Restaurant Review: Bristol Harbour Lodge and Golf Club (Canandaigua, NY)

cJjwLKDj_400x400You might know that Bristol Harbour is a golf club and a lodge, but did you know that they also have several dining venues within the resort? In addition to a casual eatery with a few gifts and trinkets available for purchase, they also feature a full-service dining room with both indoor and outdoor seating.  The spectacular views from the covered, outdoor patio will take your breath away.

Owners Todd and Laura Cook, purchased the resort for $9.6 million in January, 2016.  It includes an 18-hole championship golf course and marina, a 31-room hotel, a full-service restaurant and banquet facilities.  Since purchasing the property, they made widespread changes in staffing and completed a myriad of improvements to the facilities, in hopes of regaining the quality reputation the Ontario-county resort once enjoyed. I have visited the property twice – this review focuses on a Saturday afternoon visit for lunch in mid-July.

Surroundings

Located southeast of Rochester in Canandaigua, New York, Bristol Harbour is nestled in Bristol Hills.  Away from both the busy city and small town responsibilities, this gem is a hidden sanctuary for those who want to get away, but not too far away.  A substantial but not overly grand sign adorns the driveway entrance to this resort.  Visitors are treated to plenty of free and accessible parking,  just steps from the front door. The lodge is flanked by beautiful surroundings, with quaint cottages on one side and rolling golf-course greens on the other side.

Bristol Harbour Lodge, Courtesy: Bristol Harbour Laodge Facebook page
Bristol Harbour Lodge, Courtesy: Bristol Harbour Lodge Facebook page

I noticed a few golfers crossing the parking lot in their golf carts, as well as a few staff tending to golfers’ needs. There was no sign of valet parking, but I don’t think it was needed with such convenient spots available. The course didn’t look crowded, but that was no surprise in light of the 90+ degree day.

We parked and walked up to the lodge, built of wood with a history, no doubt. The entrance was outfitted with a long and narrow wooden roof with open sides, inviting visitors to come in.

Atmosphere

Upon entering the Bristol Harbour Lodge and Golf Club through two large sets of double doors, I noticed a small front desk to the left for check in/out, a small, casual eatery to the right, and the main restaurant straight ahead.  I liked the cultured yet informal feel of this lodge.  We were led through the dark indoor section of the restaurant through a set of glass doors, to get to the dining section on the terrace. With capacity for up to 80 people, this seating area was large and roomy. Although covered from direct sunlight and open to beautiful breezes, the heat of the day wafted through this open dining space. This outdoor space, and the adjacent Bristol Room, are perfect for celebrations, with a magnificent view of beautiful Canandaigua Lake.

Bristol Harbour View from Patio, overlooking wedding arch, Courtesy: Bristol Harbour Facebook page
Bristol Harbour View from Patio, Overlooking Wedding Arch, Courtesy: Bristol Harbour Facebook page
View from Bristol Harbour Outdoor Dining Patio, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
View from Bristol Harbour Outdoor Dining Patio, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Considered not only a golf resort, but also a place for special celebrations, we noticed a large group celebrating a birthday, while staff readied the adjoining room for a wedding. What appeared to be a golf foursome enjoyed lunch after their round.

Bristol Harbour Wedding Space, Courtesy: Bristol Harbour Facebook page
Bristol Harbour Outdoor Wedding Venue, Courtesy: Bristol Harbour Facebook page

From inside the terrace, you can see the gazebo.  Rows of white chairs awaited guests who would soon celebrate the bride and groom’s special day.  Look at that view – what a great venue!

The photo below is a snip from the live camera feed on the Bristol Harbour web site.  They describe it as follows:

“The camera overlooks Canandaigua Lake and the back lawn area of our property. This is the view guests will see when dining in our restaurant, during meetings hosted at Bristol Harbour, and during weddings and special events.”

Bristol Harbour Back Lawn View, Courtesy: www.bristolharbour.com/camera
Bristol Harbour Back Lawn View, Courtesy: http://www.bristolharbour.com/camera
Bristol Harbour Path to Gazebo, Courtesy: www.bristolharbour.com
Bristol Harbour Path to Gazebo, Courtesy: http://www.bristolharbour.com

Menu

The Bristol Harbour restaurant offers separate menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and wine. On this visit, we chose from the Lunch Menu, which featured soups, salads, deli sandwiches, wraps and a few hot “classics.”  Salads ranged from $7-$13, with the option to add chicken (+$7), salmon (+$9) or shrimp (+$9).  Variations included a Lodge Garden Salad, Wedge Salad, Roasted Beet Salad, Caesar Salad, Kale Salad and Cobb Salad.  Patrons can choose from a bowl ($5) or cup ($3) of the Soup of the Day or choose Lobster Bisque ($5 cup, $9 bowl) or French Onion Soup ($8 crock).  On this visit, the Soup of the Day was a White Bean and Tomato broth-based soup.

The lunch menu also featured a “Make Your Own” deli sandwich section, where you customize your sandwich with the meat, cheese, vegetables, sauce/condiments, and bread of your choice.  Variations included a Full Sandwich with choice of side ($9.50) or a Half Sandwich with a choice of either salad or soup ($9.50).  Other menu options included a variety of sandwiches and wraps, ranging in price from $10-$13, and served with chips or French fries.  I was happy to see that they also offered gluten-free bread, rolls and wraps.

I noted that the Breakfast Menu included a range of items from a-la-carte choices ($2.25 – $7.50 each) to plates, sandwiches and omelettes ($8-$16). The Dinner Menu was much more extensive (and expensive) and included soups, starters and tavern fare similar to the lunch menu, as well as entrees ranging in price from $20-$36, such as Filet Mignon, Strip Steak, Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Sautéed Shrimp and Scallops, Grilled Pork Chop, Pan Seared Chicken Breast.  The Dessert Menu included a selection of classics such as Creme Brulee, Chocolate Torte, Sundae, and Cheesecake, as well as specialty coffees and swanky after dinner drinks. The Wine Menu offered a dozen or so each of red and white wines by the glass or bottle, ranging from $6.50 per glass-$45 per bottle.

