Recently opened inside the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) in Rochester, NY, Brown Hound Downtown is the “sister” location of the long-established Brown Hound Bistro in Bristol, NY. However, I recently heard that the original location in Bristol, NY will be closing at the end of 2016. I first knew of Brown Hound when I was invited by my friend Sharon to attend the prestigious New York State of Mind benefit and awards gala at the New York Wine and Culinary Center. Awards were bestowed on those businesses in the state that promote New York food, beverages, agriculture and tourism. Brown Hound Bistro won the “Eat NY” award. Since then, I have been wanting to try it.
This new downtown restaurant is co-owned by Trish Aser, the chef/owner of the Brown Hound Bistro, and Joe Scardilla, whose family operated the Conesus Inn for many years. Recently, a friend and I visited the MAG to have a Mother’s Day brunch at Brown Hound Downtown. The brunch menu on this busy holiday was similar to their usual Sunday brunch. With that, I knew that I would get a taste of their regular brunch fare.
Free parking is available in the art gallery lots, with the closest spots located around the back, then enter via the back entrance. The grounds of the art gallery are always well kept, with immaculate landscaping of shrubbery, trees, and flower beds.
Nestled in the corner of the Memorial Art Gallery in the Neighborhood of the Arts (NOTA), this gem makes great use of the multi-level space. On the main level, you’ll find the hostess area along with a few small display cases – one containing baked goods and they other stocked with cold beverages (see photo). This is also where coffee and related beverages can be purchased. To the left of this reception area is a beautiful stone staircase leading to the seating areas in the upper level, overlooking the open atrium of the art gallery (elevators are available). I especially appreciated the architectural magnificence of this space. Although I have been to the gallery dozens of times for various events, this is the first time I truly noticed the gorgeous stone design throughout the building. The art gallery gift shop, on the opposite end of the main floor, provides a nice pre- or post-meal stop.
Upon entering the art gallery to get to the restaurant, I instinctively became quiet, as if entering a pricey art exhibit. After all, one doesn’t expect a full service restaurant to be located inside an art gallery – maybe a coffee stand or cafeteria, but not a restaurant.
As I made my way from the front entrance towards the back corner of the gallery, I noticed a sign pointing the way to my destination. It showed the hours of operation of Brown Hound Downtown.
I found the restaurant atmosphere to be “old-school chic,” in that most people were well-dressed and had an air of middle- to upper-class privilege. Granted, it could have been that on this Mother’s Day, everyone was especially well-heeled and on their best behavior. It reminded me of how people used to get “dressed up” to fly on an airplane. Still, it was a dignified, warm and inviting atmosphere.
Presented on an 8/12 x 14 sized sheet of brown paper, with black type font, The Brown Hound Downtown Mother’s Day brunch menu was simple, yet sufficient enough to offer a range of brunch choices. A few selected beverages were listed including Mimosas and Dirty Harrys. However, there was no listing of other available beverages (juice, soda, coffee, tea, milk). Soups for the day included Smoky Tomato (cup $4, bowl $6) and Baked French Onion (crock $6), while salads included a Roasted Beet Salad and a Bistro House Salad, each $9 plus optional add-ons of tofu, chicken or shrimp. Sides included House Cured and Smoked Bacon (two slices $4, three slices $5) and a basket of two Scones with Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam ($1 each scone).
Other than the “This Kid” (Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Bacon -$8) and the “That Kid” (Scrambled Eggs, Bacon and Toast – $8), the other seven brunch offerings ranged in price from $12-$16. They included sandwiches (Monte Cristo and other breakfast sandwiches), Ricotta Pancakes, “Old Fashioned” French Toast and Southern Fried Shrimp.
Sadly, there was no dessert menu. Instead, our waiter quickly rattled off a few sweet offerings, only to be interrupted by another server advising him which ones were no longer available. Some sort of written dessert menu would have been helpful, even if it was just a small table tent or written on a wall board. Also. we were told that the regular espresso and flavored coffee options weren’t being offered that day, which I thought was highly unusual for the mot popular brunch holiday of the year.
We each ordered a non-alcoholic beverage. I ordered Orange Juice and my brunch companion ordered Lemonade, made fresh in-house. More than anything else, I remember really liking the glassware served with my orange juice – stemless and oblong, it was easy to hold and it felt comfortable in my hand. Oh, and the juice was good too.
We started our brunch with a basket of two fresh Scones, with house made Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam. They were covered with a tart glaze (lemon?) and had a toasted exterior. Inside, they were light and airy, and very tasty. The rustic jam was sweet and thick, and didn’t last very long. I could have easily eaten a few more of those scones, but there was still our main brunch to eat.
