Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rochester Restaurant Vacation Part Four

Today I decided to change it up a bit, and ventured out for food for lunch, instead of dinner. I had to tutor this morning, and was eager to get back home to work on more writing. Today I headed out to the crossroads of 250 and 441, and went to a family restaurant called Duchess Restaurant.

It's a typical family-friendly restaurant, with those old school rippled plastic glasses for water, windows between booths in case you have a large party, waitresses who are lifers, and lots of down home choices on the menu.

When I came in, that classic "Hostess will seat you" sign was posted, so I wanted a few minutes for the hostess to appear. People were also waiting up at the register to check out. Finally, I was taken to a nice booth toward the back. I appreciated having some space to spread out, as I had brought in my notebook for outlining other articles.

A waitress finally came over to get me something to drink. I asked for a water. When she returned, I asked for one more minute to make up my mind. About two minutes after I set the menu to one side, a second waitress came over to take my order.

The food came out quickly, and was delivered by a third waitress.. At least, the wrap and the fries did. I didn't get my salad. I started eating, anyway, because I didn't want the food to get cold. I kept my eyes open for my waitress, or anyone else, to pass by so that I could ask for the salad.

The fries were those really good, extra crispy, kind that seem like they have been dipped in some kind of batter. Really good means really bad, I'm sure. And a Philly steak in a flour tortilla is really good! I have a sensitivity to yeast, so I try to order wraps instead of sandwiches, whenever possible.

I was almost finished eating everything, despite deliberately slowing way down, by the time a waitress walked past my table. She was yet another one, whom I had not yet seen. I told her my salad had never come, showed her my bill/slip (which was placed on the table when my food had been brought). Had I actually finished the rest of the meal, I would have just asked for it to have been taken off, but I also really wanted the salad.

Waitress #4 walked into the kitchen, hollering, and almost immediately walked back out. Something tells me it was sitting there the whole time and no one realized it. I found it almost amusing, especially as they use that archaic system of assigning each server a number, then ding a little bell and the number lights up at the kitchen when her table's food is ready. Of course, I'm not really sure who my waitress was.

The salad was interesting. It had one tomato section, lettuce that was obviously bagged, and sliced mushrooms? The croutons were very rich and buttery, and the ranch dressing ROCKED, of course.

The bill was under $10, so I had no problem leaving $1.50 for tip. I have no idea who is actually going to get it, and I really don't care. I may be willing to give the restaurant another chance, because the food was really good, but that service obviously sucked. Some people may have raised a big stink, but I'm not the type to do that. I worked in a restaurant part-time for a couple of years when I moved out here. I realize that they were just coming off of the lunch rush, and people were changing shifts. But all of those things never negate quality customer service. But I won't go further into that right now. I can save that for a different post. :-)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rochester Restaurant Vacation Part Three

This morning I had to go tutor one of my favorite kids. After hanging out for a while, I was getting ready to leave, when I asked where I should try to go eat today. His mom kept suggesting more Asian restaurants, which I would love to try, but I already had Asian once this week. Suddenly my young friend yelled out, "Quesadillas!"

Mexican always has been, and always will be, one of my favorites. But I wasn't sure where to find a restaurant close by. This family lives in the city, I didn't want to drive down to Henrietta in this yucky, rainy, slushy snow, and I've already been to the one I know in Webster. My friend recommended Moe's, but alas, I have been to the one in Victor, so that can't work. His mom finally mentioned Salina's.

I have heard of Salina's, but didn't know where it was located. And yes, it is sad that I have lived in Rochester for almost seven years and did not know where Village Gate was located. Turns out it isn't dreadfully far away, on Goodman. And I didn't realize that Village Gate is actually a mall!

Village Gate is the kind of mall that I like. Most of the stores are old, but with lots of character. I wandered through a few of them. I found a used bookstore that had Peanuts books for ridiculous prices - $1 and under. There was an antique Edgar Allen Poe for 50 cents that I put back, because I couldn't believe how cheap it was. Very tempting to go back for it now.