Food

A nice salad seemed like a great way to start this Saturday afternoon lunch. I ordered a Lodge Salad with my meal, but the waitress kindly advised that I could get a smaller side salad if desired, rather than ordering a full-size salad as a side. I thought that was a nice suggestion, so I ordered a Side Salad ($3.50) to accompany the Turkey Ciabatta Sandwich ($11).

Bristol Harbour Side Salad, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Bristol Harbour Side Salad, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The Side Salad was fresh and cold, just how I like my salads.  It was served with a variety of vegetables including romaine lettuce, cucumber wedges, sliced black olives, halved cherry tomatoes, slices of red onions and sliced mushrooms.  The only missing vegetable was a pepperoncini, but that is a forgivable offense.  The Italian dressing was tasty and not overly seasoned.  All in all, it was a pleasing side salad.

My Turkey Ciabatta Sandwich came with a side of French Fries and a fancy, white mini-bowl of ketchup. This was one of the more hearty sandwiches on the limited lunch menu.  It was served on a fresh ciabatta roll with sliced deli turkey, provolone cheese, crispy prosciutto, roasted red pepper pesto, and a slice of tomato and some lettuce (more for color than taste).  Foil-tipped tooth picks held it all together – yet another fancy touch.

Bristol Harbour Turkey Ciabatta Sandwich, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Bristol Harbour Turkey Ciabatta Sandwich, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

My turkey sandwich tasted great. The ciabatta roll was rustic, yet tasty. I liked the crunch and texture it added.  I also liked that the provolone cheese melted nicely over the turkey and prosciutto.  The roasted rep pepper pesto was a wonderful addition, not too overpowering as I thought it could be. This sandwich was larger and more hearty than I expected and required a fork and knife to eat.   The chef did a great job with preparing the crispy, yet light French fries – they were just right.

My lunch companion ordered a Turkey Reuben ($10), requesting a substitution of turkey for the usual Corned Beef; our server graciously accommodated the request. Like my sandwich, hers was also served with large French fries and a fancy mini-bowl of ketchup on the side. Hers however, lacked the swanky toothpicks that mine had.  This sandwich was served hot, on grilled rye bread with sliced deli turkey and Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing.

Bristol Harbour Corned Beef Reuben, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Bristol Harbour Corned Beef Reuben, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

She commented that she really liked the taste of this sandwich and that the ratio of sauerkraut to meat was perfect. Although it tasted good, she remarked that the turkey was sliced deli meat, and not carved turkey breast which she was expecting. After she said that, I realized that my sandwich also consisted of deli meat.  I agreed that a higher quality, carved turkey would have been more in line with the lofty reputation and ample prices of this restaurant. She also very much enjoyed the French fries.  We agreed that they were cooked just right, with a little crunch on the outside and creamy on the inside, and just the right golden color.

Service

I was happy with the courteous, friendly and accommodating service we received at Bristol Harbour. The hostess greeted us warmly and inquired about our seating preference.  Once seated, our server quickly arrived, introduced herself and took our drink order. She returned with our drinks to take our lunch order, also telling us about the soup of the day. She was knowledgeable about menu items and she graciously accommodated menu substitutions. I liked that she checked back on us throughout our meal and kindly provided separate checks. Speaking of checks – note that Bristol Harbour is a cashless venue, accepting only credit cards. There are reminders of this sprinkled throughout the menu, posted on various signage, and the website, although our server didn’t mention it specifically.

Overall Experience

This was my second visit to Bristol Harbour.  I visited for dinner a few years ago, before the new owners took over. While that visit was somewhat disappointing due to a lack of staff during a busy Saturday night, this visit was much more enjoyable.  Our lunch was tasty, (although not exceptional) and the service was quite nice.  It’s the view that really impressed me though. From the covered outside patio, you can enjoy your meal while gazing down the rolling hills and across the water for miles. If the weather is even the least bit cooperative, I urge you to sit outside to enjoy the sweeping views of this beautiful venue.  Bring your credit card though, because as mentioned, they are a cashless venue.

If You Go…

Bristol Harbour Lodge and Golf Club
5410 Seneca Point Road
Canandaigua, NY 14424
(located inside the Bristol Harbour Lodge and Golf Club)
Phone: 585-396-2200
Website: https://www.bristolharbour.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BristolHarbourLodgeGolfClub/
Instagram:  bh_resort
Twitter:  @BristolHarbourLodgeGolfClub, @BHarbourResort

Details:
Restaurant hours:

  • BreakfastMon-Fri: 7am–11am (8am–11am, Oct 27–Apr 19th), Sat & Sun: 7am-11am
  • Lunch: Mon-Sat: 11am–5pm, Sun: 11am–4pm
  • Dinner: Mon-Thurs: 5pm–9pm, Fri-Sat: 5pm–10pm, Sun: 4pm–9pm

Cuisine:                          American
Alcoholic Beverages:   Yes
Children’s Menu:         No
Accepts Credit Cards:  Yes (CASHLESS VENUE)
Handicap Accessible:  Yes
Attire: golf course appropriate, casual
Requires Reservations: Accepted but not required
Table Service:               Yes
Outdoor Seating:         Yes
Parking:  Free and plentiful in private lot
Valet Service:              No
Bar Seating:                Yes
Coat Check:                 Yes
Date opened: January, 2016 under new ownership
Date visited:  Saturday, August 13, 2016 for lunch

***

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Restaurant Review: Restaurant Good Luck (Rochester, NY)

Capture

When I first heard about this restaurant, I thought it was an Asian-inspired eatery. However, I soon found out that couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, Good Luck is an open-kitchen restaurant in a cavernous loft-style space in a converted warehouse.  The owners opened the restaurant with the belief that people need to be reintroduced to classic cocktails.  Their cuisine is made from seasonal, local ingredients, some of which are grown in their own garden.  The owners also run Cure, a casual gourmet restaurant at Rochester’s Public Market.

