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Critics' Picks

Best of Greater Rochester 

Critics' Picks

Brats and pie

Flour City Diner

So maybe the Flour City Diner is the only place for homemade bratwurst and homemade pies. But even if it weren't, it would be the best. Owner Jerry Manley bought the bratwurst recipe along with the restaurant from longtime owner Rainer Dralle, and executes the loveably fatty German sausages with aplomb. Oh, and don't skimp on the homemade kraut and potatoes! The pies are all Manley's own, and brought me back with cravings (and I'm not a dessert guy). Coconut cream, apple, and a bunch of others, all great, with a true, flaky crust. A $2.50 slice is plenty for two normal folks, but you'll want to bogart it yourself. Trust me. 50 Chestnut Street, 546-6607 (Adam Wilcox)


Overlooked jewel

Cinema Theater

Yeah, we all know about it. Its well-lit marquee at the corner of Clinton and Goodman is hard to miss. But I fear we're all taking the Cinema for granted. In most cities, the notion of walking to the movies is almost Rockwellian. But here in Rochester, this city where we find so much to complain about, we've got a movie theater in a residential neighborhood that shows movies fresh off their first run --- and in double features --- for a ridiculously cheap box-office fee. The seating is comfy and clean. And the concessions are also jarringly cheap. If you live in the South Wedge, Swillburg, or Ellwanger-Barry, seeing folks walk from their houses to go catch a flick isn't uncommon. We just hope this often overlooked miracle sticks around for good. So please, support it, before the lights at the corner of Clinton and Goodman go out for good and we wind up with another Rite-Aid. 957 South Clinton Avenue, 271-1785 (Chad Oliveiri)


Shopping soundtrack

Public Market busking

Have you wondered where all the Muzak has gone? You know that insipid Herb Alpert-ish drivel leaking out of speakers in department stores and supermarkets? The stuff that seemed more like theme music for suicide than shopping? Well, it's been replaced in most places by soft rock, but at Rochester's Public Market you hear flesh and bone artists like Brian Rath and Nate Coffee, among others. Mildly amplified and strapped to acoustic guitars, these modern day minstrels add sunshine to the cloudiest of shopping days. 280 North Union Street (Frank De Blase)


Most authentic guitarist

Bob Janneck

Let's face it: Guitarists are a dime a dozen. Even great guitarists are pretty common. Rochester has Phil Campbell, Bobby Henry, Greg Townson, Phil Marshall, Steve Grills, Dan Frank, and Joe Beard to start... it goes on and on. Those guys are all great. But what sends me is when I see a guy's playing that seems inseparable from the guy. Give me Bob Janneck of local legends The Insiders. It's only rock 'n' roll Bob plays, but there is no artifice in it, nothing but the spirit of the moment going right out his hands, through the guitar, and out to you. And he's got that great fifth Ramone look, but with no self-consciousness. Since leaving the Riviera Playboys, Bob's happily become a husband and a dad, but I'm sure he'll soon be smokin' in a crappy bar near you. (Adam Wilcox)


Place for food in the 1000 Islands

Wellesley Hotel

Rochestarians Gerry and Diane Brinkman (former owners of Gerry's Rochester Club) create delicious menus at the historic Wellesley Hotel open Memorial Day weekend and then late June to Labor Day. During the school year, Gerry teaches the students life skills as they run the kitchen at the John Marshall High School Jurist Room Restaurant, serving bargain lunches for staff, students, and the public. You will find Diane on the staff at Max of Eastman Place. These two people have restaurants in their blood! 42809 St. Lawrence Avenue, Thousand Islands Park, 315-482-3698, www.wellsley-hotel.com (Michael Warren Thomas)


Smartest use for the Wegmans-shaped hole on Mount Hope Avenue

Whole Foods Market

With the demolition of a store Wegmans considered outdated and the imminent closing of the original Record Archive, it's only a matter of time before tumbleweeds and haunted saloons start popping up over on Mount Hope. If I had my druthers, I would build a posh new Whole Foods Market in the space at the corner of Mount Hope and Crittenden. I'm smitten with their Toronto location, and the neighborhood is in dire need of a grocery store (and I bet the hard-working staff of that massive health-care facility sitting right there would also appreciate a convenient place for artisan-quality products and freshly prepared meals). The Texas-based chain, which celebrates its 25th birthday this year, has enjoyed a longstanding commitment to sustainable agriculture and organic farming --- in fact, they're the only retail representative on the National Organic Standards Board. I know we live in Wegmansville, but isn't it about time someone gave them a run for our money? (Dayna Papaleo)


Haunted park

Durand-Eastman Park

If, one dark night, you find yourself careening around the S curves of Irondequoit's Kings Highway, beware. Durand-Eastman Park is famously haunted by the White Lady who, according to town historian Patricia Wayne, is desperately searching for her lost daughter. The ultimate legend of the White Lady? In an age when the mentally ill were hidden away, she, the insane wife of the influential Dr. Durand, was cloistered in their vacation home on the lake. Abandoned and embarrassed by a philandering husband, she torched the house. The charred bodies of her nurse and orderly were found in the rubble (now known as The White Lady Castle) but Mrs. Durand had disappeared. Lady Durand roams the park, hunting unwitting young men who, she believes, take advantage of the young women who accompany them to watch the nightly submarine races. Just a myth? Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Park entrances are on Lakeshore Boulevard or St. Paul Boulevard and Kings Highway. (Erin Morrison-Fortunato)


Place to blow out the cobwebs

Route 65

A great thing about Rochester is how quickly you can get away from the city and into some serious countryside, especially if you're into biking. Me, I'm into biking and when I need to really blow out the cobwebs I head south on Route 65. Although it's about five miles from my house to the more scenic roads, it's an easy five miles and definitely worth the trek. The amount of traffic really lessens once you cross Monroe Avenue (especially if you avoid rush hour) and once you're past Jefferson Road it really opens up. This route is best described as having "gently rolling hills." Some of them aren't as gentle as you'd like but just remember there's always a downhill coming along. Seeing the changes in the seasons from the bike is awesome; seeing the changes as the road kill decays holds its own weird fascination for me. (Joseph Sorrentino)


Old-school yoga experience

Atman Yoga Studio

I've found nirvana. Though I've done my share of that rah-rah yoga taught at gyms where aerobics --- not form and breathing --- are emphasized, I prefer Enrique Fulchi's approach. At his Atman Yoga Studio he teaches Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Hatha yoga, careful to accommodate all levels as he goes. Fulchi is a hands-on teacher who takes his job so seriously that even in his downtime he's brimming with advice on lifestyle, diet, and, of course, yoga. It's a trip down memory lane for me --- the asanas and the vocabulary bring me back to yoga classes I took with my hippie parents in Cambridge in the '70s. Atman Yoga Studio, 34 Elton Street, third floor, www.atmanyogastudio.com (Jennifer Loviglio)


Place for a first kiss

End of the Charlotte Pier

In the cool night wind blowing off of Lake Ontario, a sweet boy placed the palm of his hand against my shoulder blades and whispered, "Angel wings." I turned and he kissed me. He's now my husband. Maybe I am biased towards Charlotte Pier, but it was the perfect first kiss. I only want others to experience their own stars-twinklin', full-moon-shinin', waves-driving-against-the-rocks kind of kiss. Sure, Charlotte may not seem romantic at first glance. Sometimes it does smell of rotting fish. Often partygoers stumble around yelling and swigging from bottles. But on a crisp night, when the temperature discourages these distractions, throw on a sweatshirt and grab your honey. Interlace fingers and appreciate the view as you meander down the pier. Cuddle, cause it's cold out. And, when you arrive at the end, lean back, breathe in, and kiss. (Erin Morrison-Fortunato)


