In this day and age, an online presence should be a priority for any business, especially a new restaurant hoping to persuade curious customers to spend their hard-earned money at an as-yet-unfamiliar place. Opa! Authentic Greek Koozina, which opened recently in Henrietta's Frontier Commons, posted its impressive menu a few weeks before its projected debut, a shrewd move that had me daydreaming about juicy souvlaki, garlicky spreads, flaky spanakopita, and maybe a hearty helping of pastitsio. Oh, and some baklava, too.
No, it's not too difficult to find a decent gyro 'round these parts, but Opa! is only one of a couple spots whose menu skews pretty strictly Greek, and with a surprising number of seafood options beyond the typical fried squid. (Which reminds me: the Kalamari Yianni's starter [$9], tossed with lemon, feta, and peperoncini = yum.) Appetizers include various preparations of shrimp, octopus, mussels, and smelts, and dinner brings out the grouper and salmon entrees ($19-$21). Non-carnivores are usually happy going Greek; there's warm or cold dolmades ($7), oven-roasted gigante beans with tomatoes, carrots, and herbs ($7), and a half-dozen spreads ($7 each), like the salty, spicy red-pepper-and-feta-blend known as tyrokafteri, and melitzanosalata, made from smoky roasted eggplant.
Roomy and tastefully decorated, with golds, ochres, and bright splashes of Aegean blue, Opa! honors the classics, like a crisp Greek salad ($8/$11; add some protein for several bucks more), the creamy tzatziki that balances the succulence of the meaty pitas ($8-$9), and comforting moussaka, a pillowy béchamel atop savory layers of eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, and ground beef sautéed with herbs and wine ($12/$14). Opa!'s wine and beer license is on its way; until then, it's the smells and flavors that do the intoxicating.
Opa! Authentic Greek Koozina is located at 1175 Jefferson Road. It is open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Lunch prices range from $5 to $14, dinner prices up to $24. For more information, call 272-0001 or visit oparochester.com.
The sweet spot
The menu at State Street Bakery & Eatery, which recently set up shop downtown at the former site of the much-missed O'Bagelo's, features the breakfast and lunch stuff you'd likely be looking for: egg sandwiches, soups like white turkey chili and chicken tomato florentine, and hot sandwiches ranging from a turkey club to a roast pork with pickled daikon and sweet chili aïoli to a half-pound Angus burger. What you may not expect to find is a perfect madeleine, tender and lemony and with the proper bump. Or a chocolate-cheese croissant the same size as your hand (well, my hand anyway). Or a buttery Milano-type cookie with rich dark chocolate tucked in the middle. But all those treats are there, and then some. I guess that's why "Bakery" comes first.
State Street Bakery & Eatery is located at 1165 State Street. It is open Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Food prices range from $3.25 to $7.95. For more information, call 319-4887, or visit its Facebook page.
You've seen a snowflake or 20 by now, which means the farmers' markets have moved their wares indoors, enabling us to shop fresh and local without exposing our purveyors' extremities to possible frostbite. The Highland Park Winter Farmers' Market (highlandwintermarket.com) goes down from 3-6 p.m. every Wednesday until May 8 in the auditorium of the Monroe County Cornell Cooperative Extension, 249 Highland Avenue. And the South Wedge and Brighton Farmers' Markets team up for the Long Season Winter Farmers' Market (brightonfarmersmarket.org), happening every Sunday through December 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Brookside Community Center, 220 Idlewood Road.
Restaurants like Dogtown, Lento, and India House are scheduled to compete in the 9th Annual Firehouse Chili Cookoff, taking place 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 10. It only costs $25 for all the chili you can eat, a handmade ceramic bowl, and the full, warm feeling of helping out the Genesee Center for the Arts & Education. Visit geneseearts.org for tickets, or call 244-1730.
It isn't technically food news, because eating anything in the George Eastman House's "Sweet Creations Gingerbread House Display" would be punishable by... well, if not death, then it should be. So you'll just have to use your eyes to appreciate these beautiful, clever, and occasionally mindblowing achievements in sugarcraft, with more than 70 cookie structures made by both professional and amateur bakers on display now through Wednesday, December 12. Visit eastmanhouse.org for more information, or call 271-3361
The people behind a popular west side Jamaican eatery have dropped some new roots across the river and called it Natural Vibes Jerk Hut II (663 Culver Road, 360-4434), which serves up traditional island favorites from breakfast through dinner and beyond. Begin your day with dishes like callaloo ($8/$10) or ackee and saltfish ($10/$12), then participate in some real nose-to-tail eating with manish water ($4, the famous goat's head soup), or some jerk chicken, curry goat, or cow foot ($9/$11).
The Italian restaurant Gusto has wrapped up operations at the corner of Alexander Street and Gardiner Park and joined forces with the neighboring Benedettos. Visit benedettosrochester.com to see what the new collaboration has planned.
Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.