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

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Restaurant Review: Genesee Bakery & Deli (Rochester, NY)

Genesee Bakery and Deli logo

Surroundings

Located in the Mt. Hope plaza on Mt. Hope Blvd, this unassuming, Genesee Bakery and Deli is a hidden gem. It is conveniently located near Strong Hospital and the University of Rochester. Nestled among a Chinese restaurant, an Ethiopian restaurant, a pizzeria, and a Vietnamese restaurant, it’s almost lost among the United Nations of food options. In fact, I passed it by twice, and one of those times I was actually in the plaza. Perhaps more and better signage would help it stand out from the crowd.  Even though it has been in business for almost 26 years, I wasn’t familiar with it.

Parking was quite convenient and plentiful, as I parked right in front of the door. Although the plaza is busy, there is a lot of turnover in parking, so just wait a minute or two for a spot.

Atmosphere

Upon entering the family owned and operated Genesee Bakery and Deli, I had the distinct feeling of stepping back in time. The black and white framed photos on the walls, music from days gone by, and live potted plants cascading down the shelving behind the counter, all added to the nostalgic feel.

Genesee Bakery Front Counter, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Genesee Bakery Front Counter, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The front of the bakery is the shape of a narrow rectangle. The display cases and cash register line one wall and a few small tables and chairs line the opposite wall. A small partition at the end of the rectangle houses a counter with self-serve coffee, which also doubles as a partition to the back of the bakery.

Several display cases of varying lengths and heights are strung together, displaying their freshly baked sweets, including cookies, cupcakes, cakes, pies, filled pastries and a myriad of other tantalizing treats.

With only three small, two-seat tables available for dining in, it soon became clear that their main business is done via customer pick-up and take-out. Nonetheless, my lunch companion and I decided to enjoy our lunch there. Unfortunately, the tables and chairs were directly in the path of the front door, which meant that every time someone opened the door, we were treated to a cold February wind.

I was surprised by the amount of customer traffic in the bakery. Most customers were there to pick up lunch, but a few others simply stopped in for a sweet treat or a cup of hot coffee.

The informality of the lunch service was reinforced via the use of paper plates and plastic cutlery. I didn’t mind at all though, as ceramic plates and metal silverware would have seemed overkill for this neighborhood store.

Think of Genesee Bakery and Deli as a neighborhood establishment. In fact, I bumped into a high school friend while I was there. I won’t tell you how long ago I was in high school, but suffice to say that I hadn’t seen her in a long, long time!

Menu

The physical menu at the Genesee Bakery and Deli is modest and informal, but the offerings are anything but modest. The menu is printed on one sheet of green paper and is available on the deli counter. One side of the printed menu is dedicated to the deli offerings, while the other side highlights the bakery. In addition, the small front display window also shows daily specials on a white erase board.

From the deli, you can choose from hot and cold subs and sandwiches, and assorted freshly baked pastries (brownies, cakes, muffins, croissants, eclairs, scones, tarts, cupcakes, etc), cookies, kuchens and pies, most ranging in price from about $1.75 to $3.00 each.  Subs range in price from $3.35 for a small sandwich or roll, to $4.85 for a medium sandwich, and $6.35 for a large sandwich.  If you prefer your sub on a croissant or wrap, the price is $4.95.  Pies are available in over a dozen varieties and are priced from $13.00 – $14.00 each.

You can also buy a few salads and sides, including a Garden Salad, Buffalo Chicken Tender Salad, Macaroni and Cheese, Soup, Stuffed Breads or combos of either soup and salad or soup and sandwich.

Genesee Bakery Display Case, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Genesee Bakery Display Case, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Genesee Bakery Display Case, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Genesee Bakery Display Case, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

 

If you are interested in ordering from the bakery, you’ll have quite the selection from which to choose your delight. Party trays are available for breakfast, subs, pastries, cookies and brownies, and are designed to serve 10 or more people, and range in price from about $2-$3 per person. Cakes are available in six sizes, serving from 4 people to up to 70 people. And oh the cupcakes! Priced at only $1.75 each, they are the best value around. With dozens of flavors available, you’re sure to find one to please your particular taste. Finally, if you are in the market for a wedding cake or a stand of cupcakes for a wedding, give them a call for details of pricing and delivery information.

Their baked goods are also sold at all three Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters, coffee bars in Strong Memorial Hospital, and Connections Cafe in the Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester.

Food

A sign in the exterior entryway window advertised a few daily specials. The Fish Sandwich Special ($4.95) caught my eye.  I ordered it on multi-grain roll, with lettuce and tomato. I also indulged in a side of Macaroni and Cheese ($3.95).  A bottle of Sprite ($1.50) completed my lunch, all for under $11.

