Special Sections » Best of Rochester

In a year that may be the worst, we look at the best

by

Perhaps more than any other year in recent memory, 2020 seems like an odd and unsettling time to be celebrating what’s “best” in our community. While there is certainly much of which to be proud about the Greater Rochester area and the people who call it home, the death of Daniel Prude and the effects of COVID-19 have made things particularly sobering here in the Flower City.

And yet our resiliency — as demonstrated by many winners of CITY’s 2020 Best of Rochester readers’ poll — gives me hope. Rochesterians have spoken out against the loss of Black lives and police misconduct, led in part by activists such as Free the People Roc (Best Local Activist Group) and Danielle Ponder (Best Local Humanitarian, Best Solo Musician). Shawn Dunwoody (Best Local Artist, Best Muralist, Best Art Exhibit of 2020) helped to make the rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement impossible to ignore through his public art.

Our community has also carried on in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Arts organizations such as Geva Theatre Center (Local Theater Company That Best Weathered the Pandemic) adapted to the reality of empty stages and created quarantine-friendly content, and local businesses such as Park Ave Bike Shop (Best Bike Shop), Talking Heads Hair Parlor & Curio Shoppe (Best Place to Get a Haircut), and Dogtown (Best Cheap Eats, Best Place for a Rochester “Plate”) have continued in their roles as fixtures about town.

In addition to the results from your “Best of” ballots, we’ve got CITY’s own picks for local places and activities that are worth spotlighting. Kate Stathis provides an overview of pizzerias named after “Tony,” Renée Heininger writes about outdoor activities that are conducive in the COVID era, and Leah Stacy highlights the nature wine pop-up store of Aldaskeller Wine Co.

Thank you to the more-than-10,000 readers who submitted their votes for Best of Rochester. We hope you enjoy this snapshot of the people, places, and things that make us proud to be Rochesterians.



artboard_8.png

BEST PIZZA
Pontillo’s
Several area locations;
pontillospizza.com
Fresh dough made daily since 1947. Man, that’s a lot of dough.

Runners-up: Mark’s Pizzeria | The Pizza Stop | Salvatore’s



The Playhouse/Swillburger is finally open on South Clinton Avenue. Along with burgers made with New York State beef, fries, and a full bar, the space has a host of arcade games. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • The Playhouse/Swillburger is finally open on South Clinton Avenue. Along with burgers made with New York State beef, fries, and a full bar, the space has a host of arcade games.
BEST BURGER
Swillburger
820 South Clinton Street;
theplayhouseroc.com
They aren’t kidding. Juicy, juicy, juicy… napkin-worthy if you add grilled onions to your order.

Runners-Up: Bill Gray’s | The Gate House | Restaurant Good Luck

BEST BARBECUE
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
99 Court Street;
dinosaurbarbque.com
You don’t need directions to get to this joint. Just follow your nose.

Runners-Up: Good Smoke BBQ | Sticky Lips | Texas Bar-B-Q Joint
Local wing king Jeremiah’s serves until 1 a.m. Fri & Sat. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Local wing king Jeremiah’s serves until 1 a.m. Fri & Sat.
BEST WINGS
Jeremiah’s Tavern
Several area locations;
jeremiahstavern.com
Wings are like sex: Even when they’re bad, they are still good. Jeremiah’s Tavern will make love to your taste buds.

Runners-Up: Dinosaur Bar-B-Q | Duff’s Famous Wings | Windjammers Bar and Grill

BEST FISH FRY
Tap & Mallet
381 Gregory Street;
tapandmallet.com

Runners-Up: Bill Gray’s | Palmer’s Direct to You Market | The Old Toad

BEST PLACE FOR A ROCHESTER "PLATE"
Dogtown
691 Monroe Avenue;
dogtownhots.com
It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the dog in the bun. The Caribbean Wild Dog comes highly recommended.

Runners-Up: Nick Tahou Hots | The Red Fern | Steve T. Hots & Potatoes

_dsc1766.jpg
BEST BAGEL
Balsam Bagels
288 North Winton Road;
balsambagels.com
Wanna get me to shut up? Just feed me an everything bagel with lox and walnut cream cheese.