There is also a music store, that specializes in vinyl....oooohhhh.....luckily, I didn't have a lot of extra cash, and STILL haven't gotten a needle for my turntable. I could have gone crazy in there.

Following that, I wandered into yet another used bookstore, only this one was 99% antiques. I drooled over a first edition Louisa May Alcott book from 1877 that ran for $60. I have my eye on another one, that is significantly cheaper, but I haven't yet decided. I'll let you know later.

I wandered around the almost deserted place, that feels like it is a bunch of stores thrust into an old warehouse. I went out the wrong door and got drenched in the snow as I found my car, so that I could put my books away, then went back in to check out Salina's.

Naturally with my luck, I walked in at 4:02, and the lunch menu ends at 4 p.m. But, the restaurant was quiet, and I was seated right away. Unfortunately, I felt like it took forever for me to get greeted. I don't like it when you barely have your coat off and the server is breathing down your neck asking for a drink order, but I don't like to have already read through the menu about five times and know everything I want before she even stops by to say hi. But when I looked at my phone, I guess only about 5 minutes had passed.

I ordered a cosmorita to start, which is a cross between a cosmopolitan and margarita. It sounded intriguing and different. Then, I got a Salina combo, where I could choose two items to go with rice and beans. I went with a shredded beef and been hard taco and chicken tostada. I haven't had those exact combinations before, and usually I do not care for rice.

I guess things were extremely slow, because the server brought me my water and chips ans salsa, then not even two minutes later my drink and my dinner also arrived. And it was pretty good!

One thing I liked about their beef is that it isn't the traditional ground beef. Instead, they use shredded beef. And the refried beans are nice and chunky. The combination tasted great in a taco, that also included lettuce, cheese, and tomato.

The tostada was okay. Shredded chicken was topped with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. I felt that the chicken was slightly dry, and it would have benefited from some guacamole or sour cream. Unfortunately, it's a ridiculous amount to add one of those to the side, so I dealt with it.

The side of beans wasn't my favorite, but they were still very tasty. I like when they melt cheese right on top of the beans. And the rice was actually good! I liked it much better when I was able to scoop up some beans with the rice.

As for the cosmarita - YUM!! Definitely more potent than a traditional margarita and had flavors of both. I would definitely have another one.

To allow the drink to settle, I finished most of the basket of chips and all of the salsa. That was probably some of the best homemade salsa I have ever had. I think by the end of the bowl I had discerned that the unique taste was a lot of extra cilantro. I really need to learn how to make my own like that.....

So, all in all, yet another good experience. I think I will definitely be returning there at some point in the future. And I will definitely be frequenting those fun used bookstores some more....:-D

Rochester Restaurant Vacation Part Two

Tuesday night's adventure into the Rochester Restaurant Vacation was a little different. I am so dedicated to watching the scant coverage of the Olympics on NBC that I only had about 2 hours to get down to Barnes and Noble, then find a new restaurant that piqued my interest.

I kept my eyes open on the drive down Monroe Ave, looking for something new to try. I noticed that most of the places seemed to be Asian, which I love, but didn't want two days in a row. There were a couple of little pubs, which are also fun, but not as much by yourself. Or, there are the really high-end places like Wegmans' new restaurant, Next Door. I can't afford to visit all of those if I want to keep this up all week.

I got lost in Barnes, like usual, for well over an hour. So, I figured I would try something quick and local to take home with me. I started making my way up to the Tom Wahl's on Empire. (And no, I have never tried this local hamburger chain, despite living here for the past seven years.) Fate would not allow it to be, though, as there was a major accident blocking up traffic.

I gave in and decided to check out the Boulevard Grill, also on Empire. It is located right next door to Guida's Pizzeria, which is probably my favorite place for pizza, wings, salads, and more in the area. I have seen B.G. numerous times, as I often pick up my Guida's dinner after work, but have never gone in.

It is a bar, but there are actual tables for those who prefer to eat that way. I just went straight up to the bar and requested to order food for takeout. Food is the usual bar fare, a lot of fried foods and burgers and what-not. But I noticed a lot of salads, and then one of my favorite entrees: Chicken French. Though a little more than I really wanted to spend, $13.99, I decided to go for it, anyway, because it is one of my favorites. Sides included veggie of the day (green and wax beans with baby carrots), fries, and a tossed salad (with ranch, of course). While waiting, she asked if I wanted a drink, so I decided to add to my new restaurants by trying a new beer: Saranac Irish Stout.