Genesee Bakery Fish Sandwich with Macaroni and Cheese side, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Genesee Bakery Fish Sandwich with Macaroni and Cheese side, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The fish was portioned generously, and it was well seasoned and battered. I liked that it was moist and flaky as well.  It tasted like a mild whitefish, not too “fishy.” The multi-grain roll was fresh and soft.

It was the macaroni and cheese, however, which truly surprised me. It tasted homemade – no boxed mixes here! The silky smooth and creamy cheese coated the elbow macaroni with just the right consistency. Again, the portion was larger than I expected, and I savored every last bite of it.

Genesee Bakery Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcake, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Genesee Bakery Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcake, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Being in a bakery, I simply could not skip dessert. I indulged in a Chocolate-Hazelnut Cupcake.  It was delicious! Admittedly, I don’t crave sweets, but this cupcake really hit the spot as an after-lunch treat. The chocolate cupcake was filled with a chocolate pudding center and was topped with a chocolate-hazelnut cream frosting, chocolate shavings and a hazelnut cookie stick. That’s a lot of chocolate!  It was moist and delicate, as well as really delicious.

Next time, I will try their lemon pie. There were a few slices of it on the counter, quietly taunting me. I later found out through a friend that the lemon pie is one of their most popular and tasty treats.

I also purchased a loaf of fresh-baked Whole Grain Bread, which I took home. I sampled it over the next few days and found it good, but not especially memorable or outstanding in any way. It was a decent, average loaf of bread.

My lunch companion ordered an Egg and Olive Sandwich for her lunch. She was happy to have been given her choice of the type of olives and the type of bread.  I thought about ordering it too, at first, because it reminded me of the egg and olive salad sandwiches my mom used to make. I never was able to recreate her recipe, and I rarely see it on restaurant or deli menus. So, when she ordered it, I made a mental note to give it a taste.

The Egg and Olive sandwich portion was larger than expected (a hallmark of this bakery, apparently). She raved about the sandwich, saying that it was delicious. She asserted, “I was observing Lent and it really hit the spot!” That’s quite a ringing endorsement. I tried a forkfull of the egg and olive salad and I have to agree that it was super tasty – almost as good as mom’s.

Genesee Bakery Egg and Olive Sandwich, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Genesee Bakery Egg and Olive Sandwich, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

For dessert, my lunch companion sampled a few items, including a Chinese Marble Cookie and a Mock “Hostess” Cupcake, together totalling $2.30 – what a deal! She liked the Chinese Marble Cookie, noting that it was not too dry. However, it was the cupcake that got her attention.  It was fashioned to look like a Hostess cupcake, complete with the white squiggly line of frosting on top, but that’s where the similarities end. This was no store-bought, assembly line cupcake! Moist and rich, I coveted this cupcake as she ate it. Yes, mine was good, but hers had childhood memories attached to it!

Genesee Bakery Hostess Cupcake and Chinese Marble Cookie, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Genesee Bakery Hostess Cupcake and Chinese Marble Cookie, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Service

In addition to the owner, I counted three others working there on a busy Friday during lunchtime.  The gentleman who took our order was kind and patient as we decided what we wanted. He granted my request for a receipt, even though he had to retrieve it from the long strip of register receipts.  Also, when I ordered a loaf of freshly baked bread to take home, he happily asked if I would like it sliced. Although I declined, I thought it was a nice gesture.

Our food was ready in just a few minutes, which was surprising because it was so busy. Because there is no table service, we were not visited by a server, but the workers behind the counter were available if we needed anything, such as an extra plastic fork or napkins. We were met with a friendly greeting both upon our entrance and our exit.

Overall Impression

I would recommend the Genesee Bakery and Deli if you are looking for a neighborhood place to get lunch and a sweet treat to go, or to pick up some confections for a party or get together. It’s not geared toward a sit-down meal, as the seating appeared to be more for those who are waiting for their “to go” orders. However, the sandwiches and desserts are high quality and a great value. You might even feel a bit of nostalgia as you look around the old fashioned bakery and deli.

If you go:

Genesee Bakery & Deli
1677 Mt. Hope Ave.
Rochester, NY 14620

Phone:       585-244-5360
Fax:           585-244-5361
Website:    www.genessebakeryanddeli.com
Email:        geneseebakery@yahoo.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Genesee-Bakery-and-Deli/67697562470
Twitter:     unable to find a Twitter account

Details:
Business Hours:   Mon-Fri: 7:30 am – 6 pm, Sat: 8 am-2 pm
Cuisine:  Bakery and Deli
Children’s Menu:           No
Accepts Credit Cards:   Yes
Handicap Accessible:    Yes
Attire:                           Casual
Requires Reservations: No
Table Service:              Y es
Take Out:                     Yes
Outdoor Seating:          No
Parking:                        Free and plentiful in adjoining plaza lot
Valet Service:               No
Bar Seating:                 No
Alcohol:                       No
Coat Check:                No
Date opened:             1990
Date visited:               Friday, February 27, 2015 (Lunch)

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