Thursday, February 5, 2015

Comings & Goings

Written by Tyler

Much like a lot has changed in our own lives during our three-year hiatus, much has changed in the local restaurant landscape.

Most notably, the place that inspired us to begin this blog and the place we have turned into unapologetic shills for – General Hoock’s.

Shawn Hoock at his old location
on Buffalo Road in 2009.
(Courtesy: Facebook)
What we discovered as more or less a one-man band led by the General himself, Shawn Hoock, has changed several times since our first visit there five years ago this month.

In April 2012, Hoock left the Buffalo Road location his customers had come to know and love. He bounced around to several different locations throughout Gates in the ensuing two years – and while the food was as delicious as ever, Hoock just couldn’t seem to find a permanent home to cook and deliver his creations his own way.

Finally, in December 2014, after several short-lived attempts elsewhere, Hoock teamed up with Megan Rattray to form Shmeg’s Restaurant on the other end of Buffalo Road in Gates. Almost all of Hoock’s legendary creations remain on the menu – save for his pizza, or Magik Bread Pie – in a more spacious setting than his previous locations. We’ll get into more specifics in our upcoming review of Shmeg’s, but let’s just say the new place is dynamite.

Here’s a look at some of the other changes since we left you in fall 2011:

·         One of our favorite barbeque joints, Taste of Texas in Spencerport, is still open and going strong, but changed its name a couple years back to Texas Bar-B-Que Joint. It’s the same people and same delicious food, but changed its name because of a trademark issue with a restaurant in Houston. Drew, Joe, Amanda and I ate there just two nights ago, and it’s still the best in the west when it comes to the Q. It also now has a satellite location, the Outlaw Potato Shack, on West Ridge Road in Greece (Lowe’s Plaza), that serves the famous Outlaw Potatoes and a limited sandwich menu from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday.

·         Great Northern Pizzeria closed its Henrietta location in the last few weeks, as well as its Bushnell’s Basin location, but remains open in Brighton and has a new location on Mt. Hope Avenue near the new College Town development.
The Pizza Stop is moving a few doors
down from its longtime spot on
State Street in Downtown Rochester.
(File Photo/2011)

·         Arguably the top pizza place in Rochester, Pizza Stop, is moving a few doors down. It’s moving from its longtime downtown home at 123 State Street to a more spacious storefront at 131 State Street in the next week. Pizza Stop opened a second location on Ridgeway Avenue in Greece in November 2012. Also this week, Pizza Stop’s cousin Joe’s Brooklyn Pizza is opening a second location in the Perinton Square Mall.

·         Yumbo’s Southern Style Grill closed its two locations, in Greece and Downtown Rochester, sometime prior to March 2011, only to open a new location in the city on Lyell Avenue later that year. It closed again the following year but remained available for catering. It’s unclear whether Yumbo’s remains in the catering business. 

·         Zebb’s Deluxe Grill & Bar opened a fancy Greece location with much fanfare in 2011 but had less-than-stellar reviews (though not necessarily from us) and was closed within two years. Its original Rochester-area location in Brighton remains open.

·         Chilango’s Mexican Grill in Spencerport closed down temporarily in early 2013, before reopening as Wylie Chayote’s in April 2013 under a new partnership with Jerry Manley (formerly of Flour City Diner). The new venture was out of business by summer 2014.

·         DiRosato’s Pizza & Pasta at the corner of Elmgrove and Lyell roads in Gates closed in September 2011, shortly after our review, and reopened shortly thereafter as the fourth location of Caraglio’s Pizza.

·         BBQ Fred on North Greece Road had weird hours that I could never figure out, along with an ever-changing menu, and closed at some point. According to its website, it’s still available for catering, but who knows?

·         Lighthouse Diner in Spencerport closed, apparently sometime in 2012. Its location is now occupied by Rancho Viejo Mexican Restaurant.

Rochester's version of Buffalo's
world-famous Anchor Bar
didn't last long.
(Courtesy: Time Warner Cable News)
·         Here’s a wild one. The Anchor Bar, the world-famous birthplace of the chicken wing in Buffalo, had a Rochester location that was our first-ever stop for this blog (though not our first review). It opened in late 2009, but changed its name slightly and dropped its affiliation with the original Buffalo location in 2011 before closing in 2012. It’s now a MacGregor’s. A second Rochester-area Anchor Bar (unaffiliated with the Buffalo original) opened at Marketplace Mall in 2010, but was only open for two years. The Original Anchor Bar in Buffalo is still thriving, and has added locations at Eastern Hills Mall in Williamsville, Darien Lake, and Hamilton, Ontario.

·         Just within the last week, the Greece Ridge Family Restaurant was rebranded as Blue Ridge Grill. It’s run by the same family, but changed from a typical Greek family diner to a “casual gourmet” restaurant with beer and wine available. It still serves all three meals, and has a special Greek menu at dinner time.

Buffalo-based Mighty Taco opened
its first Rochester-area location in
Henrietta in 2012, for which I am grateful.
(Courtesy: Mighty Taco)
Those are the notable changes for the restaurants we have visited for RWG. There have been many more comings and goings in Western New York, obviously. For instance, the national chain Quaker Steak & Lube opened its first Rochester-area location in Gates for some reason, but had a similar trajectory of Doug Marrone’s stint with the Bills and recently closed. Popular Buffalo-based chain Mighty Taco opened its first Rochester-area location in Henrietta in 2012, and opened a second one on Ridgeway Avenue in Greece last year. It’s become my go-to option for fast food.

