By Ryan Arnold
[Publisher Note: The Cut (at post bottom) spent March discussing brunch spots worth heading into the city of Rochester for. So, in April, as our focus turned to foods improved through the careful application of smoke and flame, we’re taking the opportunity to look at places worth a drive outside of the city.]
SMOKE ALARM 1: SIX50
Six50’s trio of owners are still working through the struggle of an accidental fire that burned their two-year-old Chili location to the ground. Many of the employees have persevered through the tragedy, and some even commute to Victor from the west side of town. Their experience complements the new location’s all-star kitchen staff.
The theme of Six50 is “black oven cooking,” a concept that places food directly next to flame during preparation. But it might as well be “local black oven cooking”, since Six50 sources its hardwood locally, as it is not only a renewable resource, but also produces a unique flavor and burns at a very high temperature. At Six50, ingredients are also sourced locally and the entire preparation takes place in the restaurant’s open kitchen.
A few weeks ago, we spent some time at the bar for a weekday lunch. We learned quickly that regulars love the Adriano Pizza, which features a sausage and cream sauce base embellished with bacon, banana peppers, scallions, mozzarella, and asiago cheese. A few bites in and we could tell the pizza was balanced, well executed, and sized perfectly for one. The woodfired oven imparted unique smoky notes to the pie, and just enough char to be appetizing.
Whether you find yourself at the mall for the day, or are passing by the Victor exit on the NYS thruway, trust us, it’s worth the quick detour down NY-96 to watch your food move from farm to fired.
Pro tip: Check out Six50’s inventive Moscow Mule variations.
SMOKE ALARM 2: BAD TO THE BONE
If your Rochester radio station starts to fade, and the familiar divided highway drifts back to the two-lane road representing route 104 heading east from town, you’ve almost arrived at a piece of the south, up north, in Williamson, NY with local favorite, Bad to the Bone Barbecue.
You’ll find yourself pulling into an unassuming parking lot and up to a low-rise eatery, but even during the week you will likely find a small enclave of guest’s cars wedged in between mobile smokers and grills at this roadside food haven. Inside, you’ll find end to end knotty pine and a counter full of trophies, reminiscent of some of our other favorite BBQ hideaways we’ve encountered.
Owner Mack Cobb grew up in the area picking apples with the family at local farms, and in 2003, translated that work ethic and a building the family owned into Bad to the Bone.
You’ll quickly stumble onto some southern oriented favorites on this menu, particularly noted by sides such as fried okra, collard greens, and smoked green beans with ham hocks, which can be picked up a-la-carte or alongside your favorite center-plate stars. Of course, the focus at B2B is truly on a wide range of low and slow cooked meats, such as quarter and half chicken, brisket, pork, and ribs.
Meats are cooked with a hand-rubbed spice mix, which the family wouldn’t let us into the secret recipe vault on, but we were able to learn the cooking process all happens on-site, with up to 16 hours of cook time in a hardwood pit. A true sign of well-smoked barbecue is the pink smoke ring, which is evident in situations like we found in our brisket sandwich platter, though it was a bit hard to discern with a great tomato-based sauce added to top off the pile of meat, as opposed to a vinegar style you might find if you hail from the Carolinas.
Smoked meats retain this pink due to the presence of myoglobin. In high-temperature cooking, such as a grilled steak, this quickly disappears due to the heating process, and your meat loses this pigment and turns brown. However, when using an organic heating source such as wood, nitrogen dioxide becomes a byproduct and through a chemical reaction it’s absorbed into your meat and makes this color stable. Cool, huh?
Bad to the Bone offers a value-priced menu, with many platter options under ten dollars, a huge win in our book considering the generous two sides offered alongside your main choice, though there are some more expensive choices great for spreading out to share. Also worth noting, there are simple kids and seafood favorites, such as southern style chicken tenders and fried catfish to round out the menu.
SMOKE ALARM 3: FIAMMA PIZZA E VINO
PHOTO COURTESY OF FIAMMA
Rounding up smoky fare in and around Rochester, we ventured out to Fiamma Pizza e Vino on Buffalo Road in Gates, NY.
Fiamma reminds me of the occasion on which I tried to locate a late night nosh in Rome, where mealtimes run much later than they do stateside. Amazing food need not take too long, and the key to Fiamma’s pizza success is speed.
The ovens at Fiamma clock in at one thousand degrees Fahrenheit. These temps cook a pizza in just forty-five seconds, leaving little room for error. The fast and hot cooktime delivers unique texture and taste, regardless of which of the fourteen pizza varieties a guest might select.
Our winner is the Regina Margherita (pictured above), which blends San Marzano tomato sauce, Buffalo milk mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, oregano, basil, gran cru cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. We also dig the Rochester (pictured below) made of mozzarella, taleggio, thinly sliced prosciutto di parma, and a smattering of truffled oil. The precision and attention to detail in both the sourcing of ingredients and overall preparation deliver an unforgettable taste and texture experience. In addition to pizza, diners have a variety of hot and cold appetizers, pastas, and other entrees to choose from.
Pro tip: There’s a lean amount of parking at Fiamma’s easy-to-miss strip mall location, however you can generally find a spot at the adjacent Italian-American sports club.