An unusual city that acts as both the medical and aviation hub of the Midwest, Minnesota’s third largest city Rochester boasts a dining scene that is equally as eclectic. From the finest seafood and classic American cuisine to tapas with a Midwestern twist and seasonal French fare, our updated guide to Eating Out in Rochester will guide you towards the best restaurants the city has to offer.
Situated within the Centrestone Plaza Hotel, Twigs Tavern and Grille is a beautiful restaurant serving an eclectic menu full of global flavours that resides in a stylish, warm space. Rustic design elements like sleek hardwood floors, stone fireplaces, leather seating and light fixtures made from branches complement the picturesque patio area, complete with its own stream. But chic surroundings and diverse fare isn’t all Twigs has to offer – after owner Michelle Salz was diagnosed with coeliac disease Twigs set about creating its own gluten-free kitchen and menu, which features items like its award-winning ahi taco bowl. Other non-gluten-free dishes include the Applewood smoked bacon meatloaf with mashed potatoes, onion cream sauce and seasonal vegetables.
A restaurant serving the very best freshly prepared fish and shellfish, Pescara, which gets its name from an Italian word meaning ‘abounding with fish’, is the perfect dining destination for lovers of all things seafood-related. The award-winning restaurant was the recipient of the Best Restaurant title in Rochester Magazine’s 2013 Awards and ships in its fresh, sustainable and line-caught fish from across the world six days a week. Chef Anthony Pester, a graduate of Minneapolis’ Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, creates tempting dishes like grilled salmon with baby bok choy, snap peas, red chilli, carrot, scallion and a miso essence.
Located in downtown Rochester, 300 First is an upmarket eatery established by the Creative Cuisine Company that specializes in upscale American fare focusing on steaks, burger and fresh fish dishes. Featuring a classy interior, the sophisticated restaurant beckons diners to relax in its sumptuous, deep cushioned booths while they watch their meals being prepared by talented chefs in 300 First’s open kitchen. Menu highlights include the locally raised bavette steak served with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables, and the pistachio-crusted swordfish with rum-spiked sweet potatoes, grilled pineapple and a coconut-lemongrass sauce. If you have room after such hearty fare, try an indulgent dessert like its warm double chocolate bread pudding.
A much-loved restaurant, Chester’s Kitchen and Bar has been the recipient of various accolades including Rochester Magazine’s Best Restaurant of 2011 and Taste of Rochester’s Golden Fork Best Overall Taste and Presentation Award for its banana cream pie dessert in the same year. From its upmarket and contemporary interior the restaurant’s talented chefs Scott Foster and Derek offer all-American classics with global flavours, like the brie cheese curds appetizer served with a lingonberry ketchup, and the slow-smoked, chargrilled baby back BBQ ribs entrée with campfire beans, coleslaw and French fries. Post-dinner, guests can relax in Chester’s bar with one of its many wines, martinis or craft cocktails.
Not one for the vegetarians, John Hardy’s Bar-B-Q is a meat lovers’ paradise offering Southern-style BBQ fare. Quite the historical culinary institution in Rochester, the restaurant’s doors were first opened back in 1972 by namesake John Hardy Jr, who specialised in barbecued ribs cooked over cherry and apple woods accompanied by his own perfected BBQ sauce recipe. Though Hardy passed away in 1986, his legacy lives on in the restaurant’s delicious menu, which includes appetisers like nachos topped with baked beans, cheese sauce, jalapenos, onions and smoked pork, and classic barbecue fare like whole smoked chicken and John Hardy Bar-B-Q’s signature shredded pork.
Zzest Market and Café is an interesting combination of speciality artisan grocery store and restaurant, which it is transformed into a restaurant at night. Focusing on small batch, handmade produce Zzest Market and Café uses and sells locally sourced ingredients wherever possible and its well-stocked store gives the café a unique attribute – a pantry with a stockpile of over 200 fresh, tasty ingredients. Pop into Zzest’s café where the executive chef and his team offer a menu featuring dishes like lobster roll with cucumber, celery, harissa spice and lemon mayo before buying a few of your favourite ingredients from the store which includes artisan cheeses, chutneys, breads and honeys and a charcuterie counter.
A vibrant and cosmopolitan ambience combined with a contemporary American menu focusing on fresh fish and seafood make City Café one of downtown Rochester’s premier destinations for a relaxing evening with great food. With the highest quality seafood flown in, City Cafe’s menu includes tempting appetisers like Prince Edward Island mussels in a white wine and garlic sauce, and mouth-watering mains like the seafood stew – sautéed fresh mussels, clams, shrimps and fresh fish in a creamy tomato sauce flavoured with fresh herbs and spices. The restaurant itself is as much a delight as its menu with a warm, inviting vibe and a lovely outdoor dining room nestled between two buildings and illuminated by twinkling lights.
If rustic comfort food, live music and craft beers in a lively and stylish restaurant is your idea of a perfect evening then head on down to The Redwood Rooms – a restaurant and located on Rochester’s bustling 1st Avenue. With an interior that mixes traditional pub-style elements and contemporary design like exposed ductwork, The Redwood Room’s friendly, fun vibe has seen it awarded the Best First Date Place in the Rochester Magazine Readers’ Poll multiple times. The Redwood Rooms’ menu encompasses contemporary American cuisine and European flavours with starters like artichoke, parmesan and green onion pate, and entrees including fresh Atlantic salmon flavoured with rosemary and garlic on rice with a creamy dill sauce.