Runners-Up: Bagel Land | Brownstein’s Deli & Bakery | Wegmans

BEST FRIED CAKES/DONUTS
Ridge Donut Cafe
1600 Portland Avenue;
ridgedonuts.com

Runners-Up: Boxcar Donuts & Fried Chicken | Donuts Delite | Misfit Doughnuts & Treats

BEST FOOD CART/FOOD TRUCK
Le Petit Poutine
Lepetitpoutine.com; @lepetitpoutine
Everybody raves about the poutine, but have you tried their lemon squares? They bring the tarty to the party.

Runners-Up: Kocina Stingray Sushifusion | Macarolliin’ | Neno’s Gourmet Mexican Street Food

beth_quattrociocchi_pittsford_mendon_kylie_woodward_highland.jpg
BEST DINER
Highland Park Diner
960 South Clinton Avenue;
facebook.com/highlandparkdiner
A diner with all-American fare, and one of the strongest cups of coffee in town.

Runners-Up: Jay’s Diner | The Original Steve’s Diner | South Wedge Diner

BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT
Restaurant Fiorella
5 Rochester Public Market; restaurantfiorella.com
First-generation Italian-American chef Gino Ruggiero brings Italian dishes from farm to table.

Runners-Up: Mr. Dominic’s | Guido’s Pasta Villa | Rocco

old-pueblo.jpg
BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
Old Pueblo Grill
55 Russell Street;
oldpueblogrillroc.com
Best north-of-the-border fare. They do huevos rancheros right.

Runners-Up: Monte Alban Mexican Grill | Neno’s Gourmet Mexican Street Food |
Salena’s Mexican Restaurant

BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT
Naan-Tastic
100 Marketplace Drive, Henrietta; naan-tastic.com
Offering a melange of Indian food you can assemble as hot or as not as you wish.

Runners-Up: Amaya Indian Cuisine | India House | Thali of India

BEST MEDITTERANEAN RESTAURANT
Aladdin’s Natural Eatery
646 Monroe Avenue; 8 Schoen Place, Pittsford; myaladdins.com
If you remember just one thing, save room for the baklava.

Runners-Up: Cedar Mediterranean | Sinbad’s | Voula’s Greek Sweets
Peppa Pot - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Peppa Pot

BEST CARIBBEAN RESTAURANT
Peppa Pot
522 East Main Street;
eatatpeppapot.com/menu
Authentic Jamaican cuisine for those who like a little heat with their meat. Sweet and savory. A great spot for goat or oxtails.

Runners-Up: Carribean Heritage Restaurant | D’Mangu | Livie’s Jamaican Restaurant

BEST ASIAN RESTAURANT
Han Noodle Bar
687 Monroe Avenue;
hannoodlebar.com
“No fusion. No gimmicks,” Han’s website touts. And it ain't kiddin'.

Runners-Up: Chen Garden | Flavors of Asia | The King & I

The Owl House makes its cheese sauce from Kabocha squash. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • The Owl House makes its cheese sauce from Kabocha squash.
BEST VEGETARIAN/VEGAN EATS
The Owl House
75 Marshall Street;
owlhouserochester.com
Hearty fare served in an intimate setting. You won’t miss the meat when you eat here.

Runners-Up: New Ethic Pizzeria & Cafe | The Red Fern | Voula’s Greek Sweets

BEST CHEF
Joe Zolnierowski
At Nosh (47 Russell Street; noshroc.com) and
Old Pueblo Grill (55 Russell Street; oldpueblogrillroc.com)
A native of Tucson, Arizona, Zolnierowski delivers a taste of "home" here in Rochester.

Runners-Up: Mark Cupolo (Rocco/Rella) | Dan Martello (Restaurant Good Luck) |
Richard Reddington (REDD)

The Aztec "Mocha" at Java's adds cinnamon and chilies for a spicy kick. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • The Aztec "Mocha" at Java's adds cinnamon and chilies for a spicy kick.
BEST COFFEE
Java’s
16 Gibbs Street; javascafe.com
Not only is the java jumpin’ here, but this joint is a cool hang as well.

