Rochester will always maintain a healthy respect for the classics and they are absolutely worth your time trying. However, I would strongly encourage you to be adventurous and check out some of the more innovative places that Rochester has to offer. With new restaurants opening on a regular basis, there is always something new to experience.