Surroundings

Only a small plaque outside the front entrance and a large, unmarked awning hint that a restaurant exists on this tiny side street in the city’s Neighborhood of the Arts (NOTA). A proper sign would help new patrons find the place. Parking is free and plentiful, located across the street or down the street, requiring a short stroll. There are also a handful of on-street parking spots in front of the restaurant.  Once you find the entrance, ascend a few concrete steps to discover this renovated loft space.

Good Luck is committed to promoting and serving, fresh, seasonal and local food. So much so that they use ingredients grown in their own garden, nestled in a 30-by-90-foot  lot across the street from the eatery.  A full array of produce and other edibles are available in their raised-bed garden.

Atmosphere

Upon entering Good Luck, I immediately noticed the noise level, which was alarmingly loud.  Then, I turned around to find the hostess stand, which was tucked away slightly behind the entrance.  This restaurant featured a large bar and an open dining room, separated by a partial wall of wood and windows.

Good Luck Restaurant Dining Room, Courtesy: Good Luck Restaurant Facebook page
Good Luck Restaurant Dining Room, Courtesy: Good Luck Restaurant Facebook page

I heard that it could be a challenge to get reservations, but we didn’t have much trouble. One of my dinner companions made reservations earlier that day, although we had to adjust our timing to their schedule.  Although we were seated immediately upon arriving, I was disappointed that our party of three was seated at a table barely within the perimeter of the dining area. As a result, I felt like we were only semi-welcomed there. The lighting in the dining area was adequate, but the bar area looked dark for such an early evening. I noticed an open door in the back of the bar. This back entrance opened to a impromptu-looking concrete seating area with a few plastic chairs, where some patrons (or workers on break?) were seated. Industrial apparatus was also visible, possibly a dumpster? It was an odd site from inside the trendy restaurant.

On this visit in mid-July, when the temperature outside climbed to around 90 degrees, fahrenheit, the temperature in the dining room continued to rise as the evening wore on. Even though the air conditioning was on “full blast,” our waitress explained that once the temperatures reached 80 degrees outside, it’s “impossible to keep this place cool.” Now I know why many of the staff were wearing skimpy outfits. I first inquired politely about the status of the seemingly absent air conditioning. Later, I more emphatically complained about it. For a restaurant which has been in business for 8 summers, I would expect that they would improve their cooling system for the comfort of their patrons. I noticed others fanning themselves and also appearing overheated. Near the end of our stay, the staff finally opened the large, loft-style windows along one side of the dining room, letting in a nice breeze.

Menu

Chefs Dan Martello and Brent Bailey created a small but mighty, single-page dinner menu featuring a handful of appetizers and salads, several entrees, a “Food to Share” section and a beverage section with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options. Because Good Luck features seasonal, local ingredients, the menu changes more often than most.  Admittedly, I had hoped for more choices on the menu.  Although most types of proteins were represented, I wanted more than one choice each of chicken, fish, beef, etc.

Menu starters included a few salads, greens, pickled blueberries and red lentils. Entrees ranged from lighter fare such White Pizza with Pickled Eggplant and Arugula ($14), Margherita Pizza ($13), Heirloom Tomato Confit with Basil Polenta ($16), and a Roasted Vegetable Sandwich on house made focaccia  ($15) to pasta such as Saffron Buccatini ($21) and Goat Cheese Gnocchi ($19), to the more hearty Braised Oxtail with Tripe in a tomato sauce ($14), Roasted Salmon ($29), and Pan-roasted Duck Breast ($30).

The “Food to Share” section offered selections to be shared, including the semi-famous one pound Good Luck Burger with French Fries ($25), and the Twice-Cooked Chicken ($25), Grilled Rib-eye Steak ($62) and a selection of smoked meats ($26).

The Cocktail Menu was more diverse than most, offering several dozen signature cocktails, along with several varieties each of Manhattans, Negronis, and Old Fashioneds.  The Wine Menu was also quite impressive, offering both red and white wines by the bottle and glass, organized by region.  Good Luck has become locally known to have an extensive collection of hard to find, quality spirits for sipping or mixing.

Food

We started our shared meal with an appetizer special of Zucchini Frittata, which was absolutely delicious.  It included the zucchini flowers in the frittata batter. Buttery and flavorful, this thin, egg-based delight was light and airy, yet very satisfying. It was served with slices of toasted bread with herbed butter, which was the perfect accompaniment.  My dinner companions each ordered a glass of wine from the extensive wine menu – the server was kind enough to encourage a taste before ordering the wine.

Good Luck Burger, Courtesy: Good Luck Facebook page
Good Luck Burger, Courtesy: Good Luck Facebook page

We followed the frittata with the famous Good Luck Burger ($25) to share among three of us. It was made with a full pound of ground, grass-fed beef on a brioche roll, with cheddar cheese, covered with french fries and accompanied by a vegetable slaw. I understand why everyone talks about this burger – it was truly delicious! Moist and flavorful, it satisfied my craving for a hearty meal. The brioche bread added a touch of class to a usually pedestrian sandwich. We each had a quarter of the burger and split the fourth quarter between us.  Oh, those french fries – they were seasoned just right and not one was left when we were done.  The house made mayo-based sauce served with this burger was a great compliment the dish.

Good Luck Banana Creme Bruele Tart, Courtesy: Sharon Garofanello Facebook page
Good Luck Banana Creme Brulee Tart, Courtesy: Sharon Garofanello

We ordered two desserts to share; they were truly incredible! One was a Banana Creme Brulee Tart and the other was Corn Ice Cream.  The Banana Creme Brulee is one of the best desserts I have had in a long time. I was honestly surprised that it was so good.  We ordered it based on our server’s enthusiastic recommendation. One of my dining companions called it “the best dessert in town.” Three slices of carmelized bananas sat atop a wonderfully creamy and decadent vanilla crème brulee, all housed in a tender and flavorful tart crust. Yes, it was that good!