Runners-Up: Fuego Coffee Roasters | Glen Edith Coffee Roasters | Ugly Duck Coffee

BEST OUTDOOR DINING (COVID-inspired or otherwise)
Genesee Brew House
25 Cataract Street;
geneseebeer.com/brewhouse
Part brewery, part museum. The outside dining area gives you a primo view of High Falls, while you sip suds and sample culinary selections from the beer-friendly menu.

Runners-Up: K2 Brothers Brewing | Restaurant Good Luck | Tap & Mallet
Dogtown - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Dogtown
BEST CHEAP EATS
Dogtown
691 Monroe Avenue;
dogtownhots.com
It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the dog in the bun. The Caribbean Wild Dog comes highly recommended.

Runners-Up: Aladdin’s Natural Eatery | Cedar Mediterranean | John’s Tex Mex

BEST PANDEMIC-INSPIRED INNOVATION BY A RESTAURANT OR BAR
Cocktails to-go/Cocktail pouches
Many local bars and restaurants

Runners-Up: Lux outdoor seating and Luxables | ROAR online drag shows |
Swiftwater online ordering and beer drive-thru

dsc_0129.jpg
BEST REGIONAL WINERY
Living Roots Wine & Co.
1255 University Avenue;
livingrootswine.com
Taking the best of wines from both the Finger Lakes region and Adelaide, South Australia, and bringing them to you.

Runners-Up: Casa Larga | Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery | Three Brothers Wineries & Estates

BEST REGIONAL BREWERY
Three Heads Brewing
186 Atlantic Avenue;
threeheadsbrewing.com
3HB exudes dedication and passion for beer and those who drink it. And don’t forget its commitment to local music.

Runners-Up: Genesee Brewing Company | Rohrbach Brewing Company | Swiftwater Brewing

Jason Barrett named his distillery after his family's button factory. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • Jason Barrett named his distillery after his family's button factory.
BEST REGIONAL DISTILLERY
Black Button Distilling
85 Railroad Street;
blackbuttondistilling.com
Founded in 2012, Black Button Distilling is the first grain-to-glass craft distillery to open in Rochester since prohibition ended in 1933.

Runners-Up: Honeoye Falls Distillery | Hollerhorn Distilling | Iron Smoke Distillery

BEST BAKERY
Savoia Pastry Shoppe
2267 Clifford Avenue;
savoiapastry.com
An Italian meal just ain’t finished until it’s washed down with some coffee and this bakery’s delicious cookies.

Runners-Up: Get Caked | Leo’s Bakery & Deli | Scratch Bakeshop

choice_event5-1.jpg

BEST CANDY/CHOCOLATE SHOP
Hedonist Artisan Chocolates
674 South Avenue;
hedonistchocolates.com
This is Disneyland for your tastebuds. Don’t forget to try the shop’s ice cream, especially its take on salted caramel.

Runners-Up: Andy’s Candies | Laughing Gull Chocolates | Stever’s Candies

BEST BAR FOR BEER
Tap and Mallet
381 Gregory Street;
tapandmallet.com
Best bar for a beer… or two, or three. Plenty of brews, microbrews, IPAs, and fried chicken on the menu.

Runners-Up: MacGregor’s Grill & Tap Room | Rochester Beer Park | Swiftwater Brewing

BEST BAR FOR WINE
Living Roots Wine & Co.
1255 University Avenue;
livingrootswine.com
Taking the best of wines from both the Finger Lakes region and Adelaide, South Australia, and bringing them to you.

Runners-Up: Apogee | Flight | Solera

BEST BAR FOR CRAFT COCKTAILS
The Revelry
1290 University Avenue;
therevelryroc.com
Elixirs and potions at the ready for whatever ails you. Try a Nihilist or a Muddy Waters.

Runners-Up: Cheshire | Cure | The Spirit Room

Also worth a sip: the margarita at Lux Lounge on South Avenue. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • Also worth a sip: the margarita at Lux Lounge on South Avenue.

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR
Lux Lounge
666 South Avenue; lux666.com
If Screamin’ Jay Hawkins were still alive and lived in the South Wedge, he would be found at the end of Lux Lounge’s bar, sipping Alligator Wine.