I sipped on my new beer, which is very close to the loveliness of Guiness, but perhaps with less bite, as I watched the TVs. Unfortunately, every single TV at the bar itself was tuned in to the MSU v. Indiana game. I wish I liked basketball more - I am trying. If I looked in the mirror, I could see the reflection of the Olympics - Men's Figure Skating Short Program, and some other sports channel. I kind of wished the TVs at the bar would have been showing different things, and probably should have asked.

The food took about 20 minutes to finally come out. I forgot that these places take a lot longer preparing the food, because they want you to sit and drink. I won't have more than one beer, because I have to then go home. But it smelled absolutely fantastic.

I tried the salad first. It was probably of the bagged variety, but I loved how they put chick peas on top. And there is something in bar restaurant ranch dressing that makes me supremely happy, wanting to go into the kitchen to steal a vat because I am yet to find a comparable version on the store shelves.

Their fries are of the steak variety, of course. They were meaty and tasty. One thing I noticed that was unique was they used a seasoned salt instead of regular salt, which really added to the flavor of the fries. I like to use that if I make homemade fries from scratch.

The veggies were good, as it is often tough to mess up beans, in my opinion. They were extra flavorful because they were in the same box as the chicken, swimming in the extra sauce.

The chicken was okay. The chicken breast half was absolutely huge, but the breading on the chicken had a telltale taste of being done on a grill with hamburgers, or something else that was greasy. I guess I should have known better than to try a fancier dish at a bar and grill for that exact purpose.

But overall, Boulevard Grill was a decent experience. Rumor has it they have a kick-ass karaoke night, which I will have to check out sometime. :-D

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rochester Restaurant Vacation Part One

I declined to go anywhere for this year's February break. My goal was to finally get caught up on some of the writing and reviewing that I do. I didn't get much accomplished over Christmas break. But sitting at home doing absolutely nothing is completely boring. I thgouth about becoming a tourist in my own town, and I have elected to do so via food.

Rochester is famous for having tons of locally owned restaurants. Sure, we have our chains, and I enjoy visiting those on occasion. But there is a wealth of untapped local yumminess. I decided a while ago that I should start trying more of the local fare. So, I have been trying one new place a month. This "vacation" I am going to a new place every day.

I waited until Monday to get started, because I wanted to enjoy a lazy weekend. So, last night, I drove around the Penfield/Webster area before deciding to check out the Asian Buffet on Empire Blvd. The layout is the same as any other version of a Chinese buffet, with the same paper placemat detailing the Chinese Zodiac.The waitresses are young Chinese women who speak little to no English and are saying, "Drink?" before you have even taken off your coat. The options are always Pepsi products.

I did like their variety of choices. Most of the food seemed to be Chinese, with some Thai and Japanese thrown in. They actually had a salad bar, on which you could build a true salad, and lots of fruit choices. There was also a dessert bar with the usual tasteless, yet pretty choices.

I had a couple of my usual favorites: General Tso, pork egg roll, seafood, sushi. I tried their sushi varieties, which were all either crab or vegetable, with no raw fish as the father in line ahead of me erroneously informed his daughter. My new taste was "butter shrimp" which appeared to be fried in a butter sauce - horrible for you, I'm sure, but oh so good! And I tried a Thai chicken thing, but forget what it was called. I even decided to give the French fries a try. They were pretty gross - almost tasting freezer burned and definitely baked in the oven instead of fried. But I wasn't expecting much, as this would not be their specialty.

All in all, the food was quite satisfying. The price wasn't too bad - $9.99 - considering they had four complete bars from which to choose food. Drinks were $1.49, with free refills. I'm used to the place back home that is a couple dollars cheaper, but this is a different community.

While it won't be a regular visit for me, I will probably visit again if and when I am really feeling a craving. Let the restaurant tour begin!!