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ANNUAL MANUAL '09: Choices


As a 6-year-old with a taste for scrumptious food (read: plain noodles with peanut butter) there was only one place to head to for Sunday brunch with the family: the Highland Park Diner (960 S Clinton Ave, 461-5040). The Highland Park is located in an authentic diner car complete with vintage memorabilia straight out of an "I Love Lucy" episode. It's the type of place where the waitresses call you "hun." You can chow down on heaps of food for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but my favorite time to go is still Sunday brunch, where there's always a huge list of specials to greet me. Breakfast and brunch highlights include the Mexican omelet, any type of French toast, and the eggs benedict. But I've never had anything bad at the diner, and I've probably tried three-quarters of the menu. -- BY LEAH KRAUS


If you're looking for food that's affordable and mouth-watering in Rochester, I could probably go on all day about your options. But, if you're looking for food that is affordable, mouth-watering, and healthy, Aladdin's Natural Eatery -- with two locations, one in scenic Pittsford and one in a bustling urban section of the city -- is your best bet. Mediterranean cuisine can be hit or miss, but Aladdin's is a super hit. Favorite entrees include the limone pasta, complete with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and more artichokes you'd ever thought you'd find on one plate, as well as the chicken pita, spanakopita, and creamy vegetable soup. The desserts always look spectacular, although I've always been too full to try one.

Aladdin's is located at 646 Monroe Ave in the city and at 8 Schoen Place in Pittsford. For more information call 442-5000 or 264-9000, respectively. -- BY LEAH KRAUS


The "garbage plate" is arguably the most iconic thing about Rochester -- it's been featured on Food Network's "Unwrapped," in US Airways' in-flight magazine, and even has a prominent place in the Rochester "City in a Box" version of Monopoly. And while it seems like this dish can be found just about anywhere you go in Rochester (with name variations like "sloppy," "dumpster" or "trash"), Nick TahouHots (320 W Main St, 436-0184) is the only place you can get the trademarked original.

On the surface the dish may appear easy to replicate -- throw in some home fries or French fries, mac salad or baked beans, hot dogs or burgers, and top it off with onions, ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce -- but the special combination of ingredients in a Tahou plate make it inimitable. Tahou's is known for its crispy home fries, perfectly split Texashots, and just-spicy-enough horseradish mustard. -- BY SUSIE HUME


Shopping for records in the back building of the House of Guitars (645 Titus Ave, 544-3500) is kind of like going on safari or spelunking -- it depends on how deep you want to go. There are all the latest releases up top, and the knowledgeable staff has a pretty good idea where things are. But the real joy is diving into a rack of LPs and finding a record you haven't heard since high school, or one with a cover so cool, you've just got to take it for a spin.

Chances are the instruments played on some of these records came from the HOG. Since the early 1960's the House of Guitars has served not only as a cutting-edge music store (it was the first store in the country to carry Vox amps after The Beatles stormed our shores with them), but also as a place where professional musicians from around the world do their shopping. It's a beacon of rock 'n' roll and its defiance. -- BY FRANK DE BLASE


Rochester has malls, and those malls have clothes, and you're totally welcome to go shop at one if you want to spend too much money on what everyone else is wearing. Those who don't need their style spoon-fed to them will dig the Rochester institution known as Godiva's (653 South Ave, 244-3370), which is packed with great vintage clothing and accessories, choice secondhand duds, as well as cool military surplus. Owner Trudy Feikert knows her fashion, from sharkskin suits and prom dresses to bell-bottom jeans and t-shirts with strange slogans, and she offers her finds from all eras at wickedly cheap prices that can drop even further during one of Godiva's juicy sales. -- BY DAYNA PAPALEO


Sometimes I enjoy pretending to shop for plastic vegetables and loaves of bread at a kid-sized supermarket. Other days, all I really want to do is sit on the stoop of 123 Sesame Street with a bunch of 8-year-olds and contemplate life. And every once in a while I wake up in the morning and think, "Gee, I just want to hang out with butterflies all day." Whenever I get these urges, I head over to the Strong National Museum of Play (1 Manhattan Square, 263-2700, museumofplay.org) and all my wishes are fulfilled. The Strong features fun exhibits for both parents and kids, such as "Super Kids Market," "Sesame Street," and the "DancingWingsButterflyGarden," as well as a food court complete with an old-fashioned ice cream fountain and gift shops. And kids can get lost for hours in the massive "Reading Adventureland" play area, while adults can relive their misspent youth in the National Toy Hall of Fame. -- BY LEAH KRAUS


There's almost too many things to love about The Little (240 East Ave, 258-0400, thelittle.org) -- its historic charm, the bags of heavenly popcorn topped with real butter, a friendly and knowledgeable staff in the ticket booth, the colorful café stocked with all kinds of treats, and of course the independent and foreign films it shows that can be impossible to find at anywhere else in Rochester. And let's not even get started on the film festivals, educational programs, live music, and art exhibits it features throughout the year. The Little is simply a cozy place to spend an evening or weekend afternoon with friends or by yourself. -- BY LEAH KRAUS

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