Runners-Up: Dicky’s Corner Pub | Marshall Street Bar and Grill | The Spirit Room

BEST HAPPY HOUR
Nosh
47 Russell Street; noshroc.com

Runners-Up: Acme Bar & Pizza | Lux Lounge | ROAR

hayward.jpg
BEST BARTENDER
Anthony Hayward
Lux Lounge, 666 South Avenue; lux666.com
It’s smiling faces like that of Hayward, as he sets up the drinks behind Lux Lounge’s bar, that makes it more of a “deluxe lounge.”

Runners-Up: Donnie Clutterbuck (Cure) | Tami Paladino (ROAR) | Jacob Rakovan (The Spirit Room)



artboard_9.png

BEST BIKE SHOP
Park Ave Bike Shop
300 High Street, Victor;
600 Jay Scutti Boulevard,
Henrietta; tomsprobike.com
You can get your old bike tuned up or repaired, or you can get one built from the ground up. Either way, you’ll be rollin’.

Runners-Up: DreamBikes | Full Moon Vista Bike & Sport | Towpath Bike

BEST VIRTUAL FITNESS WORKOUT
M/Body
1048 University Avenue;
mbodyrochester.com
You can work out to M/Body’s streaming workout without leaving your house. It may be a virtual workout, but the sweat will be real.

Runners-Up: JCC | Mike Stanbrough / Coach Mike Online | Positive Force Movement

BEST PLACE TO GET A HAIRCUT
Talking Heads Hair Parlor & Curio Shoppe
179 St. Paul Street;
talkingheadshairparlor.com
There are taxidermied animals and other creatures on display, as well as funereal ephemera and curious curios. And, of course, a knowledgeable staff that knows its way around a head.

Runners-Up: Barbetorium | Chi Wah Organica | Joe’s Upscale Barbering + Beauty Loft

BEST FLORIST
Kittelberger Florist & Gifts
263 North Avenue, Webster;
kittelbergerflorist.com
Since 1928, Kittelberger Florist & Gifts has kept Rochester — the Flower City — looking and smelling pretty.

Runners-Up: Arena’s | Rockcastle Florist | Stacy K Floral

BEST SECONDHAND STORE
Little Shop of Hoarders
131 Gregory Street;
shophoarders.com
More than a mere vintage clothing store. Here you can pick up one-of-a-kind artwork along with that “Keep On Truckin’” shirt you’ve had your eye on.

Runners-Up: Abode | The Op Shop | Greenovation

BEST PLACE TO BUY KITSCH
Parkleigh
215-235 Park Avenue;
parkleigh.com
It hasn’t been a pharmacy since 1986, but it’s still got plenty of kitschy cool for whatever ails your hipster soul.

Runners-Up: Archimage | Greenovation | Record Archive

BEST TATTOO ARTIST
Emma Scala
White Tiger Tattoo, 466 West Ridge Road; whitetigertattoo.com, instagram.com/catacomb.kid

Runners-Up: TeeJay Dill (White Tiger) | Kyle Downs (Old Friends) | Adam Francey (Love Hate) | Brianna Nichols (Pyramid Arts) | Hannah Rose (Pyramid Arts)

BEST PIERCER
Nick Giordano
Dorje Adornments, 60 Park Avenue; dorjeadornments.com

Runners-Up: Tom Gottschalk (Dorje Adornments) | Jason Morningstar (Primitive Impressions) | John Signorino (Icon Piercing Studio)

music_feature2-1-26d50c68e5eac462.jpg
BEST RECORD STORE
Record Archive
33 1/3 Rockwood Street;
recordarchive.com
This place has anything and everything for the serious record audiophile, toy collector, novelty nerd, and people like you and me. There’s a wine and beer bar, too.

Runners-Up:  Bop Shop Records | House of Guitars | Needle Drop Records

BEST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT STORE
House of Guitars
645 Titus Avenue, Irondequoit;
houseofguitars.com
Billing itself as the “Largest Guitar Store in the World,” House of Guitars keeps an extensive collection of new, used, and vintage instruments.

