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Fresh bread and care put Shmeg’s up a level


Shmeg's hits just about every note that would make it a perfect stop if Guy Fieri's signature show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" came to Rochester.

For better or worse, that list would start with the portions. From what I had heard about the Gates restaurant before eating there, the sheer quantity of food was one of the notable selling points. Most dishes that I sampled had portion sizes that were truly "out of bounds" and most could have easily fed two or more people. Although there is something fascinating and animalistic about getting a plate piled high with food, I don't feel comfortable glorifying the practice like I did when I was younger. We should pump the brakes on quantity, and instead try to focus on quality of ingredients, execution, and balance instead. Lecture over.

That being said, with a menu that features fresh bread baked in house, "Shef" Shawn Hoock delivered more than just giant plates of food. Hoock mentioned that he wasn't satisfied with the products he could buy around town, so he decided to make the effort to bake all the bread he needed right there in the restaurant. The aromas evoked memories of the bread my mom bakes during the holidays. The country-style white loaf is sliced thick and was used as the base for the sandwiches that I had at both breakfast and lunch.

Breakfast sandwiches are listed as "Fists" and I went with the three egg melt ($8.99) version. The eggs were cooked over medium as requested, but were completely overwhelmed by the cheddar and American cheeses and the excessively large patty of house-made sausage. I'm estimating here, but the sausage had to have been between 1/2 and 3/4 pound and the combination of both maple syrup and molasses left a lingering sweetness that wasn't to my liking. What was helpful was adding a few spoonfuls of Rochester style meat hot sauce that brought a solid kick of spice.

The turkey club ($10.29) was much more subtle with moist slices of house-roasted turkey breast, bacon, and three of those thick slices of bread. Not much else to say other than this was a classic done and is worth getting again. Mick Toast ($7.07) is a French toast crusted with frosted flakes which came across a lot lighter than it sounds. Not nearly as sweet as I expected, and the cereal added an interesting texture to the bread.

After work on Friday night, I stopped in to get a takeout order of the fish fry ($11.95) to see how it stood up. The haddock was crusted with seasoned panko instead of being beer battered which gave it a much lighter feel. I'm not a regular fish eater, but I kept on going back for more despite my wife trying to elbow me out of the way. A side of onion rings did have the beer batter you'd expect and ended up with less onion than coating. The mac and cheese ball ($2 upcharge) was a pleasantly crunchy and molten addition although relentlessly heavy.

I visited Shmeg's three times and came away with the feeling that the people making the food really care about the place and its customers. I'm not much of a fan of the mashup style name choice or the over the top amount of food, but that bread was a hit from the first smell. The effort to make it in house wasn't lost on anyone I spoke to and would be a great highlight if a certain spiky haired TV host ever came riding into town.

You can read more from Chris Lindstrom or listen to his podcast on his food blog, Share any dining tips with him on Twitter and Instagram @stromie.