The term "sports bar" carries with it a little bit of a stigma, evoking thoughts of rowdy patrons, mediocre beer, and deep-fried everything, the dimly lit room typically set off by an army of televisions tuned to different channels. So in at least one respect, the new Rochester Taproom is indeed a sports bar, with a dozen TVs haloing the place. And the likelihood is that as the NCAA basketball tournament reaches its crescendo in the coming days, things might get loud. But any commonality between the sports-bar cliché and Rochester Taproom ends there.
Up until a few weeks ago, Rochester Taproom was Tap & Table, but "I just wasn't lovin' it," says co-owner Joe McBane, who, in concert with longtime business partner Casey Walpert (they also own Tap & Mallet), decided to reinvent the gorgeously airy Corn Hill Landing space by returning to his pub roots. The Englishman came to Rochester in 2000 as part of The Old Toad's student-work program, and 14 years later McBane is raising a family here while continuing to spread the craft-beer gospel. Rochester Taproom boasts a couple of dozen draft lines showcasing a carefully curated roster of brews and ciders from around the world, plus a selection of bottled beer and wines from both near and far. There are also cocktails, like a well-balanced blackberry mojito that should have you jonesing for summer.
The nicely priced menu at the Rochester Taproom stars sausages. Four of them — pork and spicy pork, chicken and spicy chicken — are made in-house, while the soy- and grain-based vegan versions are brought in to the kitchen. Served either on a bed of greens or tucked inside a bun with the proper crust-to-fluff ratio, the sausages are customizable thanks to 12 different topping configurations, many of them also ready to smother an $8 pile of loaded fries. (Killer meat sauce, FYI.)
There are a few soups and salads on the menu, as well as some starters to either share or guard selfishly. The chicken wings ($10), for instance, are roasted then finished on the grill and tossed with one of four sauces, and the crisp croquettes ($8) are essentially fried mashed-potato spheres classed up with bacon, Swiss cheese, and spinach, and accompanied by a luscious cheese sauce for dunking.
McBane plans to do First Tuesday tastings with brewery reps, and soccer aficionados will be happy to know that Saturdays at the Rochester Taproom are devoted to The Beautiful Game. In fact, more than a few of those fans should find it to be an ideal spot to camp out this summer for World Cup... or, actually, for no sports at all. Lovely skyline views, relaxing riverside seating — wait. You know what? McBane can sum it up more concisely than any writer: "Cool food, great beer, nice place; how could that not be good?"
Rochester Taproom is located at 284 Exchange Blvd. The kitchen is open 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily (Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.). Bar stays open until midnight. Food prices range from $4.50 to $11. For more information, call 319-3388, or visit rochestertaproom.com.
Maple-sugaring season is upon us, and those who can't get out there to tap a tree can at least celebrate Maple Madness at Simply Crêpes, where owner Pierre Heroux's traditional crêpe rolls, gilded with brown sugar, maple syrup, and whipped cream, are available for the all-you-can-eat price of $8. Both the Pittsford and Canandaigua locations are in on the action, but this sweet deal ends March 31. Visit simplycrepes.com to learn more.
Blu Wolf Bistro kicks off its monthly Brewer's Dinner series at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 31, with a four-course meal paired with draft selections from Canandaigua's Naked Dove Brewing Company. Tickets are $35; visit bluwolfbistro.com for further details, or call 270-4467.
Hopefully spring will be in attendance at the Canandaigua Wine Walk, taking place 4-7 p.m. on Saturday, April 5. Various businesses on South Main Street in downtown Canandaigua will be hosting tastings from a number of Finger Lakes wineries, along with local nibbles. Tickets are $5; call 396-0300 to learn more, or visit downtowncanandaigua.com.
The Puerto Rican Festival's annual tasting event Vino Con Sabor (or: Wine With Taste) marks its fourth year in 2014, pairing New York State wines with a three-course meal of Puerto Rican cuisine. Vino Con Sabor also offers attendees the opportunity to purchase their new favorite wines directly from the participating wineries. The event begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 5, at the Rochester Plaza, 70 State St. Tickets are $40 and available at prfestival.com.
It's probably not a coincidence that Rochester Contemporary's third annual Art of the Mix goes down on Tax Day, traditionally a time when many are in the market for a good, stiff drink. Among the 13 businesses slated to provide cocktails and paired amuse-bouches for RoCo's mixology fundraiser, taking place 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15, are Avvino, Cheshire, Good Luck, and The Revelry. Tickets are $60; call 461-2222 for more information, or visit rochestercontemporary.org.
Named for the lock in the Pittsford stretch of the Erie Canal, Lock 32 Brewing Company recently opened its doors at 10 Schoen Place, offering its own signature beers along with suds and ciders from other local brewers. Get more details at lock32brew.com, call 506-7738, or just hit the tasting room.
Joey's Pasta House II is now open at 75 Coville St. in Victor, serving many of the Italian favorites that helped make chef-owner Joey McCall's original Penfield Road location so popular. Call 398-7988, or visit joeyspastahouse.com for more.
Feeling malt-vinegar deficient? Need to get your RDA of hushpuppies? Salvatore Fantauzzo's got your back: the owner of Salvatore's Old-Fashioned Pizzeria has brought Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips back to the Rochester area, opening the first outpost at Culver and East Ridge roads.
McGraw's Irish Pub & Restaurant, 146 W. Commercial St. in East Rochester, has closed.
Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.