Runners-Up: Atlas Music | Bernunzio Uptown Music | Sound Source

Lollypop Farm is an animal sanctuary run by the Humane Society of Rochester. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • Lollypop Farm is an animal sanctuary run by the Humane Society of Rochester.
BEST PET-RELATED BUSINESS
Lollypop Farm Humane Society of Greater Rochester
99 Victor Road, Fairport;
lollypop.org
I’m warning you now: Don’t make eye contact with any of the furry little creatures here. You’ll wind up falling in love, and with a house full of cats and dogs you can’t say no to.

Runners-Up: Bones Bakery | Park Ave. Pets | Tuxedo’s K9 Training Camp

BEST GEEK-FRIENDLY BUSINESS
Nox Cocktail Lounge
302 North Goodman Street;
noxcocktail.com

Runners-Up: Just Games | Millennium Games



artboard_10.png

BEST LOCAL HUMANITARIAN
Danielle Ponder
Danielleponder.com
Best known for her powerful singing voice, Ponder is also a leading voice of the local Black Lives Matter movement.

Runners-Up: Iman Abid | Shawn Dunwoody | Sister Grace Miller

BEST LOCAL ACTIVIST GROUP
Free the People Roc
facebook.com/ftproc;
instagram.com/ftp_roc
A necessary and effective grassroots movement, this group has taken to the frontlines in protests against police brutality and systemic racism following the death of Daniel Prude.

Runners-Up: Hope Dealers BTC | Metro Justice | Project AIR

SPORTS TEAM WE MISSED THE MOST IN 2020
Rochester Red Wings
milb.com/rochester
C’mon, it’s America’s pastime and we’ve got Fred Costello on the organ, too. Play ball, please!

Runners-Up: Buffalo Bills | Rochester Americans | Rochester Roller Derby

BEST LOCAL RADIO STATION
1370 WXXI
wxxinews.org

Runners-Up: 88.5 WRUR | 90.5 WBER | 104.3 WAYO

news4-5-338120dca54fbc7a.jpg
BEST LOCAL MEDIA PERSONALITY
Scott Hetsko
twitter.com/scotthetsko; facebook.com/Scott-Hetsko
The beat goes on for this popular meteorologist five years after his high-profile heart transplant.

Runners-Up: Adam Chodak (News 8 WROC) | Evan Dawson (WXXI) | Brother Wease (Radio 95.1 FM)

BEST LOCAL TV NEWS STATION
13 WHAM
13wham.com; @13WHAM
The anchor team of Don Alhart and Ginny Ryan has long been a local favorite, and Jane Flasch’s investigative reports are not to be missed.

Runners-Up: 8 WROC | 10 WHEC | WXXI Television

BEST SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNT
The Inner Loop Blog
Innerloopblog.com; instagram.com/innerloopblog; facebook.com/InnerloopBlog
If there is only one good thing coming from these “difficult times,” it’s the wisenheimers who run this blog. You'll squirt milk out your nose.

Runners-Up:  Explore Rochester | Rochester Red Wings | Sir Rocha Says

BEST LOCAL PODCAST
Food About Town
Foodabouttown.com
This podcast celebrates Rochester’s diverse culture by way of its myriad flavors and food. It’s a kitchen window into the heart and soul of the city.

Runners-Up:  Anomaly Presents | Hell Weekly | Loud Feelings Podcast

MOST IMPORTANT LOCAL NEWS STORY OVERLOOKED IN 2020
Police accountability and misconduct
In light of the death of Daniel Prude, the calls for justice are only getting louder, and more attention is being paid to this story.

Runners-Up: All things COVID-19 | Black Lives Matter | Climate change and the climate emergency

Lilac Festival, Highland Park
  • Lilac Festival, Highland Park

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN
Highland Park
monroecounty.gov/parks-highland
Highland Park’s Garden’s beauty can be credited to its designer, F.L. Olmsted (1822-1903). Highland Park, known for its lilacs and the festival that bears that flower’s name, is one of 500 commissions that Olmsted completed over his career.

Runners-Up: 490 Farmers | First Market Farm |  Maplewood Rose Garden | Sofrito Garden

BEST CORNER STORE
Highland Market
Highlandmkt.com
Offering quality, freshly-prepared food and products that you won’t find a typical corner store. Can’t find it? They’ll do their best to get it for you.

