Best "keep it coming" burger

The Sheridan Burger at Sheridan's Pub

The Sheridan Burger - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • The Sheridan Burger

It's difficult to decide which component of The Sheridan Burger is my favorite. Is it the warm mashed potatoes that sit atop that delicious grilled patty? The tangy barbecue sauce? Or the gooey cheddar cheese? Maybe it's the crispy onion straws that finish the whole thing off, adding a satisfying crunch to every bite. It might be the fact that the bun is lightly toasted — the perfect addition to what's already a mouthwateringly satisfying mix of textures. My burgers don't need fancy, high-end ingredients to win me over (not that there's anything wrong with that). I'm not a foie gras or truffle oil kind of guy, so this sort of straightforward, well-made burger — a specialty of Sheridan's Irish Pub (1551 Mount Hope Avenue, — is where it's at for me. Regardless of what specific element it is that pushes the whole thing over the top, the end result is the one burger in town that I find myself craving more than any other. Actually, I'm pretty sure it's those crunchy onion straws.


Food trend most deserving to die in a grease fire

The add-on egg

  • Egg!

There's an epidemic in the food world and it's hit Rochester hard: the add-on egg.

Sunnyside up, fried, or poached, eggs are invading dishes that can stand alone, deliciously, without the addition of tender whites and runny yolks. Put a bird on it? Nope! Just throw on an egg.

Eggs are everywhere, topping burgers, salads, poultry,and kimchi. In Rochester, they're on the menus at The Revelry, Blu Wolf Bistro, Zeppa Bistro, 2Vine, and Good Luck. Outside of the city limits, you'll find them at Next Door, Upstairs Bistro, and Atlas Eats.

Of course there are other food trends. Bacon has been popular for the better part of a decade. Pork belly is riding a five year high. Kale has become so ubiquitous that called it a "basic bitch." Sure, any of these ingredients can legitimately add interest to a dish. But all too often, they're added solely to render offerings more fashionable and more expensive. And eggs are the latest way to get that done.

 So let's just call it like it is: The add-on egg is a food trend that's passed its expiration date.


Best way to fill up on $8

SEA Restaurant's pho

Pho at Sea Restaurant - FILE PHOTO
  • Pho at Sea Restaurant

Ramen may dominate the noodle scene but the Vietnamese dish pho is also worth your time. The noodle bowl is served up with basil, bean sprouts, lime, and Thai chili peppers on the side so you can season it to your liking. Oh, and don't forget the Sriracha. SEA Restaurant — with locations at 741 Monroe Avenue and 1675 Mt. Hope Avenue, serves up the seemingly bottomless noodle dish with little flair, but big results. No matter the variety you choose — I recommend the Brisket and Rare Steak — you'll always pay under $8, and chances are you will have a meal for the next day in your leftovers. Aside from pho, SEA has plenty of other cheap, tasty treats to offer — fried squid, anyone? — and has plenty for the more daring of us to try, such as salty plum soda and egg soda. Is SEA Restaurant worth a try? Pho sho.


Best place to get a below the belt rub down

Luv Yu Foot Spa

  • Feet!

At Luv Yu Food Spa (638 South Avenue; you can sink into an oversized chair, soak your feet in warm water dotted with flower petals, and get a 60-minute leg and foot massage for only $28 on your first visit. (It's an extra $2 for the lotion upgrade.)

Luv Yu specializes in reflexology, which holds that each part of the body has reflex points on the feet, hands, and head. By rubbing, tapping, and applying pressure to these areas, health and well-being is promoted throughout. Even if you don't believe in this form of alternative medicine, a session will leave you feeling relaxed and reenergized.

Know before you go that A) it's not the fanciest spot and B) there are some things that may take some getting used to. There will probably be a few people seated next to you and it can be difficult to fully relax. Many of the employees aren't native English speakers which can make it a little difficult to communicate. The massage ends with an upper thigh kneading that can be uncomfortably close to your Fruit of the Looms.

But I don't care.  A good foot rub is hard to find, and the foot rubs at Luv Yu are great.


Best place to buy stuff to put stuff in

Bags Unlimted

In the age of cloud-based photo storage, Amazon MP3 purchases, and streaming Netflix to an iPad, what physical objects we still possess have become even more precious. That's why Bags Unlimited — purveyors of "collection protection supplies" — are here to help you keep your goods in tip-top shape.