The three scoops of home-made Corn Ice Cream didn’t disappoint either. As promised by our server, it tasted like corn cereal.  I was skeptical at first, but she was right. I likened the taste to corn flakes soaked in the milk in the bottom of the cereal bowl – oh so good, but in an ice cream!  It was a refreshing follow-up to the rich crème brulee.

Special Events

Good Luck is more than a great craft cocktail bar with an impressive menu. They also offer a variety of special events.

  • Their Chef’s Table series encourages groups of 6-14 people to enjoy watching a private chef prepare a multi-course menu at a private table overlooking the open kitchen. Groups may choose from three themed menus, each with options for three, four or five courses, with or without wine pairings.
  • Inspired Table Events include Garden Dinners and Field Trips.

 – Garden Dinners are three course dinners served in the Good Luck Garden across the street from the restaurant, during Fridays and Saturdays in July, August and September. These family style meals include beer and wine pairings at a cost of $70 per person.

 – Field Trips are occasional dinners held in interesting areas around town, featuring special menus, themes or events.

Service

The service at Good Luck was generally pleasant and cheerful. We were politely welcomed and greeted by the hostess and seated immediately upon arriving on time for our reservation. Our server was knowledgeable, explaining the “shared dish” theme and providing her input when asked about menu items.  Our food arrived in a timely fashion and our water glasses were continually refilled. Our server also graciously handled my grievances about the very warm dining area. Although there was little she could do to alleviate the poor ventilation, she did apologize for the inconvenience a few times, which I appreciated.  The desserts were the highlight of our meal.

Overall Experience

I thoroughly enjoyed the food at Good Luck.  I would like to go back again when the seasonal menu changes, just to see what interesting offerings the talented chef creates. The service and food were great, but the dining room was loud and quite warm.  If I do go back, I will be sure to go when the weather is cooler, when hopefully the dining room doesn’t feel as hot as the kitchen.

If You Go:

Restaurant Good Luck
50 Anderson Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607
(located in the Anderson Arts Building in the Neighborhood of the Arts – NOTA)
Phone: 585-340-6161
Website: http://www.restaurantgoodluck.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GoodLuckRochester
Instagram: restaurantgoodluck
Twitter: @goodluckrochester
Email: events@restaurantgoodluck.com

Details:
Dinner hours: Wed-Sat dinner 5pm – 11pm, Fri-Sat late night menu till midnight.
Bar Hours:      Wed-Sat: 4:30pm – 2 am
Cuisine:           American and Italian dishes featuring fresh, seasonal food
Alcoholic Beverages: Beer and Wine
Children’s Menu:         No
Accepts Credit Cards:  Yes
Handicap Accessible:   Yes (back entrance)
Attire: casual dress to business attire
Requires Reservations: Highly Recommended, as far in advance as possible
Table Service: Yes
Outdoor Seating: Yes, but limited
Parking:  Free and plentiful in adjacent lot, some street parking
Valet Service:  No
Bar Seating:    Yes
Coat Check:    Yes
Date opened:  2008
Date visited:   Friday, July 22, 2016 for dinner

***

Restaurant Review: The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond (Auburn, NY)

The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond
The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond

The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond is located on the wooded lot of Elderberry Pond Farm in Auburn, NY, overlooking their orchards, vineyards and seasonal vegetable crops.  The 100-acre farm is a Certified Organic Farm, producing a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and heritage pigs and chickens.

This seasonally operated restaurant has been on my “must visit” list for some time.  I first read about it in one of Mike O’Brian’s “The Getaway Guy” books.  This summer, I finally made the drive to Auburn, NY to check it out.  On the way, my passenger and I visited an art co-op, featuring art. jewelry and gifts made by local artists.  We browsed a bit and then sat in on part of a painting class. On the way home, we visited a local farm market, making it a nice day trip.

Surroundings

As I tentatively drove down the road on the way to this restaurant, I did not immediately see the small and partially hidden ground-level sign for The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond.  After a quick turn-around, we were on our way down the bumpy, gravel drive (gravel roads are a pet peeve of mine, even in the “country”) leading to a semi-circular parking area.  We came upon the red-shingled building, which we assumed to be the restaurant. We had to assume that because there was no other signage welcoming us there.  As a result, we weren’t sure where to enter and thus soon found ourselves peeking into the exterior door to the kitchen.  After another quick turn-around (walking this time), we made our way to the only other door, which proved to be the front entrance, with its tiny sign showing the hours of operation.

This restaurant would definitely benefit from a paved road and improved signage.  Also, some flowers, hanging baskets and other outdoor decor would have helped soften the look.  I was a bit irked already because they referred to themselves as a “fine dining restaurant,” but by the looks of the place from the outside, you wouldn’t think so. Was I about to be disappointed that I drove 1 1/2 hours to have lunch here?

Atmosphere

The restaurant’s website describes the restaurant as follows:

“The building is new, but has been constructed with the same materials that were used 150 years ago, when our farm house and other barns were built. The foundation was laid from stones we picked from our fields.  The board and batten frame was made from local hemlock, and the beams in the dining areas are from fallen local barns. Much of the interior was built from materials we collected from old houses in the area . Our huge fireplace was made from a single pine board taken from an abandoned house not far from the farm.  Our goal was to create a relaxing home style environment for our customers to enjoy our fresh farm fare.”

 

Hostess Stand and Waiting Area at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Hostess Stand and Waiting Area at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Upon entering The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, guests come upon a small, wooden hostess stand in a quaint but tiny waiting area, with seating for three. To the right of the hostess stand is a large glass pane door leading to the open-air concrete patio, where several wrought iron tables welcomed up to 16 diners who prefer to eat outside.

