Ever marveled at the array of signs for food along Park Avenue? With more than 30 restaurants, bars, and specialty food shops, it took me two full afternoons to visit every one. From favorites I know and love to businesses I'd never have noticed without a map, Park Avenue offers something for everyone's appetite and budget, whether you're from the neighborhood or not. (Note that for this article we focused strictly on businesses with Park Avenue addresses.)
Your eating adventure begins on the west end of the Avenue at the Classy Cookie & Deli (111 Park Ave., 271-5309, ClassyCookie.com). With all the smells of warm cookies to give you sweet dreams, Classy Cookie also offers box lunches and catering, featuring more than 50 different deli sandwiches and salads for take-out and delivery.
In spite of its name, pretty much everybody knows where to find Hogan's Hideaway (197 Park Ave., 442-4293, HogansHideaway.com). The menu includes a full range of casual and comfort foods, and specials run from a zucchini and black bean quesadilla to pan-seared salmon. This is a restaurant and bar to please vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Great Harvest Bread Company (210 Park Ave., 697-0400, GHBCRochester.com) offers samples by the slice of breads that rise from sesame garlic cheddar to sunflower millet to whole-grain fruit-and-nut goodness to Grandma's white. It also serves coffee drinks, sandwiches, and wraps all day long, starting with breakfast. And don't skip the salads.
When I stopped by Bacco's Ristorante (263 Park Ave., 442-5090, BaccosRistorante.com), owner and chef Giovanni O. La Gamba greeted me at the door. La Gamba talked passionately about his varied offerings, from roast quail with herbs to osso buco. La Gamba, from the Calabria region of Italy, exudes the mantra of buy local. He makes everything from scratch, including the pastas and the breads. Reservations recommended as seating is limited in this intimate house-based restaurant.
Another gem is just across the street: Delish Bakery, where Dimitra Apostolopoulos is the chef/owner (266 Park Ave., 244-9002, Delish-Bakery.org). Delish just opened in December 2011. Apostolopoulos' specialty is individual desserts, like you might find in European pastry shops. These include her original mousse creations with fillings like crème brûlée, covered in a layer of chocolate. There are cookies, too, including melomakarona, a spiced honey-dipped delight. Salads, crepes, and wraps also offered.
Just a few steps away at his outdoor tables, I met Drew Nye, owner of ROAM Café (260 Park Ave., 360-4165, ROAMcafe.com). Within the past year, Nye took over ownership and remodeled the premises to create a décor that is chic and elegant, including window tables and patio seating, plus a recently added bar. Patrons of lunch, dinner, take-out, catering, and private events can feast on a menu from appetizers to grills. Italian-styled sandwiches include meatball and the wanna-be-Italian from New Orleans, the muffaletta.
At the corner of Park and Oxford, you'll find Mozzeroni's Pizza & Pasta (360 Park Ave., 241-0002, Mozzeronis.com). One of five locations, the menu includes salads, calzones, fish and chips, low-carb wraps, chicken and ribs, hoagies, pasta dishes, and of course, pizza (including by the slice). Everything is made fresh, right down to the blue-cheese dipping sauce.
Across from Mozzeroni's is the Park and Oxford Deli (283 Park Ave., 242-8990). It's the one place I missed on my walk-about because it's sub-terra, with sidewalk-level windows. According to my editor, it's all about the basted BBQ chicken and the café's full range of true, delicatessen offerings.
If you're looking for a brew and some chatter, look for the red door to enter the Half Pint Pub (363 Park Ave., 271-6384, TheHalfPintPub.com). Lots of local and seasonal brews, including Dog Fish and Pitch Black IPA. Bar food is also available.
Magnolia's Deli & Café (366 Park Ave., 271-7380, MagnoliasCafe.com) is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and you'll need all day just to read the menu. Personal favorites? Honey-lime shrimp with goat cheese, mandarin oranges, blackberries, raspberries, and cashews. Blue pear with spinach, blue cheese, and blueberries.Soups, sandwiches, wraps, and pizzas also available at indoor and outdoor seating.
