Saturday, March 22, 2014

Empire Pizza

Empire Pizza bills itself as "Webster's only true pizzeria."  I can't testify to the veracity of that claim, but I can say that it is the only pizzeria on the route home from my hair stylist :)  And, this is why I picked up a couple pizzas and some garlic twists from Empire last week.

We selected the garlic, broccoli and mushroom; and the Southwestern BBQ Chicken.  Overall the pizzas were quite good.  We agreed they were a step below Pizza Stop, but still way above most we've had.  The crust was thin and crispy; the toppings fresh and generous; and I'll add that the counter service was quite friendly.  As for the specifics--

--The garlic, broccoli and mushroom could have used much more garlic from our perspective, but when it comes to garlic, we're like reverse vampires.  So, next time, we'll ask them for extra.  Otherwise, the broccoli was perfectly cooked (blanched ahead, it seemed, and then carefully baked so as not to burn) and the mushrooms were meaty and tasty.

--The SWBBQ seemed like Empire's version of Pizza Stop's Jurassic Chicken.  (I understand that EP once had some relationship with PS, so some of the menu similarities make sense.)  This version had more sweet and less heat, though; guess which we prefer.  Still quite yummy!

--The garlic twists could have use more (say it with me) garlic!  But, they did come with a delicious side of marinara, which I'm guessing is their pizza sauce.  Quite good!

Whether or not Empire Pizza is Webster's only true pizzeria, I can say for certain that it is a very good pizzeria.  We had to make ourselves stop nibbling on toppings and edges after we were "done."  It's clear we'll be back!

BC's Chicken Coop

The Wednesday before my husband's birthday, the Rochester City Newspaper's wonderful Chow Hound column ran a round-up of overlooked Webster restaurants.  BC's Chicken Coop was among them, and I thought, "Mmm, birthday fried chicken."  So, taking note of the suggestion to call ahead, I did: ordering a "hen house"--fried chicken, cornbread muffins, and sides--and (when ribs weren't available) a dozen wings.

We set off for Webster and found the Coop in a blue siding'd hole in the wall.  It was a very chilly Saturday, but once we stepped inside the small shop, the temperature rose dramatically (in fact, the windows were foggy!).  The Chicken Coop is quite charming inside, though I would not advise eating there.  It offers only a couple tiny tables (stacked a bit incongruously with National Geographics).  So, we took our order to go.

The chicken is fried to order, so it is fresh, crispy, moist and definitely hot.  It had a perfect crunchy crust, liberally seasoned with salt, pepper and (I'm guessing) paprika and a bit of cayenne.  The chicken meat was tender and flavored by (again, a guess) a solid salt/pepper/buttermilk brine.  The wings were prepared just as the chicken, and we picked a medium hot sauce (more medium-hot and super wonderful) to go with these.  The proof of the deliciousness of the chicken is in its rapid disappearance: we had barely enough left over for lunch the next day!  Truly the some of the best fried chicken I've had.

As for the sides: the cornbread and tomato/bacon/garlic green beans were wonderful; the mashed potatoes were fine; the mac and cheese left a lot to be desired.  But, then again, who cares? I can make my own sides, but I'll guarantee that I cannot make this chicken.  Yum!!

Sunday, December 8, 2013


We met up with friends this week for dinner at Cure, which might be Rochester's hippest restaurant.  It's located in the Public Market, and here are the actual directions: "Turn onto Railroad from Main St., and proceed all the way to the Market gate (it may appear locked from a distance, but you will see that it is open as you get closer). Take a right turn into the market, and follow the parking lot lanes towards the row of buildings. You will see Cure ahead and slightly to your left."  In fact, Cure is the only thing open in the Market at night, so on a very chilly Friday, we drove through the deserted lots and past darkened stalls toward the beacon of Cure's red neon window sign.

Inside, the restaurant is cozy with a noise level that's hopping but still good for conversation, and every surface holds a tea light--seriously, every surface, even the tops of junction boxes and the bathroom sink.  It gives the entire place a nice glow.

Cure's menu is designed for sharing, and courses come out as they're ready.  I won't bury the lead--the food is amazing!  