Doorway to main dining room at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Doorway to main dining room at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

To the left  of the hostess stand is a beautiful doorway leading to the main dining room, which seats about 40 people. French wooden doors with inset leaded glass welcome guests to the dining room. Ornate carpets led the way inside where I noticed a dozen or so tables set with tablecloths and place settings, ready for lunch service. I was pleasantly surprised by this spacious and inviting dining room, with its beautiful wood floors, substantial fireplace, exposed beams and stained glass.

Although well it with beautiful hanging lights and a few sun-soaked windows, the dining room still had a heavy, masculine feel.

Dining Room at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Dining Room at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
More Dining Room Tables at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
More Dining Room Tables at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Dining Room Tables at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Dining Room Tables at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

As we made our way through the main dining room, the hostess inquired about our seating preference: main dining room inside, patio outside, or sun room inside. I noticed that none of the lunch guests had chosen the main dining room, as it was empty.  Taking our cue from the other patrons, we chose the inside sun room, hoping to get the feel of outdoor dining, but still benefit from the cool air conditioning on this hot late-June afternoon.

We were shown to a table in the corner of the room, with a great view of the patio and the dining room.

 

 

What a beautiful sun room! With seating for 20 people, this room featured large, white French doors, oversized windows and a pretty view of the patio, where I did finally see some flowers and careful landscaping.  It was bright and cheery, compared to the darker, heavier feeling main dining room. A massive yet elegant chandelier in the middle of the sun room provided a hint of the “fine dining” experience I mentioned earlier.  I started to think that this just might be a wonderful lunch after all.

Sun Room Seating at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Sun Room Seating at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
One of only two washrooms at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
One of only two washroom at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

I would be remiss not to mention that the washroom facilities, while although clean and charming, were not sufficient to meet the needs of a restaurant full of patrons. This was clearly illustrated by the long line of women waiting to use the facilities as the lunch service concluded.

Menu

Once seated at our pretty sun room table, we were presented with two menus: a Summer Lunch Menu and a Wine List. The menu covers consisted of a folded, laminated sheet, with a printed sheet held inside by a gold string, making a four page interior.  The first page contained an entry from The Farmer’s Journal , dated June, 2016; in it the proprietors (The Legos) explained the farm’s history and sustainable farming philosophy.

Elderberry Ponds Menus: Summer Lunch Menu, Wine Menu, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
The Restaurant at Elderberry Ponds – Summer Lunch Menu and Wine List, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The seasonal menus is described on their website as follows”

“…based on the use of  fresh seasonal ingredients from our farm and on the availability of the highest quality meats and fresh fish.  Many of our meat dishes are prepared from local organic and/or grass fed livestock including our own Pork  and beef from farms in upstate New York.  We are proud to promote farms like ours that produce high quality meats by raising their livestock humanely, replacing growth hormones and antibiotics with healthy diets, free access to pasture, and respect for their comfort and well being.

This Summer Menu offered options for Soups. Salad, Pizza, Entrees, Desserts and Beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Soup options included the Soup of the Day or Vegetarian Vegetable, both priced at $4 per cup or $7 per bowl. The Pizza of the Day was a savory white pizza with three cheeses, garlic, shaved fennel, fresh tarragon and a port wine reduction, priced at $12. I noticed a menu note mentioning gluten-free and vegan options.

Entrees included:

  • Angus Burger – with organic greens and cheddar cheese – $14
  • Heritage Mild Italian Sausage Sandwich – with peppers and onions – $14
  • All Natural Chicken Salad – with grapes and walnuts (on greens or in a wrap) – $14
  • Organic Quinoa Salad – with fresh vegetables and toasted almonds on top of organic spinach $12
  • Vegetable Pasta – with seasonal organic vegetables, topped with Feta cheese – $12
  • Mussels and Spring Greens with Whole Wheat Linguine – topped with a Parmesan and almond crumble – $13
  • Signature Crab Cakes – tropical blue crab served on a bed of greens – $15
Elderberry Pond Summer Menu Entre' Page. Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond Summer Menu Entree Page. Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The Dessert section of the Restaurant at Elderberry Pond’s menu announced seasonal fruit desserts, a flourless chocolate Ganache Torte and a Chef’s Brule’, all priced at $7.  In addition, our server told us of a few other special desserts.  Freshly ground and brewed coffee could be ordered as either certified organic regular or full-flavored decaffeinated, priced at $3 per cup. Other beverages included hot or iced tea, home-made apple cider (made from organic apples), organic milk, Pepsi brand soda and organic lemonade, all priced at $2.50.  For $3, you could order a bottle of Pellegrino Sparkling Water.  Beers ranged from $3.50 for standard brands to $5 for a few New York Craft Beers.

Overall, the menu was more sparse than most, but what it lacked in quantity, it made up in quality.  Although only offering seven choices, the list of entrees was obviously well planned.  Executive Chef, Chris Lego did a great job featuring a variety of options to appeal to almost any taste and dietary need, including organic, vegetarian and gluten-free options.

Food

Bread Basket at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Bread Basket at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The hostess brought us a basket of bread soon after taking our lunch order. It contained four very small slices of bread, which my lunch companion described as “dainty portions.”  The bread was wrapped in what appeared to be a white wash cloth. I thought that was odd and would have expected a linen napkin instead. Accompanied by whipped butter, the bread was tasty, but not plentiful.

I scanned the menu several times, struggling with the decision of what to order.  I waffled between the Crab Cakes and the Angus Beef Burger.  Finally, I decided on the Signature Crab Cakes on a Bed of Greens ($15) and a bowl of the home-made, gluten-free  Lentil Soup ($7), followed by a slice of Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie ($7) for dessert,  and a glass of unsweetened Iced Tea ($2.50) to wash it all down.

The hearty Lentil Soup was filled with a variety of vegetables including fire roasted tomatoes, kale, spinach, Swiss chard and celery. With a healthy dose of pepper, this soup had a spicy kick. The lentils were cooked just right, so that they split, lending creaminess to the soup. The owner/chef confirmed that the soup was made with vegetables grown either on this farm or locally.  She made it just yesterday, which was not surprising, based on how fresh and delicious it tasted.