Secret coffee shop

Nancy's Diner

You may think you know the best place for coffee, but chances are, you've never tried Nancy's Diner. You might call it the anti-Starbucks --- try asking for something with an accent in the name and they'll only serve you quizzical looks. Their coffee comes in one flavor: black. They serve no-nonsense coffee, tailored to keep the sleepiest fisherman on the rise. It's served piping hot and in double-thick porcelain mugs, guaranteed to keep it nice and warm for a couple of hours. One of my favorite autumn activities includes walking around the Irondequoit Bay and then retiring to Nancy's diner to warm my flippers on their steaming mugs. Not only do they have the best coffee you've never tasted, they have the biggest flapjacks this side of the 19th century. Really, they would impress the most jaded cowboy. Nancy's Diner, 1973 East Ridge Road, Irondequoit, 266-6340 (Michael Neault)


Most dangerous used book sale

Penfield Public Library

There are two sure-fire ways to separate me from my income: Grab me by the ankles, turn me upside down, and give me a good shake until all the wampum falls out of my pockets, or just point me in the direction of a library sale. I've visited a number of them this past year, and it was the used book sale at the Penfield Public Library on Baird Road that left the biggest void in my wallet. Most library liquidations feature a decent-sized room strewn with books that you don't want either, but Penfield's sale consisted of four big rooms chock full of stuff I had difficulty passing up. My debilitating cookbook compulsion had actually been sated for a couple of weeks, and my on-deck reading circle grew to unmanageable proportions. 1985 Baird Road, 340-8720 (Dayna Papaleo)


Real bread

Ravioli Shop

The first time I had really great bread was about 15 years ago at Nancy Silverton's La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles. Since moving to Rochester, I'd forgotten what real bread tasted and looked like. But when I walked into the Ravioli Shop and saw the dark umber round loaf sitting on the rack behind the counter... it was a vision from (bread) heaven! Could this be the real deal? With a crisp crust, subtly tart crumb, and a beautiful, irregular interior... this bread ranks up there with the best of them. I dare say it's a national treasure, or at least, a local one. All the bread here is great. Try the rustic baguettes --- something you'd be hard-pressed to find as well done elsewhere, maybe even in post-WWI Paris. Oh, and the ravioli are pretty excellent as well. 260 Winton Road North, 288-6420 (Alex Miokovic)


Place to adopt a pet

Rochester Animal Services

The pound. I picture dark, dank concrete walls and rusty cages full of howling animals. But, Rochester Animal Services is bright, clean, and staffed by knowledgeable, helpful animal lovers. Many people don't even know this place exists. There's a variety of animals to be adopted: cats, dogs, gerbils, hamsters, ferrets, rabbits, and birds. Unfortunately, adoptions are down compared to last year. Only 23 percent of dogs and cats impounded are adopted out. Because of low adoptions rates or illness, injury, or aggressiveness, 102 dogs and 198 cats were humanely euthanized in the month of June alone. There just isn't enough room to house all of these creatures. If you're looking for a new member of the family, there are hopeful souls waiting at RAS. 184 Verona Street, 428-7274 (Erin Morrison-Fortunato)


High-end audio repair

Service Technology

A few weeks ago, after 30 years of flawless performance, my turntable suddenly stopped spinning. These days having a record player that need repairs is like having a broken chariot in the garage. Who on earth are ya gonna call? I went to the Bop Shop, figuring that with all of those ancient records for sale, proprietor Tom Kohn would know the answer. Sure enough he recommended an excellent high-end audio repairman in Henrietta. That's where you'll find Joe D'Angelo, standing chest-deep in old, they-don't-make-'em-like-that-anymore components. He not only fixed my turntable, he gave me good advice about how to make it perform better. Next time I need stereo equipment I might avoid the big chains and hunt in his stacks for some vintage components. 3385 Brighton Henrietta Townline Road, 427-2970 (Ron Netsky)


Second best place for indoor stargazing

Little Theatre 5

The next time you're in Little 5 watching some quirky emo loser sticking it to The Man, take a second to tilt your head back and lift your eyes skyward. No, the roof didn't rust out during the opening credits. That twinkly night sky was incorporated in the ceiling of Little 5 during the theater's 1994 expansion, but not many people have the opportunity to notice it when they're concentrating on fast-moving subtitles. A number of the old movie palaces had star scenes on the ceiling, and rather than block out an existing skylight, then-owner Bill Coppard commissioned Craig Schutte from Rochester Stair & Railing to give the Little one of its own. When the house lights are on, the ceiling looks like a cloud-dappled summer sky, but once the room goes dark, it's like watching movies al fresco, without the threat of rain. 240 East Avenue, 232-3906, www.little-theatre.com (Dayna Papaleo)


New skyline view

Exchange Street

The best new view of downtown is also the best old view --- from Exchange Boulevard in Corn Hill. But now the vista is framed by the new I-490 bridge and the Corn Hill landing development, both of which lend the city a sense of excitement and, frankly, hope. Walk or bike along the river path next to Exchange from the Ford Street Bridge toward the city. Picture perfect. When my kids grow up, I'll ditch the house, move into an apartment at Corn Hill Landing, and get me a dinghy to tie up out front. (Jennifer Loviglio)


Open mic night

One Mic, Java's Café

Monday nights' entertainment at Java's Café has folks putting down their frappuccinos to clap for the on-stage talent. Maybe you're a poet and didn't know it; if your girl's a singer, you should bring her. Well, the acts aren't quite that cheesy... at least most of them aren't. But it's a nice top-of-the-week event to see local poets, singers, spoken word artists, and any other performers who'd like their few minutes of fame in the cramped coffeehouse. Mondays, Java's Café, 16 Gibbs Street, 9-11 p.m., 232-4820 (jaythreeoh)


Place to pack your pipe

Mt. Hope Smoke Shop

Has the smoking ban still got you down? Reunite cigarettes and alcohol at the Mt. Hope Smoke Shop, located inside its own bar, On the Rocks. This little smoker sanctuary (so rare in New York State) skirts the smoking ban by earning the majority of its profits from the sale of tobacco. You can take your drink of choice and relax in a leather armchair or investigate the custom-made Spanish cedar walk-in humidor with more than 150 different kinds of cigars. Owner Nick Mangini is usually there and always more than happy to help. Whatever your particular indulgence is --- an exotic brand of cigarette, your own custom blend of pipe tobacco, a Dominican hand-rolled cigar --- you'll find it here among the vintage tobacco tins and posters of cigar-wielding celebrities such as Al Pacino and Tony Soprano. 1551 Mt. Hope Avenue, 271-2500 (Alex Frissell)


New cookie in town

Orange Glory Café's lemon cookie

I challenge readers to find a better cookie than the lemon cookie with white chocolate at Orange Glory Café. I am more than willing to try more cookies, but when a friend and I each tried one several months ago, we both said, "Now that is a great cookie." Most cookies are fair to good. It is difficult to make a poor cookie, and more challenging to make an extraordinary one. Even if lemon cookies don't appeal to you, just taste one and then move on to the chocolate chip. The word from one of my daughter's friends is that Orange Glory's chocolate chip cookie is the best one she has ever had (and her family makes awesome chocolate chip cookies). 240 East Avenue, 232-7340 (Michael Warren Thomas)


