You’re home for the holidays or soon will be. Welcome back, Rochester natives.
If you haven’t been back to the area for awhile, you’ll find a slew of new places to visit, as well as the return of some names that may be a soft spot in your heart.
Here are 14 options, in no particular order:
260 E. Broad St., Rochester; (585) 413-1714; unwinedroc.com: Jim Muir and Paula Miceli were vacationing in the Cayman Islands in 2019 when they happened upon a wine bar that had a system that allowed guests to help themselves. The couple brought the concept to Rochester, opening the cozy wine bar Unwine’d in a modern, new five-story building that abuts South Clinton Avenue downtown. Its system offers 40 wines, available for purchase in 2-, 4- or 6-ounce increments. An adjacent retail shop sells the wines by the bottle as well as some local spirits. The food selection is limited ― artichoke dip and build-your-own cheese and charcuterie boards. If you’re hungry for dinner, Branca Midtown is right across the courtyard.
Umai Revolving Sushi
2833 Monroe Ave., Brighton; (585) 448-0051; umairoc.com: There are more than two dozen sushi restaurants in and around Rochester. But one that opened late last year in Brighton offers something different: sushi delivered to your table by conveyor belt. And not just sushi, but sashimi, tempura, teriyaki dishes and other Asian specialties. At Umai Revolving Sushi, owned by longtime friends Sean Zeng and Phil Nguyen, small plates of food covered with clear plastic lids rotate continuously on a lower track. People can grab whatever looks good to them and are charged by the plate. The upper track delivers made-to-order dishes directly from the kitchen to customers who place orders on iPads at every table. Said Zeng, “For me, I like to bring out the new concepts. And I think, for Rochester, we need a concept like this.”
45 Public Market, Rochester; (585) 504-4617; public-provisions.com. If you’ve ever paid a visit to the Rochester Public Market, you may have stood in line for the fantastic breads and croissants at Flour City Bread Company. Over the summer, Keith Myers, the owner of the bakery, along with chef Cassidy Broman, opened Public Provisions in the Rochester Public Market. It has a coffee shop vibe by day and is an intimate Spanish-inspired restaurant by night. (Get the calamari.) The bakery will eventually move into the Public Provisions space and there’s talk of a rooftop patio next year.
1586 E. Main St., Rochester; (585) 270-4448; Facebook. With Rochester’s large Puerto Rican population, there are more and more destinations for great Puerto Rican food. A newcomer worth visiting is Casa Campo. At lunchtime, it’s the destination for a steady stream of customers, who grab a quick lunch from its hot bar with many traditional Puerto Rican dishes: arroz con gandules, pernil, baked chicken, bacalao, boiled bananas, empanadillas and more. But you may also order from an a la carte menu of attractively plated dishes including a large selection of seafood. Its bar specializes in tropical drinks.
Black Button Distilling
1344 University Ave., Rochester; (585) 730-4512; blackbuttondistilling.com. In 2013, when Black Button Distilling became the first craft distillery to open in Monroe County since Prohibition, its entire footprint totaled 5,000 square feet. This year, it opened a new, 28,000-square-foot location, more than quadruple the size of its original space on Railroad Street. It serves its own spirits (do try its best-selling bourbon cream) as well as beers, ciders and wines from local producers. It also offers spirits blending and cocktail classics. Food service is limited to Sunday; food destinations within walking distance are Mullers Cider House, The Revelry and Tony D’s.
440 Elmridge Center Dr. in Greece; (585) 563-6007; cotolettaroc.com. If you’ve lived in Rochester over the past 14 years or so, you’ve likely visited the uber popular Tony D’s (speaking of which, it moved to a larger space this year and is as hopping as ever). This year, chef/owner Jay Speranza opened a new Italian-American concept in Greece. Called Cotoletta — the Italian word for “cutlet” — the menu highlights unwieldy sandwiches based on large chicken cutlets as well as thick square pizzas. There’s also a full bar. The atmosphere is casual, loud and fun.
Halal N Out
740 East Ridge Road, Irondequoit; (407) 664-3851; halalnoutroc.com. Iconic New York City dishes are the highlight at the fast-casual Halal N Out, in the Ridge Hudson Plaza in Irondequoit. It is the fourth location for the New York City-based chain. Among its best sellers: chopped cheese, which originated in New York City delis, and a halal cart-style chicken over rice, drizzled with owner Naz Mayans’ grandmother’s tangy white sauce. The fare is served fast casual style, so you can add vegetables and toppings to your heart’s content.
BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse
760 Jefferson Road, Henrietta; (585) 537-1444; bjsrestaurants.com: A Huntington Beach, California-based chain, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse opened its first western New York restaurant in September in Henrietta in a new building where Romano’s Macaroni Grill once stood. With 100-plus items ranging from prime rib to chicken wings, the menu takes a something-for-everyone approach. BJ’s has its own line of craft beers on tap, hence Brewhouse being part of the name. The restaurant’s signature dessert is the Pizooki, an oversized oven-baked cookie served warm and topped with ice cream.
647 South Ave., Rochester: From prolific local restaurateur Chuck Cerankosky, also founder and director of the Rochester Cocktail Revival, comes Martine. The bar opened in October in a two-level space formerly occupied by Solera Wine Bar & Lounge and speakeasy-style cocktail spot Cheshire, but Martine has a distinctly different vibe from its predecessors. Inspired by everything from vintage advertisements to international travels, much of the dark wall color has been painted over green, and a mix of light wood, rattan and industrial accents have been added. What really makes Martine unusual, however, is its bar program, featuring mixed drinks served on tap. Also on the menu: a variety of snack foods and DJ music.
Rising Storm Brewing Company
1880 Blossom Road; (585) 310-7105; risingstormbrewing.com. Rising Storm Brewing Company opened on the site of the historic Daisy Flour Mill in Penfield. The landmark restaurant in Ellison Park was a restaurant from the early 1980s until it closed in 2004, but had been shuttered in recent years. The Livingston County-based brewery transformed roughly 6,000 square feet into a new taproom with two floors of seating. The former ballroom was transformed into a state-of-the-art brewhouse. Most days you’ll find pan pizzas, hearty sandwiches and casual fare; be sure to get a sweet-and-salty OG cookie.
280 E. Broad St. (Tower280), Rochester; diceversagames.com: Dice Versa, a board game lounge, opened Nov. 18 on the ground floor of downtown’s Tower280 in the former Original Grain spot. The café is stocked with hundreds of board games, from classics like Monopoly to such newer titles as Junk Art. For a $10 fee, guests can play as many as want. (There is a three-hour playing limit on Fridays and Saturdays.) Dice Versa also has a food menu of appetizers and small and sharable plates. At this writing, it was awaiting a liquor license and only selling non-alcoholic beverages, but once licensed will offer a full bar. Unlike games played on screens, with board games, “You get to talk while you’re playing,” said owner Riley Dethier, an Irondequoit native and Rochester resident. “You get to have friendly banter and be with your friends. Like, me personally, I could spend hours playing board games with friends.”
Old favorites return
Bay & Goodman Pizza
1687 Mt. Hope Ave., Rochester; (585) 442-6865; baygoodman.com: In March 2022, when Larry Piccarreto closed his longtime, storied family business, Bay & Goodman Pizza, at 690 N. Winton Road, he thought it was for good. But within a few months, feelings of regret started to creep in, not just for Piccarreto but for his sons, Matthew and Nicholas, who grew up in the business. So, in September, following the remodel of an old Pontillo’s in Mt. Hope Plaza, Bay & Goodman reopened, this time with Matthew at the helm. In addition to their signature style of pizza — not too thin, not too thick and a little on the spicy side from the pepperoni — they’re serving pies with a hot honey drizzle.
The Frog Pond on Park
652 Park Ave., Rochester; (585) 417-6172: In existence since 1975, breakfast, brunch and lunch spot The Frog Pond (originally Charlie’s Frog Pond) closed in September 2022 after owner Kevin Crego decided to sell. This past June, it reopened as The Frog Pond on Park under Rene and David Spallina, the establishment’s fourth owners. As in the past, the menu focuses on classic diner fare — eggs, omelets, pancakes, waffles and the like. But chef Michael Gangemi has upgraded some of the offerings. “He likes to change things up a bit,” Rene said.
Veneto Wood Fired Pizza & Pasta
318 East Ave., Rochester; (585) 454-5444; venetorestaurant.com: An East End dining destination since 2001, Veneto Wood Fired Pizza & Pasta was forced to close temporarily after an electrical fire in January. It took nine months, but a completely remodeled restaurant started welcoming back guests in October. Virtually everything in the place, from floor to ceiling, is new. The menu of Italian favorites is largely the same, but it’s gotten some tweaks in the form of new specialty drinks, desserts and appetizers. Clams Casino, for instance, is now a permanent offering. And unlike in the past, Veneto is open seven days a week. A new courtyard area has been added in back, but it won’t be ready as a dining space until next year, said owner Don Swartz.
Reporter Marcia Greenwood covers general assignments. Send story tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MarciaGreenwood. Tracy Schuhmacher covers food and drink; follow her on Instagram as @rahchachow. This story also includes reporting by Victoria Freile.