Lentil Soup at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Lentil Soup at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

As I consumed last spoonful of Lentil Soup, my Crab Cakes arrived.  Admittedly, I was disappointed with the miniature size of these crab cakes. You can see by the photo below that they were barely larger in diameter than the cucumber slices.  Although they were thick, they were still quite small.  They were served on a bed of greens with a chipotle mayo dressing and a wedge of lime.

The tropical blue Crab Cakes were flavorful and moist.  They had a nice seer on the outside, which was a pleasant contrast to the smooth and creamy inside.  I enjoyed both crab cakes and  easily could have eaten two more!  I didn’t particularly care for the dressing, but a squeeze of fresh lemon added brightness to the crab cakes.  The greens on the slide were mainly lettuce and shaved carrots, with two slices of cucumber; more of a garnish than anything else.

Signature Crab Cakes from The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog.
Signature Crab Cakes from The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog.
Crab Cakes (close up) from The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Crab Cakes (close up) from The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Once my lunch companion eyed my bowl of wonderful lentil soup, and saw how much I enjoyed it, she decided to order a cup of her own.  She seemed to enjoy it just as much as I did.  She also ordered the Vegetable Pasta ($12). The menu described it as “prepared with Elderberry Pond seasonal organic vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and artichoke hearts, topped with feta cheese.”  I was little skeptical, thinking that there wasn’t much protein in that dish.  However, once it was delivered to the table, I knew that she had made a good choice.

Vegetable Pasta from The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Vegetable Pasta from The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The deep bowl was overflowing with a heaping portion of penne pasta with fresh vegetables, topped with plump crumbles of beautiful feta cheese. Even as she dug into it, the portion seemed to go on and on.  She enjoyed the Vegetable Pasta, commenting that it was fresh and very filling.  She did note that it was highly flavored with quite a bit of lemon and black pepper – after tasting it myself, I agreed.  Still, she slowly worked her way through the entire bowl, enjoying each spoonful along the way.  I was impressed that she recognized some of the greens as beet leaves, which was confirmed by the chef!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Finally, it was time for dessert!  I carefully listened to the list of sweets offered by our server.  After some consideration, I decided to bypass the various chocolate confections and opt instead for a slice of the Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie ($7). It was a great choice. Both sweet and tart, this large slice of seasonal pie was a great way to end my savory meal. I especially liked the presentation, with a leaf made of dough and perched on top of the slice of pie.  Congratulations to Pastry Chef, Cheryl McDonald, for a job well done on this wonderful pie.

Service

Overall, the service was pretty darn good. We were pleasantly greeted by the hostess upon our arrival at our appointed reservation time, and seated promptly. I liked that we were give the choice of where to dine and that our choice was easily accommodated.  Our server at The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond was initially quite attentive and pleasant, smiling often and responding to our requests for food recommendations. Once our food was served, however, she seemed to become a bit distracted, most likely due to the increasing number of patrons being seated.  As her service area increased, her patience and spirit of hospitality slightly decreased.  She wasn’t rude, but just aloof and somewhat rushed.

However, the other service staff seemed to pick up the slack.  Another dining room employee ensured that our water glasses were kept full and the chef/owner stopped by to ask about our meal and our experience. She was gracious, sweet and happy to answer our questions about various ingredients and preparation methods.

Country Food Store

The Country Store at Elderberry pond Farm, Courtesy: www.elderberrypond.com
The Country Store at Elderberry pond Farm, Courtesy: http://www.elderberrypond.com

When planning this lunch outing, I was especially excited to visit the Country Food Store at Elderberry Pond, which advertised seasonal vegetables, fruits, flowers, and pasture raised pork from their farm. However, when we inquired about it after lunch, we were told that there just wasn’t enough produce to open the store at this time. I was so disappointed!

Interestingly though, as I look at their website again, I now see that they have posted a new note, advising that the store is temporarily closed while they rebuild the adjacent barns which were destroyed by fire last year.

Overall Impression

I enjoyed my visit to The Restaurant at Elderberry PondThe atmosphere was rustic, yet elegant and the service was pleasant.  The Sun Room was a great venue for a summer lunch.  A few opportunities for improvement which are not related to the food, include paving the drive, adding/improving the signage, and expanding the restroom facilities.

Although not as expansive as many menus, the Summer Menu offered something for almost everyone.  My favorite part of the meal was the Lentil Soup, followed closely by the Strawberry-Rhubarb pie.  Some menu items might benefit from a larger portion size, but I understand that the high-quality ingredients may make that hard to do while staying within an already higher-end price range.  A lunch visit  (versus dinner) will yield the best bang for your buck, although even that was not an inexpensive meal, so be sure to bring your wallet.

The fresh (and often organic) ingredients are definitely the secret to the success of this restaurant.  I most likely would not make the drive just to visit this restaurant again, but if I happened to be in the area, I would stop in for a bite to eat from their seasonal offerings.

If you go:

The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond
3712 Center Street Road
Auburn, NY 13021
Phone: 315-252-6025
Website: http://www.elderberrypond.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elderberry-Pond/126361637413179

Details:
Business Hours:  Wed-Sun for lunch and dinner (mid-March – December).
Seatings:  Lunch: 11:30 am – 2pm, Dinner: from 5pm
Cuisine:  fresh, seasonal food in a relaxed country setting
Meals Served:  Lunch, Dinner seasonally
Alcoholic Beverages: Beer and Wine
Children’s Menu:  No
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Attire: informal
Requires Reservations: Recommended
Table Service: Yes
Outdoor Seating: Yes, as weather allows
Parking:  Free and plentiful in adjacent gravel/stone lot
Valet Service:  No
Bar Seating: No
Coat Check: No, but coat rack is available
Date opened:  this location December, 2015
Date visited:  Saturday, June 25, 2016 for lunch

***

Restaurant Review: The Brown Hound Downtown (Rochester, NY)

The Brown Hound Downtown

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.

