I know what you’re thinking: food? Rochester? But Rochester really does a great job of offering some fantastic food, much of it sourced and prepared from local ingredients. You’ll also find friendly service and great venues full of atmosphere – with decent prices. So I couldn’t resist sharing with you the best of the best restaurants in Rochester, from breakfast to dessert. Not everything is the healthiest, but hit these spots and I’ll guarantee you’ll be a happy foodie.
Best Breakfast in Rochester: Scott’s
We start off the morning right – because one of the best restaurants in Rochester isn’t really a restaurant, but a stand at the Rochester Public Market: Scott’s. Regardless whether you had a heavy night before, or you just need some stamina for a day of Rochester Sightseeing, a made-to-order breakfast sandwich from Scott’s (eggs, meat, and a meat sauce I have only see here in Rochester) will count for a day’s calorific intake, but the taste makes it all worth it.
Best Coffee in Rochester: Java’s
It’s the little touches that matter, and that’s why Java’s takes to place for the best coffee in Rochester. If you get their iced latte, for example, you’ll get a nice dollop of foam on top – which means you can sprinkle chocolate or cinnamon on top. It’s just a nice touch, and don’t forget to pick up maybe a sandwich, or one of their enormous-sized cookies. They’re home-made and come in flavours like green tea coconut.
Best Sandwiches in Rochster: Spot
Spot has some pretty tasty coffee, so yes, one of the best restaurants in Rochester is a coffeehouse! And what’s not to like about their venue: it’s an old car dealership turned into a megaplex of flavour, with kitsch “stuff” hanging from every corner. I love it – it’s the perfect place to do some work, or read a book, and on nice days they have a few tables outside. Their menu is great; if you manage to take your eyes away from the pasty counter and onto the menu, you’ll find two must-haves: a Matt sandwich (eggs/meat of your choice/cream cheese) or their chicken foccacia with pesto and tomato yumminess. Goes well with coffee too.
Best Everything-Under-One-Roof: Wegman’s
This is no secret. You won’t dine here alone. But many New Yorker’s (or anyone in any state with a Wegman’s) will tell you that it is one of their best restaurants. In Rochester, or specifically Pittsford, Wegman’s has a cafe where they experiment with new products. But even in a regular Wegman’s you have your choice of an amazing array of products: Asian, Thai, Mexican, Indian, Sandwiches, Pizza, and a Vegetarian/Salad bar that would make any carnivore switch sides. Wegman’s is a foodie paradise and if you’re laughing because I’m telling you to go to a grocery store on your holiday, just go and report back. You won’t be sorry.
Best Only-in-Rochester: Garbage Plate
Another only-in-Rochester experience, one of the best restaurants in Rochester is Nick Tahou’s Hots, and that’s because they’re known for their special concoction, the garbage plate. It’s cheap, cheerful, and downright terrifying. The “plate” comes with your selection of meat ungraciously dolloped on top of macaroni salad (”mac sal”), potato fries, onions, meat sauce, and ketchup. That’s at least the more or less ‘original’ recipe, but there are lots of various floating about, including one that has nothing short of a cheeseburger on top. Let’s just say you wouldn’t be hungry if you managed to finish one of these.
Best Dining with Kids: Diner at Museum of Play
Not only is the Skyliner one of my votes for best Restaurants in Rochester, it is also the best place to take children. That’s because it is inside of the Museum of Play, a fabulous Rochester museum which explores the intersection of play and many other disciplines, such as personal development. (I think that travel is play – what do you think?) Besides, how many museums have an entire diner car in their lobby?
Best Restaurant in Rochester for Dinner: Dinosaur BBQ
Another one of the best restaurants in Rochester isn’t a well kept secret, either: all of the motorcycles parked in front of Dinosaur BBQ gives it away as a place to eat big and eat well. From the eclectic display of “paraphernalia” (for lack of a better word) on every spare wall space, to the multiple versions of BBQ sauce delivered to your table with the food, Dinosaur is quit the dining experience. I wasn’t able to even come close to finish any of the food they brought, but you do get a nice sampling of things, and both the BBQ and the sides (fries, macaroni salad, veggies, etc) were all very tasty.
Best Chocolate Shop in Rochester: Stevers
I couldn’t send any self-respecting foodie off to explore the best restaurants in Rochester without telling them about Stever’s, over by Park Avenue. The sign says home made candies, and it’s true: walking in is like stepping back in time, where chocolates were made and sold in the same building by people who actually cared about chocolate. The store is filled with chocolates in every shape and size – think of something and they have it. They’re closed one month during the summer, so be sure to check in before you head over, and for goodness sake, don’t go in hungry!
Best Ice Cream in Rochester: Abbotts
Last but not least, our round up of the best restaurants in Rochester takes us to dessert. And in Rochester, all roads lead to Abbott’s for dessert. Their soft serve treats are dreamy, and they have the best crunchy/sprinkly stuff to put on top. Portions are well-sized, which is good because you’ll want more when finished. Abbott’s original location was just a small building with a view of Lake Ontario, and today you can still visit this location and enjoy a cone or dish while watching the waves lap at the shore. What’s not to like?
Editorial Disclosure: Portions of this trip were sponsored by Visit Rochester. This sponsorship in no way affects the editorial content of this piece.