At any rate, things are always changing, and we’ll have plenty more comings and goings throughout the weeks, months and years we’ll try to keep you updated on. If we missed anything, feel free to let us know by commenting below. In the meantime, we’ll continue getting you caught up to speed on what’s changed in the last three years and what we’re focusing on now as we revitalize this blog. 

God bless.

Friday, January 9, 2015


691 Monroe Ave., Rochester
Visited Dec. 18, 2014
Written by Drew

I stumbled upon this greasy spoon location back in the summer, when my older brother Mike and his fiancée Isabella came up to visit from Charlottesville, Virginia. Dogtown has been a frequent stop for him – almost every time he comes north.

For whatever reason, I have had a negative connotation about this place until I went with him this summer. Now, every time he comes up to visit, I try to squeeze in sometime to grab a bite at Dogtown.

Located on Monroe Avenue, just seconds off Interstate 490, Dogtown occupies a small building, with a unique décor, tucked between two larger city houses. With enough room to sit about a dozen or so inside, and just as large of an outdoor patio space for those fair-weathered Rochester days, Dogtown is definitely quaint.

Upon walking in, a large menu will greet anyone who is unsure what exactly to get. After debating what to get in my inaugural trip, I ordered a Junkyard Plate (their version of the garbage plate). I have found that in my tenure with RWG, getting a garbage plate is a great way to sample the quality of the different items at each establishment.

When I order a garbage plate, I usually pick two burgers as my meat. My first Junkyard Plate, I deviated from the norm. I chose to get the split plate – a bed of home fries and French fries, topped with a cheeseburger patty (not a flat patty like many other local restaurants) and a popopen-style hot dog, covered in Dogtown’s unique (to the area) Cincinnati-style hot sauce. After taking the first few bites, I could say I had one of the best plates I had ever eaten.

This was my first experience with Cincinnati-style hot sauce, and if I had to describe it, I would compare it to chili, just without any of the beans. The sauce had an even heat to it, and I would
consider it to be hotter in spice than the typical run-of-the-mill Rochester hot sauce.

On my return trip, I decided to get another split plate. With a place that is called Dogtown, you have to at least have a hot dog in your meal. This split plate was as good as I remembered it.

The home fries Dogtown has are some of the best deep-fried home fries I have had. My only regret is not getting only home fries as the base of my plate. Dogtown's French fries were battered and deep fried. Isabella calls these type of fries "country club fries," a term that RWG will use to describe this style of potato from here on out.

An area which Dogtown falters is its lack of fountain drinks. Dogtown has a small (4-foot) beverage cooler where Pepsi products and a variety of other soft drinks. Not a big deal, but it does hinder the experience a little.

Mike's friend Kyle ordered a split plate as well, with a double order of home fries at the base  and the typical toppings of hot sauce, mustard and chopped onion.

Kyle poked fun at my inability to finish my meal. I typically don't eat a complete garbage plate, as the bottom layer happens to lack texture and become unappealing to me.

Matt, another one of Mike's friends, ordered one of Dogtown’s signature hot dogs, the Golden Retriever – a hot dog sitting between two slices of bacon, covered in melted cheddar cheese, along a side of country club fries. When I asked Matt how it was, he responded that the melted cheese was just as good as the hot sauce. It looked like his meal had the potential of becoming quite messy, but definitely something I think I would try someday.

The menu has an area just for specialty hot dogs, with more than two dozen different hot dogs all topped and served differently. Along with this is a large menu for vegetarian hot dogs.

Perhaps this is where my initial hostility came from. I am a red meat eater, while I am assuming many of the people who go here do not partake in that same luxury.

Mike ordered his regular at Dogtown, a veggie burger plate – two veggie burgers on a pile of home fries, covered in mustard, onions and a meatless chili sauce (which did have some beans mixed in). Mike exclaimed the meal was great and the veggie burger patties are different – better than a typical veggie burger. I will take his word on the quality of his meal.

Isabella ordered a veggie dog. Visually, it looked like a "real" hotdog and perhaps something I could have mistaken for the real thing. Her veggie dog sat aside an order of onion rings. I did not taste one, although she did offer. They looked like one of the best house-made onion rings I have seen. They had a large diameter to them, as well as being cut quite thick. This may be something I try on my next return visit.


Atmosphere: Unique décor, not a whole lot of seating inside, but roomy enough during the spring and summer months to sit out on the front patio. Not too far off 490, located practically  5 minutes away from anything downtown.

Service: Great service, very knowledgeable about the menu, quick turnaround for ordering to receiving your order. Everything can be made to order.

Food: High quality, a fair amount of quantity. Many differnt options for even the pickiest eaters. No soft drink fountain.

Value: Cheap, every meal is ordered separately from the sides (fries, onion rings, etc.), allowing for a low tab when it's all said and done.

Overall: A little far out of my way, but a great place to meet up with some buddies before a Red Wings game or any other type of downtown event. A great alternative to the Rochester-style hot sauce.

Grade: A-