My Neighborhood, Restaurant by Restaurant

By Caitlin DeClercq

Rochester is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own feel and sense of community.  When my husband, David, and I first moved into the South Wedge neighborhood, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much pride our neighbors took in their “Wedge” community. Several of our neighbors went out of their way to introduce us to the neighborhood- quickly sharing their favorite places to eat and play nearby.  Plus, any visitor will quickly notice the flags with the “savor our flavor” slogan hung along South Avenue.  There’s also a community farmer’s market Thursday evenings in the summer time, and a monthly newspaper for neighborhood residents called The Wedge.

One of my favorite ways to explore a new city is to let the food do the talking! By visiting restaurants, cafes, and brew houses, I learn the culinary geography of the city, and often discover interesting neighborhoods and meet locals along the way.  David and I took the same approach when we moved to Rochester.  Coming from California’s lovely San Francisco Bay Area, we know a thing or two about good food, and were excited to find new favorite local eateries as a way of immersing ourselves in the Rochester community.

We first visited Rochester during our cross-country road trip/honeymoon adventure in June 2010.  The goal of the trip was to find a place to live.  Both the South Wedge and Park Avenue communities had been recommended to us by other Simon students, so in addition to looking at apartments we found on Craigslist (www.craigslist.org), we also made a point of sampling the food in each neighborhood.  Our first trip was to the South Wedge, where early one morning we stopped by Equal Grounds Coffee for some much-needed caffeine (and a biscotti for me).  Our lattés were tasty, and we loved the ambience of the place: lots of couches, warm colors, and art from local artists decorating the walls.  Later that day, we grabbed a casual dinner (along with a pint or two) at the Tap & Mallet.  The food was excellent and we liked the casual feel of the place.  Once I saw the crème brûlée on the dessert menu, I knew we had a winner: I wanted to live in the South Wedge, if it meant being able to sneak over for an occasional dessert at Tap & Mallet!  (Full disclosure: we never made it to the Park Avenue properties we saw online, because we turned out to be equally decisive with the house we viewed in the South Wedge as we were with the local cuisine: it was love at first sight.)

As luck would have it, one of our new neighbors in the South Wedge was a chef at Tap & Mallet.  Fate?  I think so!

We moved into our apartment in early August, several weeks before the start of the school year, so we had plenty of time to try other restaurants.  One evening we strolled out to South Avenue and ordered pizza from Little Venice Pizzeria.  We’ve heard wonderful things about New York’s famous pizza, and this place’s pie didn’t disappoint: pepperoni and olives with a sweet red sauce and warm, chewy crust spelled perfection.  For lunch, we tried Open Face Sandwiches one day, and John’s Tex Mex the other.  Both are tiny size-wise (just a couple of small tables) but big on charm and flavor.  Open Face boasts interesting sandwich combinations with fresh ingredients; John’s Tex Mex offers a great value on surprisingly delicious Tex Mex food.  Coming from a couple of Californians, those evaluations are high praise indeed!  I also discovered a couple of wonderful places for my favorite meal of the day—dessert!  Eco Bella Bakery offers vegan desserts and Cheesy Eddie’s is a Rochester favorite, specializing in carrot cakes and cheese cakes.

Thanks to our search for good food, we have explored many other neighborhoods: Park Avenue (Café Cibon offers an excellent brunch in the summer months and dinners year round), Monroe Avenue (Aladdin’s Natural Eatery is a favorite of ours), Downtown (Dinosaur BBQ—say no more!), Marketview Heights (both for the fabulous produce and the omelet sandwiches at the Public Market ), Lake Ontario area (for excellent Italian cuisine at Dominic’s) and Parsell Avenue (for traditional German fare at communal tables at the famous Swan Market).

Knowing our love of food, family and friends from back home keep asking about the dish that is perhaps Rochester’s most famous contribution to the culinary world: the garbage plate.  A favorite of locals and a regular feature on various Food Network and Travel Channel shows, the garbage plate is certainly unique…but we haven’t yet had the stomach to try it.  Perhaps that will be our homework for our second year in Rochester.

Bon appétit, Simon students and partners, and welcome to Rochester!

Caitlin DeClercq is the president of the Simon Partners Group, a social club designed for and operated by the spouses, families, and significant others of Simon Students.  She is also a student in the Health Professions Education Program at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education.  Caitlin can be reached via email at simonpartnersgroup@gmail.com

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  1. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the post. This creates a great picture for prospective students.

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