Welcome to Rochester! (Or, if you went to high school here and decided to stick around: Thanks for staying!) You'll be spending much of your newly discovered, intoxicating free time exploring your campus, studying hard, and all that jazz. But once you've settled in a bit, don't be afraid to step outside that collegiate bubble. The Greater Rochester area is big, beautiful, and offers an absurdly wide range of activities. And just like any other city, we have our own little cultural quirks and in-jokes that might confuse you at first. Allow us to dispel the myths and clear up the confusion with this list of common Rochesterica that's not so common to out-of-towners.
315 Land: Most of the Rochester area falls under the 585 area code. But certain outliers, like Waterloo, have 315 phone numbers. Rochesterians generally regard these people with a mixture of fear, loathing, and pity.
A Street: Short for Alexander Street, Rochester's Ground Zero for late-night revelry. There you'll find numerous hip bars, nightclubs, and restaurants and even more 20- and 30somethings. You'll also find vendors selling "street meat," a popular late-night snack.
Abbott's: A Rochester institution. We don't do ice cream. We don't do frozen yogurt. We do frozen custard, and for many in the community Abbott's is where it's at.
Anthony, Susan B.: The pioneering suffragist is a local hero, and her body is buried in Mt.HopeCemetery. The area of the city where she lived has been designated a historic preservation district in her honor.
Avon: Not a cosmetics company, but little town south of Geneseo off Route 390. Pronounced "AH-vawn," not "AY-von."
Charlotte: The lakefront area north of the city. Pronounced "shar-LOTT," not "CHAR-lette."
Chili: A town southeast of the city; if you're at the airport, you're practically in Chili. Now here's the tough one: it's "CHY-lye," not "CHILL-ee." Think that stupid ball-tossing game, not Mexican.
Douglass, Frederick: The prominent African-American author, orator, and abolitionist lived in Rochester, and his body is buried in Mt.HopeCemetery.
Eastman: A prominent Rochester name that you'll find attached to the Eastman Theatre, the Eastman School of Music, the George Eastman House, etc. George Eastman invented roll film and with it created a photographic empire. His company, Eastman Kodak, is still based in Rochester.
Erie Canal: Remember back in second grade, how you had to make those dioramas of the building of the Erie Canal? Well, the once-proud waterway that allowed upstate New York to flourish in the 19th century still exists --- kind of --- and its remnants are all over Rochester. The portion that once ran through the city continues to exist, but was moved southward to Fairport, Pittsford and the southern portion of the city and then goes west.
Fast Ferry: Once upon a time, Rochester had a ferry boat that sailed from the Charlotte across LakeOntario to our friendly, fabulous neighbors to the north, Toronto. It was big, it was much-ballyhooed, it was very, very expensive, and it went belly-up. We try not to speak of it (although we'll be paying for it for years).
FlowerCity: Our nickname, based in part on all the gorgeous foliage we have come spring, best exemplified by Highland Park (an enormous outdoor arboretum --- great for jogging!) and the Lilac Festival, which occurs every year in May. Fun fact: we used to be the FlourCity, since flour was one of our big exports back in the day.
Garbage plate: A uniquely Rochester creation --- you are not truly a Rochesterian until you've consumed one. Take some grilled meat and smother it in sauces and side dishes of your choice --- macaroni salad, fried potatoes, etc. --- and mix it all together on a big ol' plate. There are many, many derivations of the garbage plate, but the original comes from Nick Tahou's.
Geiger, Teddy: The teen popster emerged from the local scene and scored some VH-1 airtime this summer with his hummable ditty "Confidence" and was featured on the short-lived CBS show Love Monkey.
Highways:Rochester's highway system can be confusing, what with all the loops and route numbers ending in -90 (390, 490, 590, and regular ol' 90, a.k.a. the Interstate). Here are the basics that you need to know:
• Route 104 travels east and west, connecting the Greece and Webster suburbs north of the city near LakeOntario.
• Route 490 also travels east and west, through the city. Heading east will take you to Nazareth and St. John Fisher.
• The Inner Loop encircles the downtown area, and briefly overlaps with 490.
• Route 590 runs north to south to the east of the city, including through Irondequoit, Brighton, etc. Head south for RIT and MCC.
• Route 390 runs north to south, from the lake down into LivingstonCounty, etc.
Hoffman, Philip Seymour: The Oscar-winning actor (Capote, Boogie Nights, Mission: Impossible III) was born in the Rochester suburb of Fairport and is one of the area's favorite sons. If you happen to meet him, don't forget to bring up his fine, fine work in Patch Adams.
Hot sauce: A signature local condiment that's a bit of a misnomer. While hot sauce is spicy, it's more akin to a zippy spaghetti sauce than, say, Tabasco. It typically comes loaded with ground beef, and is used to top burgers, chicken, whatever. We have it on good authority that God tops his white hots with hot sauce.
Hots: What you call a "hot dog" we call "hots." And we have two kinds: "red hots" are the typical beef wieners Mom cut up in your mac 'n' cheese when you were 5; "white hots" are their albino cousins, made from pork and packing a somewhat different taste. (In some places, they're called "coneys.") Rochesterians are fiercely devoted to their white hots, and if it's not Zweigle's it doesn't matter.
J-Mac: Short for Jason McElwain; the autistic area teen created a media sensation in early 2006 when he scored a series of three-point shots at the end of a high school basketball game. He won the ESPY Award for Best Sports Moment over Kobe Bryant and is soon to have his story turned into a motion picture partially funded by Magic Johnson. You'll be hearing a lot about this kid. Sorry!
The Lake: Yep, we have one. A big one! LakeOntario, one of the Great Lakes, is about a 10-minute drive from downtown. Check out the beaches and the boardwalk, and wave hello to our friendly Canadian neighbors.
The Little:Rochester's independent cinema. It's located on East Avenue and features five screens with the latest edgy and foreign flick fare. Also has a café and bistro; great place for a date.
Pop: You know Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and that stuff you call "soda"? That's not soda. That's called "pop." "Soda" is what you used to make ice cream floats, etc. We're pretty serious about this stuff.
Rah-Cha-Cha: Slang term for Rochester, based on our Minnesota-esque, somewhat nasally accent.
Salt potatoes: Another uniquely upstate New York food item, salt potatoes are a popular summertime side dish in which tiny baby potatoes are boiled in salt water and then served hot with an abundance of butter and salt. Kiss your arteries goodbye!
Strong: You'll find this name on several prominent local structures, most notably UofR's StrongMemorialHospital and Strong --- The National Museum of Play. The Strongs are a notable Rochester family that made a fortune as one of the earliest leaders of the Eastman Kodak Company.
Subway: You might hear tell of the Rochester subway. It's not an urban legend. Rochester did actually have a working subway system in the mid-20th century, until it closed in 1956. The city has the dubious distinction of being one of the few American cities to ditch the popular public transportation system.
Wegmans: Wegmans is not a grocery store. It is God's Only Grocery Store. In 2005, Fortune magazine named the local chain the No. 1 company to work for in the nation, and this year it came in at No. 2. But you don't care about that. What you care about is: 1) Wherever you live, there is a Wegmans near you; 2) You can get anything you want there, from avocadoes to stuffed pork chops to an iced chai latte. The Pittsford store is the mothership, with a patisserie (try the meatball cookies), sit-down, cooked-to-order seafood station, and more.
Winter: In Rochester, snow starts falling around Halloween and doesn't really stop until Easter --- maybe even Mother's Day. Hope you packed your parka!