Runners-Up: 999 Market | Nathaniel Square Corner Store | R’s Market



artboard_11.png

BEST LOCAL ORIGINAL BAND
Danielle Ponder and the Tomorrow People
Danielleponder.com
This band focuses around the tireless energy and light of its leader, Danielle Ponder. It’s soul and hip-hop like you’ve never heard.

Runners-Up: Joywave | The Invictas | Teagan and the Tweeds

dsc_3684.jpg

BEST LOCAL SOLO MUSICIAN
Danielle Ponder
Danielleponder.com; facebook.com/daniellepondermusic
Danielle Ponder is a force of nature. This lady is an activist, advocate, and artist, before you peg her as merely a musician. She’s utterly righteous.

Runners-Up: Jackson Cavalier | Paul Strowe | Teagan Ward
rockwell.jpg

BEST LOCAL HIP HOP ACT
Moses Rockwell
Mosesrockwell.bandcamp.com
Moses Rockwell mixes insightful spoken word with harder-hitting hip hop. It’s smooth, it’s infectious, it’s real gone.

Runners-Up: MdotCoop | Donny Murakami | Tugboat

joywave.jpg
BEST LOCAL ALBUM OF 2020
“Possession” by Joywave
Joywavemusic.com
Regardless of its hometown address, Joywave is a simply sensational band that flirts with electronica elements in its catchy power pop songs.

Runners-Up: “Human BBQ” by Harmonica Lewinski | “Two//Four” by Jackson Cavalier | “Vol. 2” by The Weight We Carry

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE
Bug Jar
219 Monroe Avenue; bugjar.com
Featuring the best touring acts such as Screaming Females, as well as up-and-coming local talent like The Stedwells. Diverse and eclectic.

Runners-Up: Abilene Bar & Lounge | Anthology | CMAC

BEST LIVE DJ
DJ Mighty Mic
DJ Chreath | DJ Darkwave | DJ Naps

PHOTO BY ELISE HUGHEY
  • PHOTO BY ELISE HUGHEY

BEST LOCAL AUTHOR PUBLISHED IN 2020
Dave Chisholm
Davechisholmmusic.com;
facebook.com/davechisholmmusicandcomics
An illustrator who moonlights as a music teacher, Chisholm is quickly being recognized nationally as a prominent graphic novelist.

Runners-Up: Georgia Beers | David Cay Johnston | Sejal Shah

BEST BOOK OF 2020 WRITTEN BY A LOCAL AUTHOR
“Anxiety...I’m So Done With You” by Jodi Aman
jodiaman.com/books
A teen’s guide to ditching toxic stress and hardwiring your brain for happiness.

Runners-Up: “ART From the SOUL” by Israel Ortiz | “Canopus” by Dave Chisholm | “Hold On: The Story of Our Friend Eddie Money” by Dresden Engle | “Jaw” by Al Abonado | “The Pandemic of Creation” by Gaelen McCormick and Dr. Sraddha Prativadi | “Prairie Lotus” by Linda Sue Park | “The Problem With Zero” by Frank Edwards | “This is One Way to Dance” by Sejal Shah | “When Buffalo Sat Atop the Sports World” by Sal Maiorana

BEST LOCAL POET
Rachel McKibbens
@rachelmckibbens;
Rachelmckibbens.com
A poet, playwright, and activist, McKibbens is a prominent member of the poetry slam community whose work is recognized nationally.

Runners-Up: Andy Conley | Charlie Cote | Jacob Rakovan

BEST LOCAL ARTIST
Shawn Dunwoody
dunwoode.design;
instagram.com/shawndunwoody
Shawn Dunwoody is unquestionably at the top of his game.

Runners-Up: John Magnus Champlin | Jason Dorofy |
Sarah C. Rutherford

FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO

LOCAL THEATER COMPANY THAT BEST WEATHERED THE PANDEMIC
Geva Theatre Center
Gevatheatre.org
To quarantine or not to quarantine. That is the question — and apparently the answer, too. Geva keeps it going with a reimagined 2020-21 season, starting off with an audio play titled “Recognition Radio: an Audio Play Festival Featuring Black Voices.”

