BEST YOUNG FARMER:
Eric Houppert of Deep Root Farm
There are myriad categories featuring food in the Best of Rochester awards, but nothing about the people growing (and supplying) local ingredients behind the scenes. Several years ago, Macedon resident Eric Houppert made the jump from graphic designer to farmhand at Mud Creek Farms in Victor. After spending a few years apprenticing, he founded his own five-acre farm, Deep Root Farms.
Houppert, who's both a millennial and a young dad, often posts about his journey on social media, partners with influencers, and connects with people face-to-face at the Brighton Farmers' Market every Sunday. Houppert has his own Deep Root merchandise and partners with local restaurants to get produce in front of a wider audience. His veggies have been used in dishes at Fiorella, Bar Bantam, and Radio Social, to name a few. While farming is sometimes looked at as a doomed career choice for a 30-something, Houppert is proving that persistent hard work plants a seed that grows into success. deeprootfarm.com
- Leah Stacy
BEST COMMUNITY HYPE MACHINE:
Parcel 5 has continued to be a hot button issue in local news, and there's no young city resident more vocal — or more associated with — the parcel than Steve Carter, a 20-something with more than 52,000 followers on Instagram. Whether there's a city council meeting about the future of the parcel, a festival happening on-site, or an art installation like the recent Current Seen exhibition, Carter is either posting about, can be found at, or tagged in media surrounding the activity.
He's a huge supporter of Parcel 5 becoming a green space and makes his stance no secret, consistently presenting research and comparisons from other cities with similar parcels. Carter, along with local designer Justin Dusett, is also one of the founders of Explore Rochester, an Instagram account that spotlights the writing, photos and perspective of a different Rochester resident each week. By day, he's a social media manager and digital evangelist for Kodak. His dedication to this city's future is fierce and genuine; it's no wonder his friends have nicknamed him "Mayor Steve." instagram.com/stevecarter
- Leah Stacy
BEST PERMANENT MENU ADDITION:
Fifth Frame Brewings Maxxx Hash
When I went to Fifth Frame Brewing (155 Saint Paul Street) on 4/20 with my husband and siblings-in-law, it was mostly just a fun Saturday morning to hang out. Sure, we were interested in the uber-hoppy, dank beer they had brewed specially for the celebratory cannabis day. What we didn't know is they had also added special menu food items, including what is now my favorite: Maxxx Hash.
The kitchen took their already delicious potato carrot hash and topped it with maple sausage, cheese, and a fried egg. The sweetness from the carrots, against the saltiness of the cheese and the runny egg yolk, was simply glorious. Every time we went back, we would ask for it again. Alas, it was initially a "one day only" special. But then, one Saturday, it showed up on the menu as a permanent item. The kitchen is constantly testing new burgers and updating their menu, and I can't wait to see what's in store next year. fifthframe.co
- Kathy Laluk
BEST SOCIAL MEDIA RESPONSES:
ROCHESTER RED WINGS
Even though Twitter and Facebook can be a bit of a Dumpster fire a good chunk of the time, there are definitely bright spots. One of the best examples of that in the past year has to be the Rochester Red Wings' social media presence and responses. After announcing the first-ever Red Wings Pride Night, the team's Facebook and Twitter pages were bombarded with hate-filled vitriol. But the Wings' social media manager (or managers) rose above it, responding with class and a bit of sass, and shutting down the haters in their tracks.
In the end, the Wings got the last laugh, as the promotion made the game one of the highest-attended of the season (I went, and I saw what felt like literally everyone I knew in Rochester there). I'm also a sucker for anything animal-related, so their love letters, pictures and videos from Milo the Bat Dog is the Twitter content I'm here for. They even took shots at the whole Popeyes Chicken Sandwich debate, showing off a pic of the team's own Chicken and Waffle cone. Plus, the Red Wings' GIF game is on point. 10 out of 10 would follow. @RocRedWings
- Kathy Laluk
MOST OVERLOOKED PIZZA AND WINGS:
Lucca Wood-fire Pizza
Every year, I nominate Lucca Wood-Fire Bistro for Best Pizza, and every year I'm frustrated that they don't at least make it on the final Best of Rochester ballot. They have been in business for nearly 10 years, and every time I go, they are nearly full with patrons. However, I still get blank looks when I mention Lucca. How? The biggest complaint is that it's too much of a schlep to get out to 90 West Main Street in Victor. It's 15 minutes from the center of the city; that isn't even half a schlep. Besides, it's worth it.