Wacky water aerobics class

Carol's, at the Maplewood YMCA

Don't let the tightly wound bun and owl eye glasses fool you, this is a wild woman. Carol Barona, at age 59, traveled to Tibet and achieved a lifetime goal as she stared into a glorious sunset from 15,000 feet up Mt. Everest. She brings this adventurous spirit to her teaching with creative classes like "Survivor Poolau," in which students compete in the ropes course, alligator wrestling, and, everyone's favorite, the worm (gummy) eating challenge. On Memorial Day we honor fallen soldiers marching through the water in re-creation of the invasion of Normandy. At Easter, plastic eggs bob atop the water, each containing an exercise. It doesn't have to be a holiday. Every Saturday has its theme. Exercise can be fun... Who knew? 25 Driving Park Ave, 647-3600 (Erin Morrison-Fortunato)


Radio program that should be assigned for homework

WRUR's Rejuvenation

Unfortunately, much of what passes for r&b on modern commercial radio is awash in saccharine over-production and sounds like child's play compared to the black music recorded from the late '50s to late '70s. Never fear, though, because the body of work left behind from that period is enough to keep any music lover busy for a long time. And every Friday evening Scott Wallace takes us back on a fabulous journey across a musical realm shaped alternately by blues, big band swing jazz, rhythm and blues, gospel, soul, funk, prototypical rock 'n' roll, and all possible cross-pollinations thereof. Sure, you can't overstate the majesty or importance of staple Motown hits, but there's so much more out there. Even when he spins well-known acts like the Meters or Aretha, Wallace schools us by selecting more obscure songs and deep cuts. So listen up: This music is good for you. As the program's title suggests, it heals the soul. No lie. Thank you, Scott. Fridays, 6 to 9 p.m., WRUR 88.5 FM (Saby Reyes-Kulkarni)


Cure for your boating jones (without going through customs)

Mary Jemison

I'm psyched about the ferry and all, but when I need a quick boating fix I hop aboard the Mary Jemison at the docks near Corn Hill Landing for a one-hour trip along the Genesee. Riding on the upper deck en plein air,I pretend I'm the captain, guiding the boat into the wilderness. It really does feel wild here --- just moments from the dock dense woods line the river. My own little heart of darkness. Like Marlow, I warily watch the shoreline, but here the natives are bicyclists and great blue herons. Corn Hill Navigation, 262-5661. Tickets $10 adults, $5 kids. Season ends October 31 and starts again in May. (Jennifer Loviglio)


Indoor garage sale

Utter Clutter

My apartment would not have reached the level of sweetness it has without the help of Sarah from Utter Clutter. The centerpiece of my coffee table, and the entire room for that matter, is a giant teal ceramic ashtray that I found buried under a pile in a corner of her store. And when I say giant, I mean a solid 15 inches in diameter. This combination of frivolity and function is echoed in almost every item sold there. Anyone with a taste for the purely aesthetic, nostalgic, antiquated, or just plain humorous will find something either in the first room, packed to the brim with every sort of trinket, or among the boxes and shelves in the passage that leads to the back rooms, crammed with miscellany as well. The highlight of my wardrobe is the antique belt buckle that my girlfriend found in the vintage clothing section. How else could I reciprocate than to buy all but one of her birthday gifts there? 121 Park Avenue, 271-1130 (Alex Frissell)


Jazz right under your nose

Fred Costello

Fred Costello just pumps that beautiful be-bop boogie out of his B-3 every Thursday night at Fedele's Brookhouse Restaurant. And it's free. My man Costello is slickster sharp and hipster cool. I dare you to try and not eat to the beat. You may know Costello more for his residency at Frontier Field, where he's been giving a jazz twist to organ-driven battle cries for our Rochester Red Wings since 1977. Costello adds an element of charm and class to a style relegated to smoke-filled lounges, gin joints, and baseball stadiums. 3590 West Ridge Road, 723-9988 (Frank De Blase)


Place to watch baseball down the stretch

Matthew's East End Grill

While it proceeds at a leisurely pace throughout the spring and most of the summer, baseball season intensifies dramatically in its last month, especially depending on the number of teams making a playoff drive. This year, an astounding 15 teams found themselves in legitimate contention very late into the season and several playoff spots were up for grabs right down to the last few days of play. Fans of the sport know how thrilling the playoffs can be, but weeks of suspense building up beforehand land you in roller-coaster baseball heaven. Matthew's isn't the only place in town that can show every single game that takes place on a given day, but the relatively small size of its two main rooms makes it possible to find one vantage point with a view of up to five games at once. If this sounds excessive, it is. But, hey, if you don't already understand why someone would feel they have to do this, then you'll never understand. 200 East Avenue, 454-4280 (Saby Reyes-Kulkarni)


Banana seat bike club

Wheelie Buddiez

One of the most secretive of all secret societies, all that we can gather about the so-called Wheelie Buddiez is that they are a banana seat bike gang. They can often be witnessed cruising down Monroe Avenue, capes aflapping, streamers astreaming, lips asmiling, and helmets asparkle. They rest comfortably on their oversized seats with their hands on their Harley-inspired handles. Is there a leader? What is the membership? What do you have to do to join? Is there hazing? These are all valid questions that I cannot possibly answer publicly in print. All I can say is that they are a banana seat bike gang, and they ride like the wind. As far as I can tell, Wheelie Buddiez are as unique to Rochester as the Garbage Plate or Genny Light, but far more palatable and brag-worthy. (Michael Neault)


Supper club just waiting for a floorshow

Montage Grille

When I first walked into the new Montage Grille, I shouted "Babaloo!" This joint screams for a floorshow: an orchestra, showgirls, comics with baggy pants, waiters in monkey suits, the works. The whole affair plays over and over in my head in black and white. Even when artists like Marshall Crenshaw or Vienna Teng take the stage, I find myself picturing Ricky Ricardo beating his drum while some sweet thing bumps 'n' grinds. A fella can dream, can't he? 50 Chestnut Plaza, 232-1520, www.montagegrille.com (Frank De Blase)


'Melts like butter' experience

Shiki's toro

Who knew chicken of the sea could be this scrumptious? You can forget about all those lunchtime sandwiches. And you'll have to quell all those fears of mercury poisoning. Because when it comes to tuna, the fattier the better. And we're oh-so-lucky to find the phattest fatty tuna (aka toro) at Shiki --- Clinton Avenue's little Japanese restaurant that could (and does). Order it as sushi or sashimi. Pop it in your mouth and just let it melt. Because it's really just butter posing as fish. 1054 South Clinton Avenue, 271-2090 (Chad Oliveiri)


Wireless café

Starry Nites

It's hard to get real numbers about free wireless access points in this town or any town, for that matter. Anecdotal evidence, however, shows that Rochester is in the lead among small cities for free WiFi access. To college students and other people on the go, this can feel like a life-or-death matter. I like Starry Nites for WiFi connectivity --- it's free, it has indoor and outdoor seating, and there's almost always real writers hanging out there so I feel like I'm part of what may someday be referred to as a "scene" or "movement." Now all I have to do is stop surfing and start writing. Starry Nites Café, 696 University Avenue, 271-2630 (Jennifer Loviglio)


Imported fruit preserves

Vitrac fig and strawberry preserves, Sindibad Import Co.