Runners-Up: Blackfriars Theatre | OFC Creations |
WallByrd Theatre Co.

BEST LOCAL COMEDIAN/COMEDY TROUPE
Nuts & Bolts
nabcomedy.com;
facebook.com/nabcomedy
Started by two high school friends who were tired of making each other laugh, this ensemble has something for everyone.

Runners-Up: Ilhan Ali | Polite Ink. | Malcolm Whitfield

BEST LOCAL DANCE COMPANY
Garth Fagan Dance
50 Chestnut Street;
garthfagandance.org
Not only is the world-renowned Garth Fagan recognized for his splendid choreography, but he’s done it for 50 years, with most of those years rooted right here in Rochester.

Runners-Up: Biodance | Frazee Feet Dance | PUSH Physical Theatre |
Rochester City Ballet

PHOTO BY QUAJAY DONELL
  • PHOTO BY QUAJAY DONELL
BEST LOCAL MURALIST
Shawn Dunwoody
dunwoode.design;
instagram.com/shawndunwoody
Dunwoody’s art is as big and bold as his ideals. The city is his canvas.

Runners-Up: Aerosol Kingdom / Mr. PRVRT / Justin Suarez | Sarah C. Rutherford | Brittany Williams

BEST ART EXHIBIT OF 2020
Black Lives Matter at MLK Jr. Park,
Shawn Dunwoody and the Rochester Community
dunwoode.design;
instagram.com/shawndunwoody
Artist Shawn Dunwoody led the painting of “Black Lives Matter” to illustrate the size of the conflict and abuse felt by people of color.

Runners-Up: 6X6 2020, Rochester Contemporary |
Master of Art Nouveau: Alphonse Mucha, Memorial Art Gallery |
The Pantone Series, Stacey Rowe

LOCAL PHOTOGRAPHER WHO BEST CAPTURED 2020
John Kucko
facebook.com/JohnKuckoDigital/photos; instagram.com/johnkucko
A self-described “longtime TV guy who loves shooting with the camera,” Kucko captures some of Rochester’s most recognizable landscapes.

Runners-Up: Gretchen Arnold | Quajay Donnell | Jim Montanus | Gerry Szymanski | Aaron Winters

The 2019 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival features nine nights of concerts on Parcel 5. - PHOTO BY PETER PARTS FOR THE CGI ROCHESTER INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
  • PHOTO BY PETER PARTS FOR THE CGI ROCHESTER INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
  • The 2019 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival features nine nights of concerts on Parcel 5.

MOST MISSED LOCAL FESTIVAL OF 2020
Rochester International Jazz Festival
Rochesterjazz.com
By far the most-hyped festival in town, this event packs the East End and draws international attention.

Runners-Up: Lilac Festival | Park Avenue Festival | Rochester Pride

BEST LOCAL FAMILY-FRIENDLY ATTRACTION
Strong National Museum of Play
1 Manhattan Square Drive
museumofplay.org
Remember being a kid and going to a museum and not being able to touch anything? Yeah, that doesn't happen here.

Runners-Up: Rochester Museum & Science Center | Seabreeze | Seneca Park Zoo

DeeDee Dubois - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • DeeDee Dubois

BEST LOCAL DRAG PERFORMER
DeeDee Dubois
facebook.com/deedee.dubois
instagram.com/deedeedubois
You’ll bust a gut from DeeDee Dubois’ raunchy humor. You’ll have so much fun, they’ll have to drag you away (sorry, not sorry).

Runners-Up: Mrs. Kasha Davis | Kyla Minx | Wednesday Westwood



artboard_13.png

BEST PLACE TO GO DANCING
Lux Lounge
666 South Avenue; lux666.com

Runners-Up: ROAR | Vertex | Vinyl

BEST JUKE BOX
Marge’s Lakeside Inn
4909 Culver Road, Irondequoit; margeslakesideinn.com
The best thing about this jukebox is its override switch behind the bar. It’s there so you’re not stuck singing “Escape (the Pina Colada Song).”