In business for over 35 years, the unassuming brick warehouse at 7 Canal Street — a block from the Main Street Nick Tahou's — may not look like much from the outside, but inside it contains a smorgasbord of packaging delights. Looking for polyethylene bags to house magazines and booklets? There are at least 50 different sizes available. Found some loose reel-to-reel tapes in your attic? You can choose between individual cases or multiple-reel storage containers. Film cleaner? Magic Card boxes? Stamp-collecting mounts? Sleeves for View-master discs? Bags Unlimited has your wildest ephemera-storage needs covered. The shop even custom-prints bags and t-shirts of all sizes, if you need extra customization.

The overwhelming inventory is best viewed on the categorically-arranged website ( and a print catalog is also available. While Bags Unlimited ships all over the world, locals get the added option of picking up orders in person and talking with one of the friendliest front-desk staffs in town.


The warehouse interior at Bags Unlimited. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • The warehouse interior at Bags Unlimited.

Best wearable Rochester pride

T-shirts by Transit Apparel and The Press Villains

A Transit Apparel t-shirt. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • A Transit Apparel t-shirt.

As a lifelong Rochesterian, it's hard to resist showing off my hometown pride in the form of some sweet ROC City branded apparel, and naturally, I try my best to look stylish while I do it. While a simple "Rochester, NY: Est. 1834" is all well and good, I need my Flour City pride to be a little more unique. That's why I'm digging the t-shirts being put out by Transit Apparel and The Press Villains.

Inspired by the Rochester subway, graphic designer Matt Rogers created Transit Apparel to perfectly blend Rochester pride with a sense of history. Every shirt in the line highlights the name of a specific stop along the former subway's path, working through the major neighborhoods of our fair city. And each location is paired with a symbol that captures the essence of that particular neighborhood. Another series of shirts feature several of the city's many nicknames, and more locations will be added as each new run of shirts is released.

Meanwhile, the shirts made by designer Derek Crowe, as The Press Villains, make inventive use of the two most memorable buildings in the Rochester skyline, depicting the top portions of the Times Square and First Federal buildings tearing themselves away from their bodies to reveal that they're actually spaceships in disguise (a brilliantly subtle callback to the 80's-era IRBIR alien, perhaps?). It's ingeniously weird and I love it.

Transit Apparel can be found at a variety of craft fairs throughout the upcoming holiday season, as well as online at The Press Villains' t-shirts can be purchased online through its Etsy store,


Best empowerment of the kiddos

The Seedfolk Store

Citizens who live in "food desert" areas of Rochester suffer from very limited access to fresh and nourishing food. The Seedfolk Store (540 West Main Street;, located in Rochester's historic Susan B. Anthony neighborhood, is a business venture under the auspices of ProsperRochester, Inc. (a non-profit community engagement organization in southwest Rochester), which not only offers fresh produce and healthy products in an area identified by New York State as a food desert, but also provides community-focused job opportunities and entrepreneurship training to youth in the neighborhood, emphasizing leadership in the local food system.

The name of the store comes from "Seedfolks," a short children's novel by Paul Fleischman, in which a diverse set of residents work together to convert an empty lot into a community garden. Lisa Barker, who is youth and community program director at The Seedfolk Store, has twice organized and directed a performance of "Seedfolks" with Rochester youth.

The store is also an official SWEM (South West Ecumenical Ministries) Food Cupboard location, and Fidelis Care is one site each Friday, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., to assist residents with free and low-cost health care enrollment. The Seedfolk Store will eventually include a shared kitchen to allow residents to start catering or similar businesses.


Best not-really-local issue that everyone freaked out about

Jon Bon Jovi moving the Bills to Toronto

  • The Buffalo Bills.

You'd better Billieve we're not going to let anyone take the Bills out of Western New York without going down in a blaze of glory. (I'm so sorry.) And why would we? They are technically the only team that is based in New York State, since the Jets and Giants call New Jersey home. Plus, I love the possibility of actually seeing Fred Jackson in person at an M&T Bank. With Sammy Watkins on our roster and a perpetually renewed sense of hope, this is — say it with me now — our year, Bills fans. Circle the wagons. When the Bills inevitably do just poor enough to miss the playoffs but just well enough to lose out on a prime draft pick, we'll complain. But all will be forgotten when the team makes its annual pilgrimage to Rochester (and the original Wegmans) for training camp. We don't mind that the Bills give love a bad name, Jon Bon Jovi. We want to keep them close.

Ultimately, Terry and Kim Pegula, owners of the Buffalo Sabres, bought the team in early September. So the Bills will remain where they are for the foreseeable future.


