Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A night in Rochester's South Wedge

     Our wedding anniversay, important as it is, sometimes gets lost among the other happenings in early June.  We've got 2 birthdays, a charity golf tournament and Father's Day all in close proximity, so it's not unusual for my wife and I to delay the celebration of our marraige, and sometimes let it quietly slip by non-celebrated.  This year, however, we got in front of it and celebrated it well, albeit a few weeks early.

     The stroke of genuis came when I realized our son Nolan was going to be away all weekend on a school trip to Washington, and we had a commitment on Saturday afternoon in Rochester.  One of my niece's boyfriends (she only has one, but I have more than one niece) was having a cookout to celebrate his finishing
his degree at RIT and we were sure to attend, as we were very proud of the accomplishment.  It then dawned on me that we had no commitments at home and that it might be a good time to explore Rochester a little.  Admittedly I go out more in Philly, Boston, NYC, Toronto and Quebec than I do in Rochester.  After coming home from traveling all week, I tend to stay local in the Canandaigua area, so I am pretty ignorant about the Rochester nightlife and the interesting offerings in the city, but I also am connected and it only took one phone call to make our plan.  My sister Hummingbird's husband is a fireman in Rochester, and they get up there all the time, so after a 15 minute conversation, we had nailed down the place to stay, the area to explore and been given a couple of great restaurant suggestions, and I won't spoil the ending, but he did not steer us wrong.

     We booked a room at the newly remodeled Strathallan, which is now a Doubletree property. It's right on East Avenue and walkable to a lot of cool places.  Both the inside and outside have been done over and you'll have to see them for yourself to appreciate how great a job that they did, but the outside work is highlighted by a couple of big outdoor firepits that make for nice gathering spots.  We
The firepit outside the Strathallan
rested a little when we got there and prepared for a night out.  On the way out, I checked to see when the hotel bar, Char, closed and it stayed open until 2, so we decided to hit it on the way back.   We had a good idea of where we evenutally wanted to dine, but we had a whole new area to explore, Rochester's South Wedge, so we started our evening with a 1.5 mile walk over and apprecaited all the unique architecture on the walk over. 

     The South Wedge has a long history dating back to the 1820's.  The Wedge is located in the Southeast Quadrant of Rochester and its boundaries are 490, the Genesee River, and Linden Street.  It's seen it's share of tough times and bottomed out in the early 1970's with over 200 vacant properties or about 25% of available housing vacant at that time.  Crime ran rampant and it's reputation suffered greatly until the movement a few years later came to revitalize the neighborhood.  The planning commission worked tirelessly to eliminate the crime and to foster neighborhood pride and just a few decades later, that dream was realized.  The South Wedge now hosts many upscale businesses, has 2 newspapers, their own social media page, and was voted best neighborhood in Rochester, two years running.  They say, currently it is the fasting growing urban neighborhood north of NYC.  We felt safe walking the streets there, and the neighborhood pride was palpable.  The neighborhood hosts a plethera of bars, restaurants and quaint shops that give it a really eclectic feel. Our first stop, by design, was The Beale.

     I had met the owner of The Beale, Terry, at a trade show the week before and he had offered to buy me
a beer if I was ever in the neighborhood.  The words I like best to precede the word beer are, cold, another, and free, but not necessarily in that order, so I took Terry up on his offer.  Terry grew up in Austin but decided to make a New Orleans style bar out of The Beale 15 years ago when he bought it, and he did a damn nice job of it.  A mural of New Orleans takes up a wall in the dining room and signed music posters, guitars and memorabilia hang in every corner.  A band was playing in the bar area and we drank our free beers next to a couple that had driven in from Buffalo just to eat at the Beale (Terry told us).  I never miss the opportunity to mess with people so while the band was on break, I inquired of the gentleman if he was from Buffalo (knowing full well that he was).  He replied that he was and asked how I knew and I told him I noticed that he clapped to the music like he was from Buffalo.  
Char (the person, not the bar) at The Beale

He stared at his hands for a second, pondering how people clap differently in Buffalo, before I let him off the hook and told him that Terry had told us.  We didn't eat there but suspect the meal would have been terrific based on the smells coming from the kitchen and the advice we got from people throughout the rest of the evening.  We finished our beers and headed off to stop number two, that is after spending some time checking out the walls. 