My brunch companion ordered the Ricotta Pancakes ($12), described on the menu as “Tomino Acido ricotta, seasonal fruit, farmer ground buckwheat, Wohlschlegal maple butter and maple syrup.” I had to look up a few of these descriptions later, because I wasn’t familiar with them. For example, Tomino Acido Ricotta is a traditional style of fresh, soft cheese from the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. Rhindless, bright white, and shaped like a small log, it has a fresh, pleasant smell. It is ideal for spreading or served with a salad, or as a snack with crackers or bread, or a topping for bruschetta or grilled meat. Maple Butter is made from maple syrup, heated until it reaches the consistency of a thick spread.
At first, I thought that the Ricotta Pancakes had chocolate chips in them, but instead, those were fresh berries – see the photo below. My friend said that they were really good and in fact, delicious, noting that they were light and fluffy. I agreed with her that the portion was quite generous.
She also ordered a side of House Cured and Smoked Bostrum Bacon, which was one of the highlights of this brunch. I found out later that Bostrum Farms is located in Stanley, NY and was pleased to know that Brown Hound Downtown uses local vendors. The bacon slices were very thick and wide – much more substantial that a strip of store-bought bacon. Also, this bacon tasted liked it was super smoked! Thanks to my brunch companion for sharing this treat with me!
After some serious consideration, I ordered the Country Bistro Benedict ($14), described on the menu as, “Cheddar-chive biscuit, all-natural country ham, fried Timber Buck Maple eggs, spicy hollandaise, home-grown chives, side of homefries.” You can see from the photo below that there was a lot of hollandaise sauce on this dish – way too much for me. It was very rich, so a little really would have gone a long way. Also, I’m not sure why it was described as spicy, because I didn’t detect any heat in it. I am guessing that the eggs used in the sauce were organic. In my limited experience with organic eggs, I have noticed (and been told) that they feature yolks that are more gold/orange in color, rather than yellow. Timber Buck Maple is the small, family farm who sourced the eggs.
The Cheddar-chive biscuit was delicious – light and tasty. The egg was cooked over easy, so that the yolk, when broken, seeped into the hollandaise, making it even more rich. I really liked the potato homefries, with their crusty outside and creamy inside. Overall, a rich and decadent brunch dish.
Before we were seated, I chatted with a gentlemen who manned the host station. I assume that he is one of the owners, Joe, although I didn’t ask his name. He told me that the previous night, they hosted a high school prom in the upstairs ballroom. He explained that the restaurant has that space, as well as the dining area upstairs and the attached bar area. I also inquired about their grand opening party a few nights before. He beamed as he told me about the overflow crowd that filled the room. He was excited about the prospect of reaching a new clientele in the downtown area. I enjoyed speaking with him, as his enthusiasm was contagious.
During brunch, our waiter was friendly, eager and very efficient. He quickly took our drink order, answered our questions about the menu, and checked back on us many (too many?) times. In the midst of our meal, the chef/owner, Trish Aser, stopped by to thank us for visiting. She was pleasant and genuine and I was thrilled to meet her.
I was impressed with the beautiful venue. The food was also a treat, being somewhat more elevated than your average Sunday brunch spot. Partly due to it’s classy location inside the art gallery and partly due to it’s sophisticated menu, it’s not the type of place you are going to just pop in to, for a casual snack while out running errands. However, I would recommend Brown Hound Downtown for a nice day or evening out with friends or family or for a special occassion. Also, while there is still time before the original location closes at the end of 2016, stop into The Brown Hound Bistro, in Bristol, NY.
If you go:
Brown Hound Downtown
500 University Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607
Website: https://mag.rochester.edu/restaurant/ and http://www.brownhoundbistro.com/
- Lunch: Wed-Fri
- Brunch: Sat-Sun: 10am – 2pm
- Dinner: Thurs-Fri: 5pm – 8pm
- Bakery: Wed-Sun
Cuisine: “fresh, local, seasonal, sustainable”
Meals Served: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner (limited hours), Snacks
Alcoholic Beverages: liquor license expected June 1, 2016 (beer/wine available now)
Children’s Menu: No
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Handicap Accessible: Elevators available
Attire: like you’re meeting your significant others’ parents
Requires Reservations: recommended but not required
Table Service: Yes
Take Out: Yes
Outdoor Seating: No
Parking: Free and plentiful in adjacent lot of the Memorial Art Gallery
Valet Service: No
Bar Seating: Separate bar area not yet available for patron use
Coat Check: available in the Art Gallery
Date opened: this location December, 2015
Date visited: Sunday, May 8, 2016 for Mother’s Day Brunch