Best places to get your paddle wet within an hour’s drive of Rochester

Black Creek, Irondequoit Creek, Oak Orchard Creek, and Hemlock Lake

One of Rochester’s great assets is that we are blessed with abundant sources of water for our recreational pursuits. While the nearby Great Lake, Irondequoit Bay, and the mighty Genesee are obvious examples, going a bit beyond the city limits, our region is spotted with smaller, more secluded bodies of languid water that allow kayakers and canoeists to escape to calm, idyllic surroundings, reminiscent of places more wild and remote — all of them essentially free of large motorized craft.

Launch near the Genesee and traverse Black Creek’s gentle twists and turns, watching for logs with sunning turtles, or further west in Churchville Park and paddle toward the richly bio-diverse Bergen Swamp. Put in by Empire Boulevard and paddle south toward Ellison Park through a labyrinth of reeds and rushes populated by swans on Irondequoit Creek. Head west to Knowlesville Road in Oakfield, launch your boat, and enjoy the silence on Oak Orchard Creek as you paddle through the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge where waterfowl abound and humans are scarce. Pristine Hemlock Lake, with absolutely no development on its shores, is the shimmering gem of the Finger Lakes and always fills me with an incomparable sense of tranquility. Be sure to also explore Springwater Creek, which feeds Hemlock at its southwestern corner.


Best hidden gem for fall fun

Hurd Orchards

If you drove all the way down Ridge Road, past the chain restaurants and retail stores, you'll find Hurd Orchards (17260 Ridge Road, Holley;, a family-owned farm that is heaven on Earth for fall enthusiasts. When you first arrive, take a minute to peruse their picturesque market teeming with fresh produce and homemade preserves, vinegars, and other goodies. That is, if you can draw your eyes away from the breathtaking arrangements of dried flowers hanging from the ceiling.

When you've finished strolling around the market, grab a basket and head to one of Hurd's many orchards for everyone's favorite fall activity: apple picking. Fill up a basket or five before retreating inside the family's 200-year-old barn for a snack. Hurd has set up a small café this fall, where you can enjoy fresh baked apple pie, honey oatmeal bread, apple butter and more. In addition to all this, Hurd Orchards also offers a full calendar of classy affairs such as luncheons, tastings and teas from now through December.


Best ... disappearing act

David Gantt

David Gantt - FILE PHOTO
  • David Gantt

Actually, you could just as easily call State Assembly member David Gantt's performance at the Monroe County Democratic Committee's organizational meeting in September a "reappearing" act. Right before committee members voted to elect a new party leader to succeed Joe Morelle, Gantt got up and walked out of the room — taking a large number of black Dems with him.

Gantt said something about the party not giving black Dems a fair shake — though it's not always easy to figure out his true motives. Morelle says that nothing seems to make Gantt happy, and that the only thing you can be sure of when you're dealing with him is that whatever you're doing is wrong.  

Maybe Gantt's stunt was a stand on principle, like he said. Or maybe it was a power play; with Morelle out of the picture, Gantt saw an opportunity to remind everyone that he's still there and that he still wields considerable influence.

Now, on the cusp of a big election year, Democrats have a leader elected without the support of a key constituency and a party fractured along racial lines; the latter existed before Gantt's walkout, but his stunt sure didn't help.

Dave Garretson may have won the leadership, but it seems Gantt is setting the tone.


Best reasons for not hiring other actors

Spencer Christiano - FILE PHOTO
  • Spencer Christiano

Susan Hopkins, Peter J. Doyle, Spencer Christiano

One-person plays were a big, satisfactory part of Rochester's theater scene this fall. All three actors listed above gave first-rate performances: Hopkins revisited the delightful and touching role of Shirley Valentine for Blackfriars; Doyle knocked the character of Oscar Wilde out of the park in "Diversions and Delights;" and Spencer Christiano unraveled the mystery surrounding the death of a family member, and wondered about his place in that family, in "M.I.A." — which he also penned. These were all substantial evenings of theater, and we should also give a nod to directors John Haldoupis, Michael Arve, and ... Spencer Christiano.


Best arting-in-public

Vincent Massaro's yard

There are many homes in the Rochester area with gorgeous and impressive landscaping, but I'm particularly fond of strolling by the home and studio of Rochester-based artist Vincent Massaro.

The yard surrounding the subdued, dark green house, which stands at the corner of Canterbury and Harvard Streets, is populated not only with real and fake foliage, but also with Massaro's own whimsical animal sculptures, a playhouse, various figurines, gargoyles, totems, sculpted boulders, and bits of well-organized detritus, all visually connected by the flow of low walls, platforms, and pillars of artfully arranged bricks and stones.