Surroundings

The Brown Hound Downtown Entryway, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
The Brown Hound Downtown Entryway, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

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.

Atmosphere

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.

The Brown Hound Downtown Hours of Operation, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
The Brown Hound Downtown Hours of Operation, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

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.

Menu

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.

Food

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.

Brown Hound Downtown Orange Juice
Brown Hound Downtown Orange Juice, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Brown Hound Downtown Lemonade
Brown Hound Downtown Lemonade, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown Hound Downtown Scones
Brown Hound Downtown Scones, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

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.

Brown Hound Downtown Ricotta Pancakes
Brown Hound Downtown Ricotta Pancakes, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

 

Brown Hound Downtown House Cured and Smoked Bostrum Bacon, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Brown Hound Downtown House Cured and Smoked Bostrum Bacon, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

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.

Brown Hound Downtown Country Bistro Benedict, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Brown Hound Downtown Country Bistro Benedict, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

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.

Service

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.

Overall Impression

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
Phone:  585-506-9725
Website: https://mag.rochester.edu/restaurant/   and http://www.brownhoundbistro.com/
Email: info@brownhoundbistro.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brownhoundbistro/

Details:
Business Hours:

  • 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

***

Restaurant Review: McAlister’s Deli (Henrietta, NY)

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It’s always exciting when a new restaurant opens near work.  My co-workers and I grow weary of the same lunch destination choices week after week. So, when McAlister’s Deli opened in Rochester, NY, we were excited to check it out. With over 350 restaurants in 26 states, the McAlister’s brand previously had only one location in all of New York State (Niagara Falls, NY).  McAlister’s Deli is so much more than your average deli – it’s a fast-casual restaurant.

It took me a while to finally make it over there, but after I did, I found myself eating at McAlister’s Deli several times over the span of a few weeks, including both lunch and dinner visits.  Although I don’t often review chain restaurants, this one seemed worthy of a Food Mingle Blog Restaurant Review.

Surroundings

Located on the site of a former Applebee’s Grill and Bar, McAlister’s Deli has free and plentiful parking directly in front of the restaurant, as well as on both sides and in the back.  The outside appears clean and inviting, often adorned with sparkling, ornamental lights at night.

It is located by a rather busy road though, so pay attention while you are driving. Admittedly, I was involved in a minor fender bender on my way there for my first visit, which was postponed as a result. Watch for the railroad train crossing just up the road, too.

Atmosphere

McAlister's Ordering Station, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister’s Ordering Station, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

I liken the atmosphere to that of other popular, chain family restaurants – bright and cheery.  The walls are full of state-themed memorabilia from around the USA, as well as local touches. The dining area is clean and generally quite open (read: loud), other than one side which is separated from the rest by a full wall and doors.

After ordering at the front counter, be sure to stop by the condiment bar on your way to your table. Not only does it include a variety of condiments such as ketchup, mustard, and hot and sweet sauces, but it also includes my most favorite garnish of all time – dill pickle spears!  Seeing that huge jar of dill pickle spears just made my day on each of my visits to McAlister’s Deli!

McAlister's Deli Condiment Bar, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister’s Deli Condiment Bar, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister's Deli Condiment Bar, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister’s Deli Condiment Bar, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Menu

The McAlister’s Deli menu is full of favorites from around the USA. Although they are known for their Famous Sweet Tea and loaded potatoes (“Spuds”), they also offer salads, sandwiches (hot and cold) and a variety of sides, beverages and desserts.  They have selections to accommodate options for vegetarians, and for those who are allergen-sensitive, gluten-sensitive, and calorie conscious.  Shown below are a sampling of their varied menu options, which can be ordered to eat in or take out:

  • Starters: nachos, soup, chili (bread bowl options)
  • Entre Salads: Chopped Salad (Italian or Savannah), Grilled Chicken Salad, Chef Salad, Southwest Cobb Salad, Ceasar Salad, Taco Salad, Garden Salad
  • Spuds (Potatoes): loaded with your choice of meats, vegetables, cheeses, gravy
  • Sandwiches: (Hot, Grilled, Club) – Melts, muffulettas, reubens and roast beef options, chicken, ham and turkey options, clubs, wraps, BLTs, tuna and chicken salad
  • Sides: Chips, Potato Salad, Fruit, Coleslaw, Applesauce, Steamed Vegetables, Mac and Cheese, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
  • Beverages:  Famous Sweet Tea or Lemonade (both in Peach and Wildberry flavors , fountain drinks, water, milk, coffee
  • Desserts: cakes, cheesecake, brownies, cookies, bars

In addition to eating in, you can also order take out or call ahead and pick up your order.  McAlister’s Deli offers catering services – fresh, made-to-order dishes including breakfast, snacks, spud bars, salads, sandwich trays, boxed lunches, desserts and beverages.

Food

During this visit, I ordered the Cobb Club sandwich with a side of Steamed Vegetables ($7.89), along with their famous Sweet Tea ($1.99) and a Sugar Cookie ($1.55) for dessert.   Of course, there were those (free) dill pickle spears as well.

Cobb Club Sandwich, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister’s Deli Cobb Club Sandwich, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

My Cobb Club sandwich exceeded my expectations.  The turkey was sliced thin and was very moist and tasty.  Accompaniments included fresh lettuce, hearty apple-wood smoked bacon, sliced tomato, and a rich and creamy avocado spread.  Soft, fresh ciabatta bread pierced with fancy toothpicks held it all together.  Overall, a great lunch choice.

Side of Steamed Vegetables, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister’s Deli Side of Steamed Vegetables, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The steamed vegetable side dish was a disappointment. First, I was surprised by the super-small portion size. I was given only three baby carrots and 2 1/2 small broccoli florets.  Second, they were overcooked and mushy.  The seasoning was okay, but that couldn’t rescue this failing side dish. I wouldn’t recommend the steamed vegetable side dish.  If you are looking for a healthy side dish, go with the cut up fresh fruit, which I had on a previous visit and found to be fresh and sweet.