In addition to standard convenience-store fare, Sindibad carries an impressive selection of imported goods: goat cheese, yogurt, mango drinks, marinated Greek Fava beans, soap made in the Middle East, and a wealth of spices, not to mention Halal meat, decent, affordable sandwiches, and Arabic music and films. But the store's secret weapon is the Vitrac brand fruit preserves: fig, strawberry, and apricot. Boy, oh boy, is this stuff rich, chunky, and dee-licious. The jars are covered in so much dust they look like they've been sitting on the shelf for 20 years. Don't be fooled. And try not to get annoyed if it takes the store months to stock the specific flavor you're fiending for. (They come all the way from Egypt.) Start your morning with Vitrac, a toasted slice of your favorite bread, some butter, and a cup of coffee or tea and you just can't go wrong. 511 East Main Street, 423-9336 (Saby Reyes-Kulkarni)


Finger Lakes wine list

TIE: Tournedos/Triphammer Grill

On the day Tournedo's at the Inn on Broadway opened, they had Rochester's second largest number of Finger Lakes wines (eight) on their wine list; now this new entry in the steakhouse sweepstakes features 23 Finger Lakes wines from 10 wineries (six by the glass). The other restaurant is the Triphammer Grill, where Jennifer and Ken Moran have quietly built the best list of Finger Lakes wines by the glass (seven --- three more by the bottle). They have visited many local wineries and enjoy promoting them to Rochestarians as well as visiting tourists. Closer to wine country, the Holloway House on Routes 5 and 20 in East Bloomfield (675-7120) takes suburban honors for having 29 Finger Lakes wines on their list. When will the other restaurants jump on the Finger Lakes tourism bandwagon? Tournedos, 26 Broadway, 546-2160; Triphammer Grill, 60 Brown's Race, 262-2700 (Michael Warren Thomas)


Virtual Rochester

RocWiki

Why bother when you have Wikipedia? The online resource is used by people all over the world who want to know something about anything: bubblegum, the greenhouse effect, bling. It's practically eliminated the need for independent research. And, best yet, it's totally democratic. Anyone can leave an entry on Wikipedia and add to the learning experience. Now we have RocWiki: an intensely local --- and surprisingly intimate --- way to learn all about your immediate surroundings from local people. RocWiki goes way beyond the typical to include entries on the ever-evolving graffiti on the Cobbs Hill water towers and the dark appeal of the abandoned subway tunnels (both with pics). We also enjoy the "Lost Rochester Bands" index, with lovingly rendered write-ups on old faves like Cherry Gun and Absolute Grey. Of course, there's still a ton more that should be added to RocWiki. But that's entirely up to you. So get to it. www.wikipedia.org, rocwiki.org (Chad Oliveiri)


Southern eats

E&G Cajun Bakery & Deli

Jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish étouffée... these are just some of the many Cajun delights offered at the E&G Cajun Bakery & Deli. Owner-proprietor Ed Harris makes everything from scratch. The étouffée is wonderfully seasoned and the crayfish are incredibly tender. The fried pork chops are crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. And the sides are pretty good, too. Check out the potato salad --- one of the best in town. And then there's candied yams, slow cooked green beans, dirty rice... mmm. But do save room for dessert. The coconut angel food cake is to-die-for and a slice can feed two --- if you choose to share. Everything is available for take-out but I would eat in. Have a chat with Ed while you chow and learn about the good food and good conversation of the South. 544 West Main Street, 235-6260 (Alex Miokovic)


Animated excursion with child and without sidewalks

Corbett's Glen

Corbett's Glen is the sort of place beloved by the sort of people who love Corbett's Glen. If you like flowers, waterfalls, or crayfish, then the Glen is for you. In our visits, the nestled park has been deserted, allowing the revelation of the oasis as a verdant pleasure of meadow and tumbling waters with plenty of space for exploration and glee. After Rochester's epic winters, no signs are more appreciated than the prospect of flowers emerging from the saturated earth and the echo of water once more gurgling freely over rock and stone. Recently, some striking transformations have materialized at Corbett's Glen. A new parking lot and entrance have appeared on Penfield Road. Although the Town of Brighton bought some adjacent land, developers also own some. Hopefully this does not foreshadow a Samsa-like metamorphosis into something far less pleasant. www.corbettsglen.org (Craig Brownlie)


Way to feel like a man

Michael Spitale Salon

Nothing used to make a man feel more, well, manly, than a trip to the barbershop. But times have changed. And so have men. That's why I prefer a trip to Michael Spitale Salon whenever I'm feeling the need to indulge in some manly activity. You know: gossip, scalp massage, paraffin wax hand dip... I always ask for Vivian Borreggine, and she's been treating me like royalty for years. Granted, she probably won't give her mom's spaghetti sauce away to just anyone, but I love the relationship I've developed with Viv and, by extension, a local business. She's everything a good hairdresser should be: caring, wise, fun. Oh, and she makes us men look and feel real good, too. 2240 Monroe Avenue, 256-3490 (Chad Oliveiri)


Reuse of a former chain restaurant location

Mamasan's

This unique restaurant was the home to Denny's and Perkins a few years ago. Let the chains build them and leave, local businesspeople will make them interesting. Honorable mentions go to Infantino's Market Restaurant on East Henrietta Road (#2133, 359-0990, former Friendly's) and Bazil's also on East Henrietta Road (#749, 427-7420, formerly Grisanti's and Fresno's). This isn't a formal competition, but Camille's on Park Avenue, Olive Garden in Henrietta, and Desert Moon in Henrietta have opened in former independent restaurant locations. That makes it 3-3, so what will become of the old Bahama Breeze location on Jefferson Road? Mamasan's 2800 Monroe Avenue, 461-3290, www.mamasans.com (Michael Warren Thomas)


Food find

Pho Duong Dong

As we all know, lots of people living in Rochester LOVE to complain about it. There's nothing fun to do, no culture, no entertainment, it's cold, etc... So here's an assignment for all you haters: Head out to one of Rochester's various 'hoods --- you know, the areas where they keep all the poor people --- and sample the restaurant offerings. I've found authentic Jamaican and Cuban, killer barbeque, Spanish... My latest favorite is Vietnamese from Pho Duong Dong. A recent visit with a friend netted one of their fantastic mystery meat subs, grilled pork and chicken, vermicelli noodle salad, and a couple of pickled lemon beverages. All for lunch, all for roughly $20. So much flavor --- culinary and cultural --- shouldn't come so cheaply. But it does in the ROC. 182 Otis Street, 254-8120 (Chad Oliveiri)


Indulgence under $12

one dozen cream puff swans, Premier Pastry

It's a difficult task to find an indulgence superior to this one for less than twelve bucks. Premier Pastry is best known for its glorious specialty party cakes and tiered wedding cakes. If you're in the market for a fanciful four-layer Chambord Gateau cake lavishly decorated to resemble a stack of gifts, then you probably know that Premier is the place to go. It's less well known that Premier Pastry also specializes in miniature pastries. The cream puff swans are gorgeous concoctions filled with almond pastry cream and whipped cream, with sliced strawberries for wings, and only $11.50 per dozen. 433 South Avenue, 546-1420 (Susan Herman)