Schuber'sWine & Liquor (373 Park Ave., 473-1937) was a complete surprise. I went in because it's a funky protrusion from an attached house with a vintage neon sign that I've passed for years. The owner, Greg Schuber, expresses humble pride in knowing his local customers, and says every day he gets requests as unusual as his neighborhood. While I was there, one customer was shopping for Oprah's "Cocktails That Are Good for You" ingredients, including Caravella d'Italia Limoncello, PAMA pomegranate liqueur, and Lillet French aperitif wine.
Almond buttercrunch, peanut-butter truffles, and cashew croquettes are just three of the homemade confections available at Stever's Candies (623 Park Ave., 473-2098, SteversCandy.com). Family owned and operated, the shop opened in 1946 in the midst of chocolate shortages and post-war sugar rationing. Stever's remains the to-go-to-shop for holidays, with lines out the door regularly making the news.
From Berkeley to nearly Culver, it's jam-packed. Cobbs Hill Italian Bistro (630 Park Ave., 442-6730) is tucked into the Wilson Farms plaza, and has menu offerings that include grilled paninis like the Very Veggie, grilled portabella mushrooms topped with roasted red peppers, spinach, mozzarella, and creamy chipotle dipping sauce. Menu items include pizza, pasta, wings, and burgers. Outdoor tables available.
If the colors and flavors of a good Italian gelato is what you're after, then it's off to Jembetat Café and Gallery (645 Park Ave., 442-8960, JembetatCafe.com), a combination African art gallery, jewelry store, and café. Jembetat is set to open a second location on the canal path in Pittsford in May. Wine, espresso, and desserts are also available. With a no Wi-Fi policy, Jembetat is for those looking for quiet conversation.
At the Park Avenue Pub & Restaurant (650 Park Ave., 461-4140, ParkAvePub.com), you can get a sit-down, three-course dinner Tuesday through Thursday for only $22, with options including grouper French, lamb chop with demi-glace, or penne pomodoro with tomato and basil. Regular entrees include a prosciutto-wrapped chicken breast and a vegetarian grilled barbeque tofu.
TheFrog Pond (652 Park Ave., 271-1970, EatAtTheFrogPond.com) serves all day long, from sautéed banana pancakes and "hangover" omelets to corned beef and cabbage. Dining inside and out. It also offers holiday specials, including prix-fixe menus.
Directly across the street is Magpie Irish Pub (653 Park Ave., 271-4150, MagPiePub.com). The list of beers and ales is long, categorized as U.S., German, Belgian, Irish, British, and "Rest of World." Of particular note are the Boddingtons Pale Ale, an Ithaca Apricot Wheat, and a Blue Point Blueberry Ale.
Don't miss Colie's Café at the corner of Park and Berkeley (657 Park Ave., 442-4986, ColiesCafe.com). Both the food and the décor are colorful, whether you're after Gram's Waldorf Chicken Salad or Colleen's Clubhouse double-decker toasted sandwich with ham, Cajun turkey, and bacon. Like the restaurant's Facebook page for specials, and check the board for daily deals (like kids under 12 eating free on Tuesdays).
Jine's Restaurant (658 Park Ave., 461-1280, JinesRestaurant.com) opened in 1971 and continues to offer the most extensive menu on the Avenue. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- served inside or outside -- the range of food spans sandwiches from BLTs and turkey clubs, to entrees like a meatloaf dinner, to Italian specials such as eggplant parmesan, to Greek specials like shish kabob and moussaka. Breakfast there is a personal favorite, including cinnamon French toast, scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, and bottomless coffee.
Whether you're dining in or eating out, Piranha Sushi Bar (682 Park Ave., 360-2754, PiranhaSushiBar.com) offers a fusion of "upscale Southeast Asian and Central American cuisines." The menu is geared to "fish lovers and vegetarians alike," and also includes standard entrees, salads, and soups. 10% off with student ID.
At Café Cibon (688 Park Ave., 461-2960, CafeCibon.com), delight in a range of offerings from paninis and pastas to espressos and gelatos. Together with co-owner Robin Swan, chef Ashley Swan has grown Café Cibon from a coffee shop into a European-style bistro, which also serves wine and cocktails.