They boast wings so tender that they fall off the bone. This may be the only place in town where the "dry rub" doesn't mean "spicy sandpaper." The Sicilian dry rub nearly glimmers in the right light. I judge most pizzas by their crusts, and Lucca's crust is the perfect mix of thin, crispy exterior enveloping a soft interior, perfect for dipping in its own sauce. I remember how I learned of Lucca. I had a blank look on my face as MY friend told me about it, and his response was to haul me out of the house and straight to Victor to experience it myself. My life is not the same. So this is me, verbally looking into your blank stares and dragging you out to Victor to experience the best wood-fired pizza and wings in Rochester...Also, get the cannoli. luccawfpizza.com
- Chris Thompson
The larger Locals Only bathroom (311 Alexander Street) is a work of retro art. I would normally be turned off by a square toilet and seat. Butts are typically round, so why a square seat? Is this some sort of back-ended homage to brutalism? Also, the black-and-white lines on the adjoining walls make me feel like Max Headroom in a cola commercial. This is obviously the work of an android that has been impersonating a human interior designer. I'm sure the android in question was shut down in 1984 and was JUST rebooted in the last two years. I think 1984, because the giant eye on the fogged glass wall is a bit Orwellian. Also, nice touch: the giant eye is on a glass wall that faces the most public parking lot, yet no one can peer in. Once you take all this in, it is unexpectedly serene. The light from the window keeps the bathroom bright like a summer day.
Locals Only's loo is also the most photogenic bathroom, as I have seen more bathroom selfies against the Max Headroom wall than in any other bathroom in Rochester. So kudos to you, designing robot overlord, for constructing a bathroom that conjures nostalgia for a time when Coke was all about catching a wave while providing local patrons the perfect backdrop for their Instagram selfies. Now if you could do something about the amount of NON-locals who trespass in Locals Only... localsonly311.com
- Chris Thompson
BEST IDEAS FOR PARCEL 5
The powers that be and the powers that wanna be all want to secure Parcel 5 in downtown Rochester for their own use. Fans of an open space have made it clear that whenever a-doins' a-happenin', like the Fringe Festival or the Rochester International Jazz Festival, they'd like the parcel to be flooded with people. It all comes down to money. But to those who want to build housing on Parcel 5, why not amp up the thrills instead and consider these few humble suggestions to make Parcel 5 Thrive?
Make it home for a huge trampoline or a trapeze. How about a boxing ring, or a Civil War reenactment? And demolition derbies are always lots of fun. I've got more ideas, too: a petting zoo for the kids; a life-size chess tournament; full-contact jart games; a weekly dance performance of "Thriller," like those Filipino inmates did; and last but not least, music, music, music.
- Frank De Blase
STORE I MOST WANT TO LIVE IN:
There's a certain risk that comes with sharing a hidden-gem vintage shop with the world. I might fall in love with a one-of-a-kind piece I spot online while sipping coffee in my jammies Saturday morning, while unbeknownst to me, a lucky neighbor scoops it up hours before me. Or I might be saving up for a special light fixture (hands off, Brenda) that disappears weeks before I can make it happen. But I just adore Tupelo Interiors so much that I have to share the love.
Tupelo Interiors, located at 215 Norris Drive, has been open just a year, but I'm kicking myself for not having stopped in sooner. Owner Ron Weinstein has an eye for retro furnishings and an obvious knack for interior design. This is no dusty junk shop, where you'll spend hours poring over rows of knick-knacks, though that activity has its charms, too. No, Tupelo Interiors is a highly curated space full of vintage furnishings and housewares, from classic Lane Rhythm end tables to Scandinavian shag, cocktail sets and mid-century artwork.
But don't expect inflated downstate prices. On a recent visit, Weinstein told me, "I don't want this place to be a museum." I could find something to take home every time I'm in there, and be able to afford it, too. Just keep your hands off my light fixture, please. tupelointeriors.com
- Renée Heininger
BEST TELEPHONE POLE FOR SHAMELESS BAND PROMOTION
If telephone poles could talk, the one on the corner of Meigs and South Clinton would tell you some wild stories. Instead, over the years show fliers being tacked on top of show fliers have done the talking for this silent giant. Adorned with mangled packing tape, layers of wheat paste, nails, and staples, this pole has been the target of many a drive-by sticking.
All these tattered bits of memorabilia and their adhesive counterparts are like the pole's battle wounds, evidence of steadfast and vigilant support of the local music scene. On a telephone pole like this, you can quite literally peel back the layers of Rochester's music scene and find out more than you ever thought you wanted to know. It's free promotion on one of the busier intersections in Rochester, and what does it ask for in return? Absolutely nothing.
- Katie Preston
BEST PLACE TO TAKE IN NATURE WHILE BUMPING INTO EVERYONE YOU KNOW:
Highland Park (450 Highland Avenue) is a breathtaking piece of natural beauty, and lucky for us, it's right in the city. On a nice day, it's a great place to go for a walk past the seemingly endless lilac trees, through the vast and rolling hills that appear in every direction. With the park's size and its many winding paths, it seems like the odds of bumping into someone you know would be low.
Yet somehow, everyone you know has the same idea as you on this random Wednesday. Friends and acquaintances all emerge out of the woodwork, so to speak; and with few distractions, it's hard not to stop and chat. Even when that ex you somehow never cross paths with in the places you'd think is suddenly crossing the same exceptionally narrow path as you, or your boss decides to celebrate your day off by making multiple appearances at every twist and turn, it's all part of the charm of Highland Park. cityofrochester.gov/HighlandPark
- Katie Preston