Getaway for writers

fast ferry

Go during a weekday. Don't tell anyone. Bring your notebook, pen, and passport. It's two and a half hours of quiet writing time surrounded by smoothly passing water, open sky, and your own creative thoughts. Need help starting? Go on deck for fresh air, or perhaps a drink at the bar to lubricate that muse. Once you disembark, hop a cab to Queen Street West for world-class people watching. And don't miss Pages Books and Magazines. Pages has an excellent poetry section, especially if you love Bukowski (speaking of drinking on the job) and a packed "small press" section. Now get a sidewalk table, leaf through your new book, write some more, and then... back on the ferry for two more hours of writing time. www.catfastferry.com (Peter Conners)


Televisual cup of joe

10 NBC's News 10 Today

Woke up this morning... forget the gun. Get yourself a remote control, tune in to Channel 10, and check out the gang on News 10 Today. This very early morning news team gives you its own Rochester version of The Today Show, complete with local and global news, weather and traffic reports, sports, and health updates. It separates itself from other news stations with the energetic, entertaining personalities of the on-air staff, not to mention the behind-the-scenes folks who give an occasional outburst for good jokes. And the new lineup has just as much kick as its predecessor, punctuating the stir-up of talent this past year (co-anchor Gabe Dalmath pulled a Tom Brokaw, and on-site reporter Lynette Adams moved to a later shift). Channel 10, weekdays, 5 to 7 a.m. (jaythreeoh)


New winery building

Bloomer Creek Wine Cellars

One of the best small wineries in the Finger Lakes is finally getting its own space. Bloomer Creek Vineyard has shared its wine facility with Stonecat Café since 1999. This was very convenient for the consumer who might sample some of the Bloomer Creek wines and then be lured into the restaurant (which, I might add, is also very good). But now the winery can expand its winemaking enterprise and allow more room for tasting. Perhaps most interesting about the new building is that it's modeled after a 40-year-old photograph of a Victorian-era carriage house in Saratoga, New York. A kind of virtual restoration (the original building doesn't exist anymore) will provide modern facilities for winemaker Kim Engle. He did great things in a garage-sized warehouse; imagine what he's going to be able to do now. Route 414, Hector, Seneca Lake, 607-546-5027, www.bloomercreek.com(Alex Miokovic)


Cow in a suburban pasture

Third one on the left, no the other one, the one looking at us

Gather round me; a story I will tell

Of a beautiful maiden in her dell.

Amongst her cattle kin, she looks the best.

You can see her along 490 West.

Speeding by her herd, don't disturb her peace,

The splendor of this enigmatic beast.

It's hard to tell whether that bovine miss

Is Guernsey, Jersey, Ayrshire, or Brown Swiss,

But rest assured past Tinseltown somewhere

She stands with eyes so fair; her udders down to there.

Look for the one who interrupts her meal ---

She stares at you with that vacant appeal.

Her milk and meat do mean a lot to her.

Possibly we should even consider

A better memorial than neon arches

And grilled flesh surrounded by salted starches. (Craig Brownlie)


Nightclub for jazz

The Lodge at Woodcliff

Go to a nightclub in New York City and you are bound to hear some of the world's greatest jazz, but you will probably drop $20 before you are seated and a lot more before you leave. At The Lodge at Woodcliff you can also see world-class jazz performers, but there is no cover. Performers are booked for Wednesday and Thursday evenings, so there is not much nightlife competition. Dinner reservations assure a comfortable spot in the elegant, un-crowded club where no view is obstructed or too far away. The food is terrific and the performers are even better. Over the last several months the Lodge has brought in singers like Sara Gazarek and Vanessa Rubin, guitarist Peter Bernstein, and saxophonist Lew Tabackin. And on tap for November and December are the great Freddy Cole and long-time Rochester favorite, saxophonist Joe Romano. 199 Woodcliff Drive, Fairport, 248-4825 (Ron Netsky)


Booths

McArdle's

There are lots of things to love about McArdle's, including the affordable prices, the mixed greens with grilled scallops, and the excellent turkey Reubens, but the high-backed wooden booths might be the restaurant's best asset. They turn each table into a private oasis. Expect to wait for a table on Friday nights, when the fish fry brings out the crowds; try heading out early, or wait until Saturday. 1355 Fairport Road, Fairport, 377-5520 (Susan Herman)


Reggae and hip-hop show promoter

Dajiah-Vu Entertainment

Over the past nine years this local promoter has brought some of the biggest names in hip-hop and reggae music to the Flower City. While the folks of Dajiah-Vu Entertainment might have trouble spelling their own name (it's pronounced déjà vu), it doesn't matter when you're getting to see Elephant Man, Lady Saw, and Sizzla all in the same few months. The promotions company has brought Sean Paul, Beenie Man, KRS-One, Big Punisher, and The Lost Boyz to the area in recent years, with Buju Banton on deck later this month. They have also held successful club nights at most old and new local venues, including Water Street Music Hall, Industry, Gotham City, Universe, Rain, and even The Creek. Daijah-Vu also had ownership of Secrets, and is currently running Club NV, at 123 Liberty Pole Way, with Friday night club nights featuring resident DJs G.I. and Big Reg. Dajiah_Vu@yahoo.com (jaythreeoh)


Mexican food

Rich Port Bakery

I've recommended Rich Port Bakery before, extolling their pastries. But another nod needs to be given to Gustavo Abarca and the husband and wife team of Omar and Mia Ramos who dish up some tasty Mexican food from a literal hole in the wall in the back of the bakery. I have no idea how this crew can operate in such a tiny space but I'm glad they've figured it out. Everything is made fresh, including the (mild) salsa roja and the (moderately hot) salsa verde. I recommend the sopes, nachos, tostados... hell, I actually recommend everything. I haven't had the tamales yet (they contain meat) but Mia keeps promising me they're going to make vegetarian ones some day. Vamos a ver. Rich Port Bakery is located in the Public Market, 280 North Union Street. Open only when the market is. 232-6570 (Joseph Sorrentino)


Live country and bluegrass music

Fox Den's country jams

On the last Sunday of every month, starting around 1 p.m., a group gathers at the Fox Den in Brockport for an impromptu country jam session. It's set up like an open mic night, and anyone who walks through the door can sit in on a couple old-timey standards. The gathered crowd numbers anywhere from 50 to 100 people dedicated to pedigree country favorites: Carter Family, Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, you name it. There's a chap who plays the slide guitar and smokes a pipe between sets. There's another fellow who wears white denim with rhinestones along the seams and plays a guitar with an Appalachian landscape painted on the face. Feel free to join in with the old folks who are waltzing; they are very receptive to newbies. I can guarantee you'll leave with a little sawdust in your shoes and a smile on your face. Fox Den, Le Doux Road, Brockport. (Michael Neault)


Happy place

Comics Etc.

