IMAGE COURTESY OF BAD APPLES BISTRO
By Ryan Arnold
If you heard that a former downtown chef opened a fresh, inventive, and family friendly date night location which challenges the sometimes pretentious and intimidating category of fine dining, you might also be surprised to hear this location is in a low-rise strip mall on the west side of Rochester, NY. But that’s part of what makes Bad Apples Bistro in Spencerport such an unexpected gem.
A native of Spencerport, chef Christopher Kisiel returned to the area after spending a significant amount of time in hipper—but also noisier—food-focused neighborhoods around the city. With a departure from downtown to the West Side, this chef isn’t really interested in a trendy street address.
Bad Apples’ décor isn’t quite minimalist, but it does lean toward simplicity, allowing the food and drink speak to for itself. It offers romantic candlelit dining, and a vibrant, ever-changing menu.
But the truly undervalued feature at Bistro is the wine list. Bottles are available at a number of very approachable price points and there’s good representation of both local wines and those from around the world. My pick is from the chef’s reserve section, Ravines Dry Riesling. It’s well-rated and a great buy for under $40. Regulars might might feel they’ve seen this bottle anchor Bad Apples’ wine list for too long, but the entry-level purchaser will really appreciate this option.
In Order to impress like a real date night professional, you’d be well-served by ordering the tomato bisque, which isn’t on the menu, but is made in the kitchen daily. Another of my favorite dishes includes the braised lamb shank, which is a two-pound, bone-in delicacy. Bad Apples’ menu is focused and seasonally driven. This is what happens when a decisive and experienced chef is in charge, so sit back and enjoy the ride.
Ryan’s Date Night Scorecard
Mood: Casual Upscale, Romantic, Okay for Kids
Ideal For: Young Lovers, Timeless Romance, Small Family Dinner, Lunch Date
Budget- Mid-range, with options for both Inexpensive or pricier meals
PHOTO OF LENTO’S POUTINE COURTESY OF OUR FRIEND, LINH PHILLIPS OF SIRROCHASAYS
By Ryan Arnold
[ Publisher Note: As February began, The Cut was in the mood for a little romance. In the interest of sharing some of our favorite locations for hot dates, my first pick was Rochester’s Lento.]
“You never take me anywhere,” Jenny, my wife, playfully jokes with me as I kick back after work for a few minutes, taking in the comforts of my couch, scrolling through Instagram.
To her credit, she’s an awesome mom to our daughter, and while she’s not entirely correct, I do enjoy the benefit of visiting few more of Rochester’s locally owned restaurants than she does under the guise of “work”.
So when she suggested that Grandma babysit for a few hours on New Year’s Eve, I knew we had to visit one of Rochester’s go-to restaurants, the warm, inviting confines of Lento in the Village Gate. In a world where the term ‘farm-to-table’ is overused, I was excited to try Lento, reputed for its local ethos, but also a haven of big city talent and charm, quarterbacked by 2015 James Beard Awards nominee, chef and owner Art Rogers.
We were impressed with the restaurant’s atmosphere and attentive service. Our server, Beau, was everything you’d expect from waitstaff at a fine dining establishment. Upon learning it was our first time to the restaurant, he walked us through the menu, offered a few suggestions, and told us about Lento and its commitment to using produce sourced within fifty miles whenever possible. Lento also has a pretty remarkable raw bar that uses very intentional sourcing too, no purchasing from commercial fisheries is allowed.
Dinner was bookended with lovely wine and cocktail offerings. My wife opted for a bubbly holiday cocktail while I enjoyed the more potent Smoking Cowboy, a blend of High West Double Rye Whiskey, Casamigos Tequila, mezcal, lime zest, and bitters—both Peychaud’s and molasses.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LENTO
Our meal began with a platter of local cheese that also featured freshly-baked fruit bread, which, served warm complemented each of the cheese selections. Whether you opt for cheese or pass, each table is served a basket of fresh, local bread with seasoned oil.
Jenny dubbed her entree of roasted wild Coho salmon with roasted romanesco, wild rice, and maple rosemary buerre blanc “Christmas in your mouth.” The flavor of my smoky cocktail was the perfect match with an order of stuffed cannelloni. Simply prepared, the dish featured rappini, black trumpet mushrooms, tomato sauce, and Provolone Stravecchio.
If you’re on more of a cocktails and snacks adventure, I recommend the poutine made with fresh cut duck fat fries (pictured above).
It’s not a date night dinner without a dessert to share, and we selected the Caramel Apple Mousse. The portion allowed each of us to enjoy a bit of sweetness while still saving room for the ultimate goal of having a few more cocktails to ring in the new year.
Over my lifetime, the Village Gate has slowly revitalized the Neighborhood of the Arts. What used to be a purely industrial zone—occupying the same space an old printing company did prior to it’s sale in 1982—the building now houses some of the area’s most prolific local artists, who open their doors to the public on a monthly basis. If you visit Lento, or one of the other great options within just a few steps, be sure to end your night with a truly unique cocktail experience. Wander across the walkway to Nox, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary. We stopped by before finding a safe ride home, and it was the perfect way to christen our year of food and drink adventures.
Ryan’s Date Night Scorecard
Mood: Romantic, Upscale, Impress the folks, Rustic and fresh
Ideal For: Happily married, Business dinner, Cocktails with a group, Quiet meal at the bar
Budget: Mid-upper range, Dinner for two under $100