Find your Latin-fusion bistro and cantina at Dorado (690 Park Ave., 244-8560, DoradoParkAve.com). Affordable entrée variations on tortillas, burritos, and enchiladas are rivaled by a four-page tequila menu, including Herradura Tequila, described as "caramel, cinnamon and hints of pear...extremely smooth and warm finish." Beer, wine, and cocktails also available. Dine in or out.
I also found neighborly warmth at Nathan's Soup & Salad (691 Park Ave., 461-3016, NathansSoup.com). The reserved storefront and narrow interior might not pull you in, but the smells of homemade soups and breads sure will. Both employees were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about each item on the menu, including seasonal offerings. In the summer, consider dessert soups such as "Key Lime Sublime" and "Creamsicle."
On the north side of Park is Esan Thai Restaurant (696 Park Ave., 271-2271, EsanParkAve.com), featuring the cuisine of Thailand. The long list of vegetarian entrees includes lemongrass vegetables and coconut-green-curry vegetables, while other main dishes include chicken Prigkhin with green bean, ginger, and chili paste. Eat inside or out.
For subs and Chicago-style pizza, go no further than Chester Cab Pizza (707 Park Ave., 244-8211, ChesterCab.com). With deep-dish pies that stand taller than what you'd find at Uno's, the original location opened in 1982 opposite SeabreezeAmusement Park. Chester Cab also offers traditional pizza, thick Sicilian style, thin, and low-fat pizzas. Keep an eye for their coupon deals. Delivers throughout downtown.
Sinbad's Mediterranean Cuisine (719 Park Ave., 473-5655, MySinbads.com) captures all things Greek in one menu, with specialties such as the Farrouj plate of marinated Cornish hen and melintzano pasta with eggplant, olives, toasted pine nuts, feta cheese, and herbs. Kabobs, pitas, salads, appetizers, and soups also available for dining inside and out.
Pizza and more is offered at the Dragonfly Tavern (725 Park Ave., 563-6333, DragonflyTavern.com). Build your own pizza, order the Dragonfly Plate with burger, housemade mac, and a pile of fries, or grab a calzone with house-made red sauce. Eat in or take out. Catering, too.
In Rochester, I have only to say the word "Abbott's" and you know that I'm talking about frozen custard (733 Park Ave., 271-0430, AbbottsCustard.com). My standing order is a small twist with chocolate sprinkles. You already know the choices.
If it's coffee or coffee cocktails you're after, hit Boulder Café and Lounge (739 Park Ave., 697-0235, BoulderCoffeeCo.com). Boulder has five local locations, including one at the Public Market. Take note - all drinks are posted on-line, but aren't all listed on the menu boards in the store. Live high and order a Millionaire's Coffee, created from espresso, spirited with Bailey's, Kahlua, and Frangelica, topped with whipped cream. Even so, their decaf, straight, no cream is downright reliable.
Two steps east of Boulder, and it's Baker Street Bakery (745 Park Ave., 241-3120, BakerStreetBakery.net). At the shop, owners Bill and Mary Ellen Leonardo are aprons-on and familiar with their customers. I must confess: I'm addicted to the artisan breads, raspberry-almond tartlets, iced sugar cookies, croissants, blueberry-cheese kuchen, and black olive individual pizzas. Everything is baked fresh daily on the premises, and can be eaten in or taken out.
Next door at F. Oliver's Oils and Vinegars (747 Park Ave., 244-2585, FOlivers.com) you will find more than 40 varieties of oils and vinegars, imported for purchase on a bottle-to-order basis. At home, I'm already coursing through F. Oliver's sage with wild-harvest mushroom olive oil and raspberry treat dark balsamic vinegar, and there's no shortage of product recipes on the store's website. Tastings any time you drop by.
On the same block is Wine Sense (749 Park Ave., 271-0590, WeDefineWine.com). Owner and self-described "wine geek" Michael de Jong was in the house when I dropped by, and he welcomed City readers to join him for wine tastings and good conversation every Friday 5-8 p.m.