My parents are moving out of their house. And I've inherited all my old grade-school homework assignments that had been decomposing in their attic. My favorite is the time capsule I had to complete back in sixth grade. I had to fill in all sorts of categories: "favorite food" (pizza), "favorite song" ("Take me Home" by Phil Collins), etc. Then there was "place where I feel happiest." My answer? The comic book shop. But I could have been more specific and written Comics Etc., because that was the only comic store I knew back then. And now, after all these years, Comics Etc. remains one of those places where I feel happiest. One of the oldest businesses in Village Gate (a feat worthy of award in itself), Comics Etc. combines the unmistakable smell of old and new ink on paper with an overwhelming selection and substantial discounts. I count on Comics Etc. to keep me up on mainstream titles and HeroClix (don't ask), but also to keep me guessing with all sorts of serendipitous underground finds. There's usually some appropriate progressive rock pumping through the store's decent stereo system, and the staff is all sorts of fun. My wife's not the happiest to see me come home from work every Wednesday with a bag full of Comics Etc. booty, but she's too sweet to deny me my happy place. 274 North Goodman Street, 473-7150 (Chad Oliveiri)


Multi-generational cultural attraction

Dryden Theatre

I love the Dryden Theatre. They show films like Eraserhead and This is Spinal Tap. Some of us can relive our misspent youth while others experience the wonder and glory of these films for the first time. You can learn stuff at the Dryden, too. Every month, featured directors and themes are explored. Before the screenings, a curator gives an informative talk that usually doesn't go on too long. Then there's the appeal of the vintage theater itself, complete with balcony. When the elegant curtain goes up before the movie starts, it's a glimpse of the glamour of a bygone era. Plus, it's cheaper than the first-run theaters. General admission tickets are $6, but if you use the Take 10 discount to buy 10 tickets, they're only $4 each. Ahem. That's less than some of us paid to see Pokémon 3. 900 East Avenue, www.eastmanhouse.org, 271-3361 (Linda Kostin)


Excursion with child and with sidewalks

Village of Fairport

Take one adult. Add children and mode of transportation. Arrive in Fairport. Park behind the library in the spacious, free parking lot. Hike up Main Street over the canal, looking down through the bridge grating periodically, just for that weird psychic thrum of sensing nothing beneath your feet. Hang a left at the first break in storefronts and rent as many canoes as necessary for an hour. Make sure everyone rows so they're all tired. Walk along the canal back under Main Street. Look to your left and see the ice cream parlor. Eat the ice cream. Cross back under the canal; head back toward the library. Stop in at Candy Nation for future supplies. Borrow books, computer games, movies, and music at the library. Struggle back to car, exhausted. In inclement weather, substitute bike rental at RV&E Bike & Skate. (Craig Brownlie)


Yummiest oxymoron

Java's Health Cookies

If you think I'm going to sing the praises of jumbo shrimp, think again. What I'm referring to are the so-called Health Cookies at Java's on Gibbs Street. Java's gets these delicious discs from Elegant Expressions in Penfield, where they're called Buffalo Chip Cookies, so I can certainly understand the renaming. But I've never been entirely convinced of their actual goodness, so over the years I've taken the liberty to do some less-than-scientific analysis. The examinations were performed at the same time each day in order to maintain testing integrity (and because I usually crave one mid-afternoon or so). Studies have proven that the Health Cookies are dotted with chocolate chips, raisins, corn flakes, oats, and sunflower seeds, all of which are arguably healthy. The most damning evidence, however, controverting their alleged wholesomeness, is that I love them, and that means they can't possibly be good for me. 16 Gibbs Street, 232-4820 (Dayna Papaleo)


Indian food

Thali of India

You can be pretty sure you're going to like an Indian restaurant if it's recommended by two friends from India who are amazing cooks themselves. So the first time I went to Thali of India I was confident the meal would be good. I was wrong. Thali isn't good. It's great. I can't speak for everything they serve because my wife and I are stuck on the vegetarian Thali, a sampling of three dishes that comes with bread and rice pudding. We could easily get by with one order but always get two so we'll have leftovers. We usually eat more than we should but still manage to find room for the delicious rice pudding. They're modest in their use of heat-inducing spices and I'm working up the courage to tell them to really crank it up. Maybe next trip. 3529 South Winton Road, 427-8030 (Joseph Sorrentino)


Local honey

Kopicki Apiary

Kopicki Apiary has been using the same labels for the last couple decades. They read "Purest Natural Nectars." The labels are hand-printed on letterpress printing equipment and stamped onto the simple glass jar, which contains Michael Kopicki's amber treasure. You can buy honey from Kopicki just by stopping in or by going to Lori's Natural Foods. But if you drop by, you can take a peek at his century-old barn, which functions as headquarters for his apiary but also doubles as a printing press. If you're lucky, you might also be able to view his collection of 40-some-odd reel lawnmowers, which are hung on the walls like paintings. Kopicki is a staunch advocate of honey for your health. He claims he likes to drink honey straight from the jar and insists he doesn't mind bee stings. Why would you buy honey anywhere else? Michael Kopicki, Webster, 872-5558 (Michael Neault)


Greek restaurant

Olives

When it comes to Greek cuisine, Olives is the real thing. If that's not enough, it's one of the most wonderful restaurants of any kind in the area. Located in Northfield Commons in Pittsford, Olives is small and utterly unpretentious. But try their taramosalata, chicken souvlaki, or just about anything else on the menu and you'll find that there is nothing modest about the taste. There is plenty here for vegetarians too, including a heavenly eggplant gyro. And because Olives sits a mere 30 feet from the Erie Canal, you can eat to your heart's content and then walk off any excessive indulgence. 50 State Street, Pittsford, 381-3990 (Ron Netsky)


Performance as a major league team in the absence of a senior circuit

Amerks

It had to happen eventually. One of the major league sports was going to lose an entire season to a labor dispute. When millionaires fight, it remains remarkably difficult to sympathize with either side. Sometimes these disputes devolve into circus sideshows with amateurs performing a disservice to themselves and to management-labor relations. Hopefully, these caesuras from adulation of athletes allow the average fan the opportunity to actually participate in some sports activities, maybe get a little exercise, and attend a few in-season AAA meetings. Rochester has been a minor league town for so long that we feel these absences less keenly. NHL games might not have been on television, but that mattered less than what was going on over at the Americans' igloo. The Rochester Americans, for one season, were in the major league. www.amerks.com (Craig Brownlie)


Italian food

Lucano

OK, everybody's got their favorite. And if yours is Momma Rosa's or Antonetta's or Rocky's, skip this item. Lucano has no huge, family-style portions of pasta and sauce; no big, wet iceberg salads; no black velvet paintings of Dom DeLuise or The Chairman of the Board. What it does have is a cook named Sylvia Formoso who is simply outstanding. She makes the best --- and most unusual --- greens and beans I've ever had. Her sauce is fresh and delicate, a thing of beauty. She has a way with fish and meats. The starters are great, and so are the salads and soups. When you want Italian but you want straight up, across-the-board quality, Lucano is the way to go. 1815 East Avenue, 244-3460 (Adam Wilcox)


Donuts

Ridge Donut Café

So magnificent is the white cream filling, I could eat it with a spoon. The hand-cut glazed are heavy, thick, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The apple square is plump with chunky fruit filling. My mouth waters as I write. It's been family owned and run for 35 years; Tom and Josephine Marcello and their son Rich serve homemade, from-scratch, cut-by-hand donuts. "The Cadillac of donuts," Josephine says proudly. A loyal following gathers at the counter of the café, talking and laughing as they eat. You'll find all kinds of people here, from all walks of life and professions, connected by their appreciation for the art of the perfect donut. 1600 Portland Avenue, 342-5236 (Erin Morrison-Fortunato)


Close place to feel away from the city

Lock 32 State Park

People who know me know that I'm not a touchy-feely kinda guy or someone who's gonna talk about the vibe a place emits. But even I have to admit that there's something special about the stretch of the canal path leading from the small park at Lock 32 off Clover Road. There's a small pond adjacent to the parking lot and once you cross the bridge spanning the pond, the dense overgrowth on both sides gives you a real feeling of being away from it all. I've ridden and walked most of the canal path that goes through Rochester and for my money, this stretch is the most beautiful and peaceful and, OK, it just feels good. But that doesn't make me a touchy-feely kinda guy, understand? (Joseph Sorrentino)