     We headed down Gregory street and passed two other places that had been highly recommended, The German House and Zeppa Bistro.  We chose not to go into either this time around but both came up frequently in conversation about the South Wedge.  Solera Wine Bar and the 
Our drinks at the Tap and Mallet

speakeasy kind of place on the second floor did too, but we had to pick and choose, so we headed over to the Tap and Mallet.  It's a pub with an English/Irish feel to it, but one that hosts local brews and specializes in fresh pub food.  We only had a beer there, but found the bartenders to be fantastic and the food that passed by us looked spectatcular.  The woman next to me offered for me to finish her deep fried pickle, but not being sure of the neighborhood or the vernacular, I erred on side of caution and politely declined.  I liked the music that was being played at the Tap and Mallet, and liked even more that they didn't feel it necessary to blast it out, so I could converse with my wife, we were celebrating our anniversary after all.  We were one and done here too, and we walked back around the corner to the Lux Bar and caught it just as it was opening at 9.  I grabbed our drinks from the bar after a short conversation with the bartender (she's getting married this summer, so remember to congratulate her if you stop in), and was about to settle into a hightop table when some flickering light outside the back door caught my attention.  My brother in law isn't the only fireman in the family so I went to investigate and found a backyard patio with a large firepit and benches so we decided to change locations.   The next 
The mural on the side of the Lux Bar

half hour found us sharing the benches with half a dozen ironic hipsters (is that a thing?), debating the legalization of marijuana.  They were pretty comical actually and they probably thought the same of us.  The inside decor was really interesting too, but I got the impression that the backyard was the place to be at that bar. There was a mural on the side wall and a cute park next to that.  We now were finished with our whirlwind tour of the South Wedge and decided to grab a cab over to dinner.  It was almost 10 and the restaurant stopped serving at 11. 

      We had decided earlier to check out a favorite restaurant of my sister Hummingbird, so we went 2 miles over to Good Luck.  I know that my sister, her husband and daughter are foodies like we are, so if they recommended it, I was sure that we were going to love it, and we did.  Our cabdriver drove past the sign on the corner for the restaurant rather quickly and deposited us mid-street which perturbed my wife somewhat.  We huffed it back to the sign only to see that it poined us right back to where the cab had dropped us off (incidentally he was passing us at that time laughing a little at our ignorance as we made it back to the door).  The place was
Probably should have taken the picture before we ate it
buzzing when we got in and it was going to be a wait for a table, so we grabbed a drink and found a corner to scope out the place.  Good Luck has an open air kitchen and has a rustic warehouse look to it with exposed pipes. Sometimes I don't like the acoustics in places like this, but it works here.  The drink was recommended by my niece Adriana, and it was a combination of gin, champagne and lemon peel and it was called a French 75.  I have to admit, it was pretty cool.  Our hostess found us and seated us rather quickly, she probably realized that it was already past our bedtime, and we would soon start to get cranky, but regardless, she did us a solid.  I bought her a drink later and she pulled up a chair to drink it with us.  I had trouble choosing dishes from the menu because they all sounded so delicious.  We settled on a bib salad, some vegetables done in parchment paper, and a Porterhouse steak for two.  None of it disappointed.  We finished with a decadent chocolate dish that was comped by the restaurant for our anniversary.  It's wasn't free beer,
My happy bride at the entrance to Char Lounge
but it was almost as good.  You know a great restaurant when you are dining in it, and you start to plan your next trip back to it, and to start thinking about the people that you want to share the experience with.  That was the case here.  I'll have to go with my sister of course, since she introduced me to it.  We headed back the short half mile to our hotel, where we had yet to check out the bar. 

     The place was hopping when we got back and it stayed that way right up until close.  We got the last two seats at the bar and chatted it up with a cute bartender who lived in the South Wedge.  We got an invitation from a couple of ladies to join them outside at the firepit, so we did.  They were comptemplating whether they were going to stay with the fellas that had brought them, and were not so subtly hinting that they could join us in our room.  It was my wife's turn to turn down the "Fried Pickle" and she let them down easy and suggested that they catch up with the limo that was waiting for them, so they did.  We finished up at the bar, and headed upstairs to call it a night.  We grabbed a quick bite in the hotel the next am and headed back home to the chores that were waiting.  As I said in the beginning we don't always have a chance to celebrate our anniversary, but when we do, we certainly make it memorable.  Check out the South Wedge when you can, you'll find it to be true too.

Last call

1 comment:

cdyarger said...

The South Wedge is a wonderful neighborhood to visit. I highly recommend it! Good Luck for dinner was fabulous! Thanks to Hummingbird and her family for all the suggestions. We did our anniversary right this year!