The sweet tea, however, was chilled, refreshing and appropriately sweet. I was delighted that the staff provided free refills – that’s quite a value of which I took full advantage.

Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the gratis dill pickle spears and had to stop myself from going back to refill my plate at the condiment bar!

McAlister's Deli Famous Sweet Tea with Lemon, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister’s Deli Famous Sweet Tea with Lemon, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister's Deli Dill Pickle Spears, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister’s Deli Dill Pickle Spears, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s not forget dessert! My sugar cookie was a fresh, chewy and sweet satisfying end to this lunch.

McAlister's Sugar Cookie, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister’s Deli Sugar Cookie, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

My lunch companion on this visit ordered a Reuben Sandwich with a side of Mac and Cheese ($8.99), along with a Heath Crunch Cookie ($1.55).  She made a few changes to the standard sandwich, as follows: she substituted pastrami for the corned beef, left off the sauerkraut, and included Swiss cheese.  This hot sandwich was served on toasted marble rye bread with Thousand Island Dressing (make your own).  It looked absolutely delicious to both of us (check out that melted cheese in the photo below!), but she commented that the pastrami had a strange chemical taste – not something you want in your lunch sandwich.

McAlister's Deli Reuben Sandwich, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister’s Deli Reuben Sandwich, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister's Side of Mac and Cheese, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister’s Deli Side of Mac and Cheese, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister's Heath Cookie, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
McAlister’s Heath Cookie, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

When she ordered Mac and Cheese for her side, the manager commented that it’s one of the hottest items on the menu.  I believe it! I ordered it on a previous visit and found it to be hot (temperature, not spice), creamy and reminiscent of home-made mac and cheese. She said that it was delicious.

 

Although she saved her Heath cookie for later, I can say that it looked just as fresh as my Sugar cookie.  Apparently, it included all the wonderful ingredients found in a Heath candy bar – chocolate, toffee, and almonds – you just can’t go wrong with that!

On previous visits to McAlister’s Deli, I have enjoyed a Roast Beef Melt ($7.69 – a bit soggy and smaller than expected), a plate of Ultimate Nachos ($7.59 – huge serving and quite tasty, although processed cheese is used), and a Harvest Chicken Salad Sandwich ($7.19 – a bit too much mayo for me, but still a great lunch choice).  The sides during previous visits included Mac and Cheese (creamy and delicious – definitely try it) and cut up Fruit (sweet, refreshing and fresh).  My dining companions on other visits ordered the loaded potatoes (spuds) and I can attest that they are truly loaded; you’ll probably have trouble finishing the whole thing.

Service

In this fast-casual restaurant, customers place their orders at the front counter, choosing from menu items posted on an overhead menu. Beverages are dispensed by the McAlister’s Deli staff there as well.  After accepting paying, the cashier gives each customer a number to display at their table while waiting for the staff to deliver their food. As mentioned previously, patrons stop at the condiments bar to stock up on dill pickle spears, peppers and various condiments and sauces.

Most beverages are eligible for free refills. The staff checks on tables periodically, and asks if anyone would like a refill.  They do ask that customers remove their cup cover and straw – they will return your cup filled to the brim as many times as you like.   I found all the staff to be polite, helpful and pleasant, although maybe too attentive? The dining room manager stopped by our table three times on one of my visits, to check on us.

I noticed that the take-out business was brisk and efficient. There is a separate entrance next to the take out register, where patrons conveniently stop in to pick up their to-go orders. It also included a small  bench for those who were waiting for their orders to be ready.

Don’t forget to sign up for a McAlister’s Deli loyalty card, which can earn you free food if you are a often returning customer.  Also, check your receipt for a free food offer (mine was for a cookie) in return for completing an online survey.

Awards

  •  2015 and 2014 “Top 100 Movers and Shakers” – FastCasual.com
  • 2014 top kid-friendly fast casual chain and in 2013 top fast casual chain for food and beverage –  Technomic® Chain Restaurant Consumers’ Choice Awards
  • 2014 “Top limited-service sandwich chain’– Restaurant News Consumer Picks Survey
  • 2014 “Best Franchise Deals” and 2014 QSR Top 50 List –  QSR Magazine
  • 2014′s “Top Franchises” in Food and Beverage category – Franchise Business Review

Overall Impression

I was pleased with the overall quality of the food and service at McAlister’s Deli. While not everything was a home run in all of my visits, most items were acceptable, if not above average. It is pricier than a fast-food drive through lunch and slightly more costly than similar sandwich stops. However, the dine-in experience is nice and the extra amenities (free refills at the table, condiment bar, loyalty card) make it worth spending that extra bit for lunch, or even dinner.

If you go:

McAlister’s Deli
3020 Winton Road South
Henrietta, NY 14623
Phone:        585-424-6242
Website:     mcalistersdeli.com
Email:         delimarketing@mcalistersdeli.com
Facebook:  McAlister’s Deli Tea Freaks
Twitter:      @McAlistersDeli

Details:
Business Hours:              Mon-Thr: 10:30am-9pm, Fri-Sat: 10:30am-9:30pm, Sun: 10:30am-9pm
Cuisine:                             Fast casual American cuisine – dine in, take out, catering
Meals Served:                  Lunch, Dinner
Children’s Menu:            No
Accepts Credit Cards:    Yes
Handicap Accessible:    Yes
Attire:                                Casual
Requires Reservations: No
Table Service:                  Yes
Take Out:                         Yes
Outdoor Seating:            No
Parking:                            free in dedicated lot
Valet Service:                   No
Bar Seating:                     No
Alcohol:                            No
Coat Check:                     No
Founded:                         1989 (this location 2014)
Date visited:                    1-13-2014 lunch, 1-18-2014 dinner and various other lunch visits

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