Golf and jazz festival

Swing 'n Jazz

Yes, the Rochester International Jazz Festival is bigger and more spectacular, but there's another jazz festival held every June that should not be missed.Swing 'n Jazz is a celebration of jazz, golf, and gourmet food. Its proceeds benefit The Commission Project, an organization that brings top-notch musicians and composers and hands-on musical experiences to school districts around the country. Even the RIJF had its roots in the much older Swing 'n Jazz festival. Years before John Nugent founded RIJF, he got to know Rochester by playing his sax in Swing 'n Jazz. Other players have included Jon Faddis, Freddy Cole, Paquito D'Rivera, Fred Wesley, and the late Stanley Turrentine and Keter Betts. All of them participated in workshops and played for free to support a great cause. swingnjazz.org (Ron Netsky)


Surrogate Italian mama

Rosa Costanza

I once mentioned to Rosa, the produce department sample lady at Wegmans Irondequoit, that I like avocado. Within five minutes she had peeled, quartered, and force-fed me an entire Hass. "She's the mom of the community. She feeds us all," says produce employee George Fuston. Rosa Costanza welcomes customers with a warm smile, hot sample, and sage advice delivered in a thick Italian accent. She creates culinary masterpieces with a hot plate and a microwave. And, she always serves up a hearty portion of her delicacy. "I'm happy when they're happy," Rosa says of her customers. When I ask for clarification on a pot roast recipe, Rosa gives me her professional opinion. She sweetly finishes her directions with, "Know what I mean, Jelly Bean?" 525 Titus Avenue, Irondequoit (Erin Morrison-Fortunato)


Respectable pizza in an unlikely location

The Corner Store

Let's face it, Rochester isn't exactly a pizza-lover's Mecca. Maybe it's because most pizza made locally falls in a gray area, too thick and doughy to work as Neopolitan/NYC-styled thin-crust and too thin to work as Chicago deep-dish. Sure, there are parlors (Sal's, Stromboli, Little Venice) where you can get a slice that more than adequately hits the spot, but quality slices from a convenience store seems too far-fetched to believe. You couldn't be blamed for not expecting much based on the way the Corner Store's pizza looks spinning in the display case where the deli meets the cashier's counter. Frankly, it's not much to look at, but you can't trust your eyes to tell you how something tastes. $1.35 (tax included) gets you deeply satisfying (and unique) flavor you can count on day after day after day. 655 University Avenue, 271-8050 (Saby Reyes-Kulkarni)


Urban turtlewatching

South Wedge Barber Shop

I was at the South Wedge Barber Shop one day when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a turtle making her way across the floor (fortunately, the velocity of a turtle won't cause you to whip your head around and ruin your haircut). The turtle's name is Eartha, and she, along with step-lizards José and Spike, make up the permanent non-human contingent at the merriest barbershop in town. I noticed Eartha staring intently at the shiny base of a lamp, and Gina and Jennifer, the mother-daughter owner-operators of the South Avenue staple, explained that Eartha thought that her reflection was another turtle, so she was flirting. But I secretly believe that Eartha knew all along that it was her own image that she was looking at. Narcissism is understandable --- and even acceptable --- when you're so damn cute. 720 South Avenue, 473-5570 (Dayna Papaleo)


Place to witness the history of the national pastime

Genesee Country Village and Museum

Genesee Country Village and Museum in Mumford, New York sponsors teams and hosts an annual tournament featuring the game of "base ball" (the antique spelling) according to the rules established around 1860 --- other variations from the same time exist --- with authentic uniforms and implements. The games, invoking some of the pastoral history of the sport and the nation, recall a perhaps quieter time, just before the country tore itself apart in a terrible war and the professionals began their hijacking of the national pastime. It's a pleasant place to while away an afternoon and see a version of the grand old game, a piece of living history. 1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford, 538-6822, www.gcv.org (George Grella)


Use of blueberries

blueberry-chipotle sausage, Rooney's

A disclaimer: The menu at Rooney's Restaurant changes daily, and we can't guarantee when you'll next be able to order the blueberry-chipotle sausage appetizer. But this dish is worth hunting down. The homemade sausage is spicy-sweet, the chipotle has a bite, and somehow the addition of blueberries --- even though you know in advance that they're in there --- are a wondrous surprise. 90 Henrietta Street, 442-0444 (Susan Herman)


Place to connect with nature

The Tree of Life

Contemplating your own existence can be difficult. It requires careful thought, patience, and ideally, an exterior source of inspiration. Known as The Tree of Life, this gigantic mass of living timber could inspire philosophical thought in anyone. The daunting oak immediately reminds you of how small you are, relegates your troubles to the back of your mind, and shades everything with a serene calm. It towers over Moore Road in Genesee Valley Park, right before the Elmwood Avenue Bridge. The few initiated individuals who know of it, mostly University of Rochester students, consider it almost a sacred entity, but long hair and Birkenstocks are not required. On a warm day it is not uncommon to find a few folks sitting in its branches, or in the nest-like space where the boughs meet. Park entrances are on Elmwood Avenue at Moore Road, East River Road, or Crittenden Road. (Alex Frissell)


Grape juice

TIE: Randall-Standish Vineyards/Fulkerson's Winery & Juice Plant

I have good news and bad news about these amazing local grape juices. The bad news is that they are done pressing for 2005, but the good news is that you will be prepared for the 2006 season. For several years I have debated whether to write about these juices because readers will have to wait an entire year, but sometimes the best things are worth waiting for. Cut this out and tape it to September 2006 in your calendar. There are other sources of juice for home winemakers, but these two crush their own grapes. Randall-Standish Vineyards is only open for several weeks in the fall, for details call their sister winery which is open year-round, Arbor Hill Grapery, 6461 Route 64, Naples, 374-2870, www.TheGrapery.com.; Fulkerson Winery, 5576 Route 14, Dundee, 607-243-7883, www.FulkersonWinery.com (Michael Warren Thomas)


New brunch spot

Patrik's Culinary Kreations

The reputations, character, and quality-of-life indexes of cities are made on places like this. Cozy and charming with an unmistakable "neighborhood" feel, Patrik's is a welcome addition to our urban landscape. Everything about it --- the picturesque storefront location on the corner of two tree-lined South Wedge streets, the homey decor, friendly service, menu that changes weekly, WiFi access, and restroom that you have to cross the kitchen to get to --- feels more inviting than just about anything else in town. Dinner costs about $14 a plate, but brunch hovers within the much more affordable under-$10 range. 847 South Goodman Street, 271-0830, www.patriksculinarykreations.com (Saby Reyes-Kulkarni)


Value in children's entertainment

Rochester Children's Theatre

Can't afford tickets to The Lion King? Don't sweat it. Rochester Children's Theatre presents high quality plays for $10 to $15 per ticket. Under the imaginative direction of Deborah Haber, these shows never disappoint. The acting is first-rate, creative staging holds kids' interest, and the pacing is nice and snappy. Pure joy for theatergoers ages 4 and up, for just a couple of bucks more than a movie ticket. RCT's season continues with A Year with Frog and Toad in December. Beauty and the Beast, And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the Life of Anne Frank, and The Secret Garden round out the season. The shows are staged at the Performing Arts Center at Nazareth College. Show your kids around the campus so they can see there's life after standardized testing. www.rochesterchildrenstheatre.org, 385-0510 (Linda Kostin)