We ordered an assortment of dishes: tomato rillette, arugula and heirloom tomato salad (special that night), oven roasted camembert with fingerlings and onion jam, wild boar meatballs, and hangar steak.  And, when I asked for a Diet Coke, I learned that Cure serves Tab (be still my heart!).

The tomato rillette is essentially a sweet and tangy tomato spread.  Served with lightly toasted baguette slices, it made a great starter.  And, its acidity played nicely off the camembert, which was all melty, rich goodness complemented by the caramelized onions of the jam.  It came with a large portion of seasoned, room temperature fingerlings.

It was a big of a surprise to see an heirloom tomato salad on a Rochester menu in December, but the tomatoes were wonderful.  Perfectly ripe and tasty, they were hiding under a mound of arugula tossed with a light vinaigrette.  Again, a good counterpoint to the camembert.

The meatballs came out next in a neat row.  They're topped with white beans, carmelized onions, bacon and croutons--a fantastic smoky/crispy accompaniment.   The meatballs were moist and dense.  They had a slight Asian note to them.

Finally, the hangar steak arrived.  Seriously, this steak was like butter!  It's presliced for sharing and served with meaty, woodsy mushrooms.  So, so good.

The portions are solid and good for sharing, but they're not overwhelming.  We cleaned every plate without feeling crazy full.  So, we ordered a couple desserts:  apple tart and flourless chocolate cake.  These weren't as inventive nor as flawlessly executed as the rest of the meal, but they were fine and made even better by the Java's coffee served alongside.

If you haven't been to Cure, yet, what are you waiting for?  Grab some friends and prepare for some outrageously good food!

Friday, September 6, 2013


Given that the all-recliner theatre of our dreams has opened in Webster, we've spent a lot more time there, and when my sister and two of her three recently visited, we made a pilgrimage to this movie mecca and needed dinner first.  The demand from the four cousins was pizza, so we set off for Proietti's.

Our table of seven split into factions: three had pizza; three had pasta; and one (guess who!) had beans and greens.  Our server was super pleasant and gracious, and she secured her tip by bringing out a lovely plate of fresh zucchini sauteed with tomatoes ... on the house.  Couple that with the soft Italian bread, and things were off to a great start.

The two pizzas were a big hit, and one was devoured completely.  The crust was thin but still had a bit of doughy "meat" to it.  The sauce had some spark and the toppings were generous.  Solid!

My daughter had chicken french of her own making:  taking the kid's menu chicken french tenders and having them served over pasta tossed with garlic and olive oil.  She loved it.

My husband went for the wild mushroom ravioli (secretly knowing that several slices of his son's pizza would be his for the taking, too).  It was richly flavored and just plain rich.  He ate half and some pizza and was a very happy man.

My greens and beans were unbelievably good:  the broth was beyond garlicky, the beans firm, the greens lovely.  Yum!!  I'd have eaten that broth over anything, honestly.

Add in one order of fettucini alfredo for my niece, and we were full and ready to settle in to our recliners for a night of entertainment.

Proietti's offers delicious Italian food at reasonable prices just down the street from the best movie theater on earth.  Home run!


The Charbroil is decidedly and intentionally anti-hip.  It celebrates old school diner food without being retro: unapologetically offering a thick menu of comfort staples served by a friendly staff who call you "Hon" regardless of your gender or age.   Enough older patrons are greeted by name to suggest they've been eating there since they were teens, but new faces are greeted with equally big smiles.  You can have breakfast at 7 am or pm; you can have big, unadorned baked potatoes with everything from hamburgers to chicken french; you can read the day's "Pie" menu which includes such classics as blueberry, lemon meringue, and everyone's favorite pie: chocolate cake (what? whatever!).  Heck, tonight when we went, we could have ordered "Salt Potoaotes," but we didn't.

For our family, Charbroil is ideally located for a quick, no-heavy-thinking dinner after picking up the kids from any number of activities--and they love it!

My son's go-to dinner choice is chocolate silver dollar pancakes with a side of bacon.  It never disappoints and it always disappears.

