I have spent 20 of my 27 years of life in Rochester, NY and if I’m going to be honest, it’s only been in the past couple years that I’ve really started to appreciate it. Maybe it’s because I’m now viewing it through the lens of an older, slightly more cultured adult human, or maybe it’s the gentrification that’s taken place throughout the past decade. A lot of young, creative entrepreneurs are contributing to the rebirth of what has, for many years, been considered a rust-belt city with highly unfavorable winters.
I don’t see the long winters going away, but at least now we have a bunch of craft breweries to help them go by a little quicker.
Coffee & Tea
A direct trade coffee shop that roasts their beans locally and is popular with young, creative types.
Calling all tea lovers, this South Wedge spot is a great place to stay and enjoy a hot cup of tea, or purchase leaves to bring home.
Coffee, tea, beer, wine, pick your poison. In their own words, Joe Bean “pushes the boundaries of what a coffee shop can and should do.” They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and frequently host events. Their menu has several vegan and gluten free options, with a focus on clean, local ingredients.
Don’t let the name fool you, there is nothing ugly about this little gem of a coffee shop. For a caffeine-free treat try their turmeric latte.
Breweries & Distilleries
Black Button is Rochester’s first “grain-to-glass” distillery since the Prohibition. Their current offerings include four different types of gin (they have a lilac gin, can you get any more Rochester than that?), apple pie moonshine, vodka, corn whiskey, and several types of bourbon. Stop by for a tour or tasting, or even sign up for one of their three-day “Master Distiller” courses.
For nearly 140 years, Genesee Brewing Company has been serving beer to Rochesterians (my parents and grandparents grew up on Genesee Cream Ale). They have renovated the century-old packaging center into a beautiful restaurant, bar, tasting room, and beer exhibit, overlooking the Highland Falls.
This craft brewery, housed inside a beautiful, open-aired building in Downtown Rochester, serves pints, flights, casual food, and hosts trivia every Wednesday at 7 PM.
This 25+ year old craft brewery is housed inside a newly renovated, rustic-industrial building on Railroad Street and offers a selection of 12 of their own brews in addition to New York wine and cider. You can also visit their brew-pub which has a menu of wood-fired pizzas, salads, and traditional German fare, with ingredients sourced straight from the Rochester Public Market.
Located in the young, hip South Wedge neighborhood, Swiftwater is one of Rochester’s newer breweries. The building is a cozy, yet minimally clad warehouse, with several picnic tables outside for the warmer months. They have vegan/ vegetarian options for most of the items on their food menu.
Where to Eat
A beautiful, upscale restaurant with a strong Mediterranean influence. Their kitchen focuses on high-quality ingredients and is accommodating to vegans.
Affordable and delicious Mediterranean cuisine with many vegan options.
Some of Rochester’s most delicious and authentic Italian cuisine, with a modern rustic atmosphere.
My favorite spot for a big warm bowl of ramen noodles, especially on a frigid winter night.
Vegan donuts, need I say more?
This is Rochester’s only 100% vegan restaurant and their spin on Rochester’s famous “garbage plate” (a hodge-podge of hamburger meat, home fries, and mac salad), which they’ve cleverly named the “Compost Plate,” is a must-try. On their menu is an assortment of salads, snacks, and entrees with a “comfort food” appeal. They have a rotating kombucha flavor and a display case of vegan baked goods.
Located in a renovated two-story house, The Owl House serves a variety of locally and seasonally influenced dishes with many vegan options, as well as craft beer, wine, and inventive cocktails. Enjoy a meal outside in the back patio on a summer night. Try their buffalo cauliflower “wings” with vegan bleu cheese.
A casual spot for healthy salads, sandwiches, baked goods, and coffee, with a farmhouse-inspired interior. Bring home a loaf of their delicious homemade bread.
A vintage furniture and home goods store with a carefully curated selection of mid-century, bohemian items.
Arguably Rochester’s favorite florist in town is Arena’s, located on East Ave. Their store has evolved into a beautiful gift shop with a variety of unique household plants, home decor, vintage furniture, local jewelry, and more.
A luxury chocolatier with vegan and dairy-free options including dark chocolate chocolate bark, dipped fruit, and fruit-and-nut clusters.
A cute little boutique featuring a variety of locally made goods. They also offer craft-making classes and host frequent pop-up shops to showcase local artists.
Rochester Brainery is a classroom and event space that hosts a “bazaar” on the second Saturday of every month, featuring local artists and makers. Check out their website for their schedule of classes, which covers an extensive list of topics from DIY and crafts, to business, marketing, photography, cooking, and more.
An antique store on Rochester’s favorite shopping street, Park Avenue, selling funky, upscale vintage and estate finds.
Things to Do
A popular spot for runners and walkers, Cobb Hill boasts the best views of the Rochester skyline. Make your way up here to watch the sun set on a summer night.
The Dryden Theater at the George Eastman House is a 500-seat theater presenting film screenings in their original format every day of the week. The theater aims to preserve traditional film and honor its place in Rochester’s history.
Tour the mansion and gardens of one of the most famous millionaires in American history, as well as one of most important historically important Rochesterians. George Eastman was an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, and the pioneer of popular photography and motion picture film, and throughout his life he donated more than $100 million to schools, public parks, hospitals, and charities.
Rochester Abandoned Subway
The site of Rochester’s abandoned subway has become a popular site to take artsy pictures and bring out the inner explorer in each of us.
Open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays year-round, The RPL is an especially popular way to kick off the weekend during the warmer months. Grab a vegan donut and a coffee from Hettie’s Delites Cafe before perusing the food stall and picking up your groceries for the week.
The Little Theater is an old-school theater showing independent, foreign, and classical films. There is a cafe attached where you can enjoy a glass of wine, coffee, or a dessert.
Health & Wellness
A large studio with classes in aerial arts and pole dance fitness. A fun way to mix things up with your fitness routine.
A chain of yoga studios in the Rochester area, with several locations in the suburbs, one in the East Avenue area of Rochester and another in College Town. The instructors are very experienced and knowledgeable, and the classes tend to be light-hearted, fun, and challenging.
A hip studio with an offering of yoga, pilates, boxing, bootcamp, and spin classes, as well as an on-location juice bar Just Juice. They also offer nutrition services to give you a well-rounded approach to health and wellness.
A lovely little studio that offers a variety of health and fitness classes with a spiritual twist, like their “morning meditation & writing” class, several styles of yoga, and adult dance classes.
Located in the South Wedge area, Tru Yoga offers different styles of yoga including vinyasa, hatha, prenatal, and meditation-focused classes.