Vintage instrument shop

Bernunzio Vintage Instruments

You could live on East Avenue your whole life and never know Bernunzio Vintage Instruments even existed. It is a family-owned business that resells vintage stringed instruments and related paraphernalia. The shop is tucked away in the historic Bernunzio House on East Avenue, which is an impressive Victorian house decorated with Indiana limestone, stone archways, beveled glass windows, and thick mahogany doors. The instrument shop specializes in banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, violins, and acoustic guitars. But they also carry assorted tokens such as 19th-reprint Banjo catalogs, ephemeral postcards, and rare old timey CDs and tapes. Bernunzio's has an international reputation for being specialized experts in their niche market of vintage instruments --- they offer appraisal services and can accurately tell you if your flea market find is gold or just fool's gold. Is there such thing as a banjo nerd? Yes, but be grateful for it. 875 East Avenue, www.bernunzio.com, 473-6140 (Michael Neault)


Retro bakery

Jackson's Bakery

Swinging through the front door of Jackson's, customers are welcomed by shiny glass cases of colorful pastries: fruit and glaze-covered Danish, richly frosted layer cakes, chocolate logs nestled snugly inside crinkling wax paper doilies. Wall racks cradle fresh bread and trays of crisp, brown, chocolate chip cookies. Owner Jim Symonds, whose father Jack opened Jackson's in 1948, says, "We take an artisan approach." Every morsel is made from scratch and by hand. It's a cash-only business, none of those new fangled credit cards. Friendly staff will wrap your treasures in white bakery boxes tied in string. Each scrumptious treat, says Symonds, is "like getting a little present." 614 Stone Road, Greece, 663-7634 (Erin Morrison-Fortunato)


Nice-guy music store

Sound Source

Music stores --- the kind that sell instruments, not CDs --- can be intimidating to beginners. And that's a great shame. Instead of overwhelming newbies with attitude and expensive gear, music stores should be welcoming them to this great new world. I've loved Sound Source for years now. Sure, I've found great deals on PA rentals, mixing boards, digital delay pedals, and miles of cords. But my devotion is primarily due to the friendliness of the Sound Source staff. You might not know the right gauge of string to buy for your electric guitar, but the guys at Sound Source aren't hoping to make you feel like a dunce. They want to help you. And they're genuinely interested in hearing about your plans for the gear you're purchasing, no matter how odd. "Wow. You're working on a feedback loop for a no-input mixing board? Cool." Believe it. 161 Norris Drive, 271-5370 (Chad Oliveiri)


Blueberry bagel

Balsam Bagels

It was sad when Balsam Market closed its doors. It often seems as if good service and product are replaced by efficient mediocrity. Although the independent market may go by the wayside, small businesses still survive in spite of chains and supermarkets. So, Balsam Market went away but luckily, Balsam Bagels replaced it. And one thing Ron Malek, owner-proprietor of Balsam Bagels, does better then anybody else is his blueberry bagel. A tight shiny skin envelops a very good chewy dough (all their bagels have this very fine characteristic) infused with the most delicious and aromatic dried blueberries anywhere. 288 North Winton Road, 482-5080 (Alex Miokovic)


Place to drink wine and listen to jazz

Little Theatre Café

My first visit to the Little Theatre Café was to see guitarist Bob Sneider. The surprisingly constricted setting of the venue made his performance both intimate and warm, two elements that cannot exist on a larger stage or in a crowded bar. I sipped my wine less than 10 feet away from both him and the pianist as they played. My second visit was pretty much the same, with a bowl of vegetarian chili thrown into the mix. Though my trips to the café have become something of a routine, it never gets old. This haven of mellowness and live jazz is always a welcome alternative to the congested clubs, whose top 40 reruns by now make my ears bleed. 240 East Avenue, 232-3906 (Alex Frissell)


Little club that could... and will

The Clarissa Room

Didn't nobody say it was gonna be easy. With the recent, untimely passing of Clarissa Room founder John Starr, this historic jazz and blues club was once again facing an uncertain future. Starr's kids stepped in to pick up where dad left off. But where would this club --- or any in this town, for that matter --- be without the love of the tight-knit music community? Family-run, with its extended family rockin' the stage, The Clarissa Room will be all right. 293 Clarissa Street, 325-5350, www.clarissaroom.com (Frank De Blase)


Artistic achievement in restroom décor

TIE: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Restaurant 2 Vine

Visually, top honors go to the ladies' room at 2 Vine. I like the wall colors so much, I painted one of my kid's bedroom the same shades of purple and orange. There's even an oriental rug on the floor. At my house, we call rugs on the floor of the bathroom "toilet roulette," but at 2 Vine it works, tying the wall color in with the terracotta tiled floor. From an intellectual and emotional prospective, you can't beat the ladies' can at the Dino. Literally every surface is covered with graffiti. Read it and discover answers to many of life's mysteries. Need to know who's a slut? Who wuz here? It's all there. The walls offer hope for the future, too. In the handicap stall, "Mom" expresses her good wishes for the 2004 Brockport High School class. I find it all to be strangely comforting. 2 Vine, 24 Winthrop Street, 454-6020; Dinosaur, 99 Court Street, 325-7090 (Linda Kostin)


Colorful experience

Caribbean Forest

You really don't need drugs to have a good time. You don't have to spend money either. Or take your clothes off. All you need is... fish. No, seriously. Fish, fish tanks, and other exotic critters that can survive in those tanks will do. Walking into the display area of Caribbean Forest is like having your sense of sight awakened. Holy color and coolness, Batman! This place swims with color. And if you stare at the tanks one by one, really taking your time at each, you can give yourself the gift of getting carried away and remind yourself of the natural world's boundless wonder. The experience also has clutch off-the-beaten-path value for those days where you find yourself asking, "Hey, what should we do?" 24 Bursen Court, off of Culver, Irondequoit, 342-5510 (Saby Reyes-Kulkarni)


Way to help mold the future

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester

If knowing is half the battle, what's the other half? I think it's sharing what you know. A great way to do that is by mentoring a young person. The BBBSR makes it an easy task, providing plenty of "Littles" for willing "Bigs" to be matched with. If you think you don't have the time to be a mentor or just won't be good at it, think again. The criteria are simple. You have to be at least 18 years old; be able to commit to at least a year of spending a few hours a week with a person between ages 6 and 16; and be a positive role model. I'm nowhere near perfect, but my Little and I will celebrate two years of being matched this Thanksgiving. And I think I learn more from him than anything. 877-877-4057, bigRochester.com. (jaythreeoh)


New literary festival

Rochester Ink

Rochester Ink: A Festival of Words, the brainchild of an enterprising group of local poets and literary enthusiasts, made its debut October 21 and 22 at a variety of locations around Rochester. The festival brought to town prize-winning poets Kim Addonizio and Mark Doty. Both poets gave readings, participated in a meet-and-greet reception, signed their books, and Kim Addonizio gave a talk titled "My Life in the Po Biz." In addition to the headliners, Rochester Ink featured a variety of panels, workshops, talks, and seminars targeting poets and poetry lovers of all ages. With events taking place at St. John Fisher, Writers & Books, Barnes & Noble, First Universalist Church, and SUNY Brockport, the events were easily accessible and also showcased the work of many local poets. www.rochesterink.org (Peter Conners)

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    Rochester band countrifies rock and more
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