My daughter lights up with joy when chicken french is on the special board.  When it's not, she defaults to chicken parmesan.  Both have a based of crispy chicken breasts served over a huge portion of pasta--the chicken is really quite good: the breasts are flattened to cook evenly.  The french comes with a lemon-scented garlicky sauce; the parmesan with a basic red sauce.  Either way, my petite princess plows through it, usually leaving just enough for breakfast the next morning and just enough room for a piece of chocolate cream pie.

If I'm looking for something lighter, I'll take the broiled haddock with lemon pepper seasoning and one of the Charbroil's old fashioned baked potatoes.  The fish is consistently well-cooked, light, flaky with a seasoning that should really be called "pepper-lemon."   Like everything, the portion seems oversized for the plate, but that's not a complaint.  The potatoes are steaming hot, moist, dense.  They bring back foil wrapped memories of midwestern meals.

The Charbroil is the kind of place we so often take for granted as we zip by on our way to the latest foodie haven.  It consistently offers good food at a good price served by nice people.  Nothing wrong with that--in fact, most times, it's just right.

Good Luck

Odd that we hadn't been to Good Luck before.  Maybe because of its bring your beards and vintage shirtwaist dresses kind of vibe, maybe because of its massive central bar.  I'm not sure.  In truth, we stopped trying that hard to be alt-anything years ago.  But, on a night when we were running over to the MAG for a movie about the Replacements, we figured, "Heck, it's right across the street, and we used to be rad. Let's do it."  We were glad we did!

Good Luck is big on sharing plates.  We ordered french fries, a salad, and fried chicken--and sat back to enjoy the mix-matched warehouse ambience while we waited.

The fries came first and were almost addictively good:  salty and crisp in a classic thinly cut "frites" style.  We kept trying to stop eating them ... and failing miserably.

Then the salad.  It had a base of crispy bibb lettuce with a bright and sparky pepperoncini vinaigrette that played perfectly off the pancetta and blue cheese.  It was accented with firm chick peas.  A great palate cleanser after the fries.

Finally, the plentiful fried chicken.  It had more of a batter than a breading crust (I prefer the latter).  The chicken itself was seasoned well and was moist in a way that suggested it had been brined in buttermilk before frying.  The portion was easily shared and disappeared as quickly as it could be eaten.  The sides were not up to the high standard set by the chicken.  The corn was a bit too soft and over-cooked while the barley/lentil salad seemed too undercooked and didn't benefit from being served chilled.  I'd have gone with a well-chilled tomato-cucumber salad or a crisp corn and black bean side to offset the chicken.

We'd definitely return to Good Luck.  Its cooler-than-you rep masks a very welcoming restaurant with a winning menu.  Yum!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

La Casa

La Casa is a new entry on the Rochester scene and has "hipster vibe" written all over it.  It's in the South Wedge, in an old house, decorated with tattoo-style, graffiti painting on the outside and lots of wood beams on the inside. Plus the servers seem straight outta Brooklyn (via UR, Eastman or the RIT School of Craft).

My husband and I stopped for lunch.  La Casa's lunch menu is a bit odd in that everything involves "huevos," so we ordered off the dinner menu: enchiladas verdes (one of my all time favs) and enchiladas mole (one of his).  Chips and salsa are not free, but order them.  The salsa is smoky with a deep heat and the chips are perfectly salted.  Yum!

The enchiladas come with a side plate that includes small portions of lettuce/cabbage salad, whole black beans, refried beans, and yellow rice.  Both beans and the rice were more room temp than warm, so I'm not sure if that's the way they typically come.  The beans were tasty; the rice less so.  (We're kinda rice snobs after years of eating rice of the world in Miami--Peruvian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Cuban and others.  This didn't really pass muster.)

My enchiladas were very good.  The salsa verde was very "green" tasting (if you like verde, that makes sense)--bright, cilantro-y, acidic.  It complemented the enchiladas wonderfully.  His were okay--not enough mole so the enchiladas were a bit dry.

La Casa is not inexpensive, and to be honest, while the staff, decor and location are all far less hip, I prefer Itacate.  Their menu is both more adventurous (tongue tacos) and comforting (charros).  Still, La Casa has its charms, and soon after we were seated, the line for lunch was already out the door.  So, it'll be around for quite some time and is definitely worth a visit.