Life » Restaurant News

The Spirit Room revels in Rochester lore


Rochester has an intriguing spooky side. You've probably heard the stories about the Lady in White, the haunted stacks of the Rundel Memorial Library, or the Fox Sisters. The partners behind The Spirit Room (139 State Street) are interested in the spiritual side of Rochester lore and have created a space downtown that celebrates it. "We wanted to pay Rochester the homage it deserves," says Luc Thiers, who is one of the partners and also serving drinks behind the bar.

The Spirit Room is a partnership between poets Rachel McKibbens and Jacob Rakovan, Thiers, Emily Rose Kahn-Sheahan, and Bouty Chanthavisinh. McKibbens and Rakovan have hosted Poetry & Pie, a monthly poetry showcase and potluck, at their residence for the last six years and will be moving it to The Spirit Room. You may also know Rakovan from his position behind the bar at The Daily Refresher.

The State Street space used to house Tajze Wine and R&B Lounge, and significant renovations have been made (with a lot of help from friends), including installing a new copper-top for the bar. The décor features items that McKibbens and Rakovan have collected over the years — old photographs line the walls, seating areas are filled with antique furniture — it definitely evokes another era. Some of the drinks are served in tea cups and mugs, harkening back to the speakeasies of the prohibition era. There is also a "Wall of Spirits" where patrons can place photographs of departed loved ones as a way of paying tribute.

The Spirit Room will be serving Southern comfort food, with menu items like shrimp and grits, gumbo, and Po' Boys. Thiers used to cook in New Orleans, and Rakovan is from Appalachia. The bar program is a mash-up of styles from Rakovan and Thiers. "Jacob is well-versed in the classics, while I tend to favor more fruity drinks with too many ingredients," says Thiers.

The current featured cocktail is the Bitter Apparition ($10), a combination of gin, egg white, lime, and Pimento Dram (which has an allspice flavor). The cocktail is finished by spraying black walnut bitters over the stencil of an eye. A limited beer and wine selection is also available, including Genny. Glen Edith cold brew is on draft and The Spirit Room will be significantly expanding the coffee and tea program going forward.

The main function of the space, however, is to promote inclusion and hospitality. "We want to make sure people from all walks of life have a place here," Thiers says. Whether that takes the form of poetry readings, impromptu jam sessions, performance art, or just having a drink at the bar.

The Spirit Room is located at 139 State Street, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. There is street parking as well as a parking lot behind the building that is available after 5 p.m.

Quick bites

Oktoberfest celebrations are continuing into October.

Dragonfly Tavern (725 Park Avenue) will host Parktoberfest on Saturday, September 30, from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. The event will feature live music all day and traditional German food.

Fairport Oktoberfest will take place on Friday, October 6, and Saturday, October 7, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., at 6 North Main Street in Fairport, and will include German food, drinks, music, and dancing.

Rohrbach's Buffalo Road Brewpub (3859 Buffalo Road) will hold its Oktoberfest on Tuesday, October 10, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Reservations are $45 per person and include a five-course meal and beer pairing. The same event will take place at the Rohrbach Beer Hall (97 Railroad Street) on Tuesday, October 17, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. All reservations must be made by October 4. Call 594-9800 or visit to book.

September 29 is National Coffee Day, and Hart's Local Grocers (10 Winthrop Street) will be celebrating with free coffee. The first 100 people to walk in the door after the store opens at 7 a.m. will receive a free 8-ounce coffee.

I-Square (400 Bakers Park) will host its annual Fall Festival on Saturday, September 30, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The event will feature live music from Old Time Hoedown, Mystic Stew, and Ruckus Juice Jug Stompers, as well as games, craft beer tasting, and a cocktail contest.

Friends of Strong Memorial Hospital will host a beer tasting event at Three Heads Brewery (186 Atlantic Avenue) on Saturday, October 14, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $35 and the event will feature beer and food pairing stations, acoustic music by Alphonso Williams, and a silent auction. All proceeds will benefit patient care. Purchase tickets at


Vesta's Roman Hearth (274 North Goodman Street) in Village Gate has closed.

Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to