Runners-Up: Lux Lounge | Salinger’s | Skylark

BEST PLACE TO TAKE A FIRST DATE
Radio Social
20 Carlson Road; radio-social.com
Life-sized Jenga, billiards, arcade games, cornhole, awesome chow, top-shelf booze, and bowling. Mark it an eight, Smokey.

Runners-Up: Highland Park | Swillburger/Playhouse | The Little Theatre



artboard_12.png

BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE WATCH
Park Avenue
Need we say more?

Runners-Up: Ontario Beach Park | Cobbs Hill | Wegmans

BEST DAY HIKE
Letchworth State Park
1 Letchworth State Park, Castile; parks.ny.gov/parks/letchworth
At about an hour’s drive away, it’s a hike. But there are beautiful waterfalls and places to picnic. And it’s good exercise.

Runners-Up: Chimney Bluffs | Corbett’s Glen | Mendon Ponds Park

BEST BIKING TRAIL
Erie Canalway Trail

Runners-Up: Genesee Riverway Trail | Irondequoit Bay Park West | Tryon Park

BEST PLACE TO SWIM OUTDOORS
Canandaigua Lake
Durand-Eastman Park | Hamlin Beach State Park | Ontario Beach Park

BEST PLACE TO CROSS-COUNTRY SKI
Mendon Ponds Park
monroecounty.gov/parks-mendonponds

Runners-Up: Durand-Eastman Park | Ellison Park | Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area

Marilyn Nolte, of the Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery,  visits the Sprague family plot. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • Marilyn Nolte, of the Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery, visits the Sprague family plot.

BEST GUIDED OUTDOOR TOUR
Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery tours of Mt. Hope Cemetery
Fomh.org
Take a stroll through the 196-acre grounds where Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, among other local icons, are laid to rest.

Runners-Up: Cummings Nature Center | Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery tours of Mt. Hope Cemetery | Genesee Country Village & Museum | Lower Falls Foundation tours | Sam Patch | Wild Wings

PHOTO BY RENÉE HEININGER
  • PHOTO BY RENÉE HEININGER

BEST TOBOGGANING HILL
Cobbs Hill
cityofrochester.gov/cobbshill

Runners-Up: Ellison Park | Highland Park |
Mendon Ponds Park

BEST FISHING SPOT
It’s a secret

Runners-Up: Genesee River | Irondequoit Bay | Oatka Creek

BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY
Adirondacks

Runners-Up: Finger Lakes | Ithaca | Skaneateles

BEST PLACE FOR STARGAZING
Cobbs Hill
cityofrochester.gov/cobbshill

Runners-Up: Mendon Ponds Park | Ontario Beach Park / the Charlotte Pier | Webster Park

Maurice "Mo" McKinney, 16, reaches for a dunk with an assist from his brother, Christian Harmon, 15, at Cobb's Hill Park. - PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA
  • PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA
  • Maurice "Mo" McKinney, 16, reaches for a dunk with an assist from his brother, Christian Harmon, 15, at Cobb's Hill Park.

BEST PICK-UP BASKETBALL
Cobbs Hill Park
cityofrochester.gov/cobbshill
Eager ballers will have no trouble finding a game from spring through fall at one of Rochester’s premier parks.

Runners-Up: Basil Park, Greece | The court at Atlantic and Merriman | Good News Church | Humboldt R-Center | Mt. Hope Avenue courts | Norton Village R-Center | YMCA

BEST PLACE FOR A LONG RUN OR WALK
(Don’t say a short pier)
Erie Canalway Trail

Runners-Up: Cobbs Hill | Genesee Riverway Trail |
Mendon Ponds Park

Looking for more Best of Rochester? Check out our critics picks
critics_picks.png

In This Guide...

  • Best of Rochester 2020: Critics' Picks

    In addition to the results from your “Best of” ballots, we’ve got CITY’s own picks for local places and activities that are worth spotlighting. Kate Stathis provides an overview of pizzerias named after “Tony,” Renée Heininger writes about outdoor activities that are conducive in the COVID era, and Leah Stacy highlights the nature wine pop-up store of Aldaskeller Wine Co.