Throughout time, weary travelers have been able to procure meals and lodging at the same establishment, though the food can sometimes taste mostly of convenience. Ideally, the in-house restaurant should enhance a hotel's reputation; think Escoffier at London's Savoy, Ducasse at Monte Carlo's Louis XV, or Robuchon at Manhattan's Four Seasons. Here in Rochester the Strathallan has been setting the bar for hotel dining, and now that its approximately $20 million renovation is complete — the new name is Strathallan, a Doubletree by Hilton — CHAR Steak & Lounge is stoking its two-ton, wood-burning grill.
"Contemporary steakhouse" is how general manager Jason Reiss describes CHAR, locally owned by David Christa and Bob Morgan, as well as restaurateurs John Diamantopoulos and Mark Chiarenza. CHAR is an impeccably appointed space that manages to be sleek and cozy all at once, with overstuffed chairs, roomy booths, subtle pastel mood lighting, and retro lounge music. Behind the scenes, though, executive chef Jeremy Nucelli's bustling kitchen handles three meals a day; the breakfast buffet stays consistent with the Hilton brand, but at lunch and dinner, "We really get to put our own stamp on it," says Reiss.
This means classic raw-bar selections; beautifully composed salads like roasted baby beet, radicchio, and pear ($8); and homemade pastas such as a sublime squid-ink spaghetti alla chitarra in a spicy tomato brodetto, with seafood, saffron, white wine, and toasted garlic bread crumbs ($18/$27). And look for a few inventive fowl entrées, along with plenty of meat.
"We're really focusing on the steaks," says Reiss, who mentions the acclaimed STK family of restaurants as an inspiration for CHAR's blend of steakhouse and cocktail lounge. Seared over 900 degrees' worth of applewood and hickory embers, the beef options range from a petite 4 oz. filet mignon ($18) all the way up to a monster 48 oz. porterhouse ($89).
Lunch at CHAR is a scaled-back — but no less appealing — version of its dinner menu, with soup, salads, pasta, risotto, and fish, as well as a few sandwiches, like a roasted turkey club ($12), with bacon, arugula, tomato, and avocado on honey whole-grain bread. Craft cocktails are available, as is a selection of wines by both the bottle and the glass, both of which Reiss plans to expand on as CHAR settles into its juicy groove. Says Reiss, "We didn't reinvent the wheel by any means, but it's a really good wheel."
CHAR Steak & Lounge is located inside the Strathallan at 550 East Ave. It serves lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and dinner 5-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 5-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, and 4-9 p.m. Sunday. Bar open until 2 a.m. Prices range from $8 to $96. For more information, call 241-7100 or visit charsteakandlounge.com.
All you shebas and sheiks may want to don your swankiest period garb and hoof it on over to Scotland Yard Pub (187 St. Paul St.), on Saturday, December 1, for Prohibition Night. SYP reopens as a speakeasy at 8 p.m., with live music, sassy surprises, and 1920's-inspired libations, including the Scofflaw, Batch 19 beer (from Coors' pre-Prohibition recipe), and Ripper whiskey, created for SYP by Hudson Whiskey. There's no cover, but you're gonna need the secret password; email nancy@ scotlandyardpub.com to get it, and visit scotlandyardpub.com to learn more.
Longtime Food Network star and chef Tyler Florence will be at the Eastway Wegmans (1955 Empire Blvd.) on Thursday, December 6, at 5 p.m. to sign copies of his brand-new book, "Tyler Florence Fresh," dropping December 4. It focuses on fresh, everyday foods prepared in innovative and delicious ways. Visit wegmans.com for more details.
It's time again for Holidays at the Market, happening 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on three consecutive Sundays — December 2, 9, and 16 — at the Rochester Public Market (280 N. Union St.). Vendors will be selling crafts, decorations, gifts, and, of course, food, as well as the largest selection of holiday trees, wreaths, and fresh garlands found in Western New York.
The Lake Ontario Wine Trail celebrates Christmas Around the World during its third annual Holiday Tour noon-5 p.m. Saturday, December 8, and Sunday, December 9, with seven stops featuring food and wine pairings from countries like Italy, France, Denmark, and Mexico. Tickets are $10 each or two for $15 and can be purchased at the starting winery. Click over to lakeontariowinetrail.com for more information
The Daily Refresher is now open in the old Blue Room location at 293 Alexander St., serving beer, wine, and cocktails both classic and original, along with appetizers, soups, salads, and sandwiches, like the toasted-cheese varieties named in honor of newspapers. Hours are Tuesday-Thursday 4 p.m.-midnight and Friday-Saturday 4:30 p.m.-2 a.m.; call 360-4627 or visit thedailyrefresher.com to learn more.
Jackie Powers' Orange Glory has crossed the Genesee River. The popular East Avenue spot is expanding to a second location in the Times Square Building, at the corner of Exchange and Broad. It's open Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The menu of sandwiches, soups, salads, and baked goods is the same at both Glories; visit orangeglorycafe.com for more info.
Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.