Massaro's landscaping is so popular that it has its own RocWiki page. The work began after the epic Ice Storm of '91 resulted in tree debris being strewn about the yard, and is what the artist has called an extension of what he does inside the studio. The artist's work in the space follows the kind of everything-is-worthy, everything-is-useful, creative mentality that many of us could stand to consider more closely.


Best use of show tune superpowers

Janine Mercandetti and Carl Del Buono

Carl Del Buono and Janine Mercandetti in "The Last Five Years." - PHOTO COURTESY JCC CENTERSTAGE
  • Carl Del Buono and Janine Mercandetti in "The Last Five Years."

There are plenty of excellent belters in town, but Mercandetti and Del Buono achieved a remarkable double play in September, playing leads in "Jekyll and Hyde" for Webster Theatre Guild, while performing in "The Last Five Years" during the Rochester Fringe Festival. "The Last Five Years" was a large-scale, wall-of-sound musical and an intense, emotional two-character show (which they performed successfully at the JCC CenterStage last spring). They sailed through both ... and one hopes, got just a little rest afterwards before moving on to their next show.


Most versatile theater maven

Jean Gordon Ryon

As a dramaturg at Geva, Jean Gordon Ryon is often responsible for those interesting essays about the plays you can read in your program book. As a director, she has presented many excellent productions with the Irish Players, the Geriactors, and other companies, with Screen Plays' presentation of "The Man Who Came to Dinner" coming up. Whether she is involved with young actors or experienced scene-stealers, classic plays or brand-new work, Ryon has been an articulate and informed presence in Rochester's theater scene for years.


Best Competitive Endeavor Requiring Minimal Athletic Aptitude

Wiffle Rochester

What could be better than a game that transports you through the space-time continuum back to your childhood? The Wiffle Rochester League (, where such dreams go to thrive, every Thursday evening from late May through early August, recently completed its fourth summer season. Yes, this is the wiffle ball you remember from your younger days, only slightly more codified, with rules that are respected, but never debated — there are no umpires, only the honor system. Such is the vibe on Thursday evenings on the bucolic softball fields of Ellison Park, where in-game beer consumption seems no more out of place than a nasty curveball. Competitive, yes, but always with a dose of humility. How serious could you really be playing for such teams as Scared Hitless, Chuckin’ Mangiones, Belgian Wiffles, or White Pitches are Crazy?

While wiffle ball does require some decent hand-eye coordination, there is no base running, as ghost runners are used. Teams are composed of five players, all of whom comprise the batting order, but only three — one pitcher and two other fielders — play in the field at one time on defense. Playing in the Wiffle Rochester league is a tremendously enjoyable, invigorating yet relaxing, way to spend warm summer evenings on a team with friends and colleagues, striving to hit and field a jumpy perforated plastic sphere, but truly relishing the camaraderie and abundant positive energy.


Best exit ramp

Exit 13 on Interstate 490

490 East, headed towards Exit 13 - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • 490 East, headed towards Exit 13

Interstate 490 may not top any list of thrilling driving adventures, but the few ecstatic moments of Exit 13 certainly compensate. The adrenaline starts rising in the half-mile stretch before it, as eastbound drivers approaching downtown are treated to one of the best Rochester vistas expanding in full view. Soon a blur of green signs demands attention in every direction. That's the cue to get in the fast lane. The ominously named Exit 13 is the highway's only left exit — an oddity, a dipping portal through a moving M.C. Escher streetscape of stacked, incongruously angled stacked overpasses, all while the curve of the lane obscures where it's even headed.  Hug left and the rush continues clockwise on the Inner Loop, over the river and through the pumping heart of the city.


Best new ultra-hipster establishment

Pour Coffee Parlor

If you want to look cool on a first date, take the object of your affections to Park Avenue's newest coffee joint, Pour Coffee Parlor. With its white walls, chalkboard menu, minimalist décor, and food served on wooden planks, the place is an Instagrammer's dream. Grab your iPhones, slip on your overalls, don your beanies, and prepare to sip on some of the best coffee in the Rochester area. That's right — sip. Pour's coffee is serious business, and is definitely not the kind that you chug in the car on your way to work. Instead, park yourself on one of the parlor's benches with your Macbook, take a few photos of the stellar latte art, and get to work on writing that dissertation on a band I've never heard of.


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