PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OWL HOUSE
By Ryan Arnold
Overall, brunch in Rochester tends to fall into one of two categories: at mom’s house or near your house. Brunch has plenty of fans, and it should. But it’s also the meal of the week when most of the suburban crowd plays it safe. By this, I mean they most often choose to dine at the brunch spot adjacent to their favorite neighborhood supermarket or church, never wandering too far—especially into the city.
While city locations serving brunch are already insanely popular, it would wise for suburban diners to take the trip and learn why. During brunch, these urban gems serving contemporary cuisine and cocktails can be enjoyed at a fraction of the cost one might spend on a similarly delicious and exciting dinner. The downtown brunch scene is accessible in under half an hour from most of the metro area, so suburban diners can expect to reach every Rochester option featured this month by traveling less than twenty miles from porch to plate.
The Owl House is a favorite. It’s charming, boasts a lovely staff, and at brunch it serves a very wide range of breakfast and lunch favorites until 3 p.m. In addition to the vegan, veg- and omnivore-friendly diversity demonstrated by finding a smoked duck and waffle sandwich (pictured above) positioned on the menu next to a tofu scramble, diners can indulge in craft cocktails like Putting Up Your Dukes, which features Joe Bean Coffee, vegan bourbon cream, and dark walnut bitters.
(Pro-tip: True to it’s name, The Owl House is located in an actual house with multiple levels, so call ahead if any of the members of your party have mobility needs).
PHOTO COURTESY OF ATLAS EATS
When we’re on the hunt for culinary adventure, Atlas Eats is the litmus test to which all other neighborhood gems are measured. Buried in the middle of a suburban residential area, this very busy bakery-turned-foodie haven actually features breakfast Thursday through Sunday, which is good to know if you’re on a flexible schedule and can squeeze into this very small eatery on a random weekday. The must-have staple is resoundingly an order of kimchee pancakes, which boast Korean fermented cabbage sandwiched between whole wheat pancakes, along with a poached egg and dragon sauce. At Atlas, there is always a slam dunk, and it’s the special-du-jour, with far-reaching options like pork belly with eggs, syrup, and apple (pictured). Coffee comes as a specially-roasted Java’s blend in a glass, globe-shaped mug. (Pro tip: If you don’t save room for a sweet finish, you’ll want to be sure to take home some bread pudding—it’s not to be missed.)
PHOTO COURTESY OF BUTAPUB
ButaPub is a great destination for groups with a range of needs. Whether you’re a foodie or someone looking for simple breakfast and lunch favorites, ButaPub is a safe and fun bet. Chef Asa Mott serves up the Pub’s standard Asian-inspired fare like Tonkatsu Ramen and Korean Chicken and Donuts, but there are plenty of mainstream offerings like Belgian Waffles and Eggs Benny. If you’re shaking off Saturday night, don’t miss the hair of the dog special which asks you to match your fave Genesee brew with a shot, just like a Tinder date.
PHOTO COURTESY OF NAPA WOOD FIRED PIZZA
Napa Wood Fired Pizza’s brunch flies under the radar, but there is rarely a better seat in the late morning or early afternoon than on the newly-renovated deck at the South Wedge location. Ideal for the value seeker, the “Wake Up Call” (pictured above) is a tasty BLT panino escorted by a generously sized 20-ounce bloody mary (or perhaps it’s the reverse). In addition to this favorite, there is also a slim, but diverse brunch menu, and as always, a litany of gluten-free options.
With twenty takes on the omelet and seven benedicts on offer (including the crab cake version I had above), The Frog Pond is a solid brunch spot. The restaurant has certainly served tens of thousands of both since opening on Park Avenue in 1975.
Frog Pond is an exception to the rule, as it serves a polished menu featuring a ton of options all the while avoiding the suburban-chain-four-colors-of-faux-syrup-and-everyone’s-just-a-number feeling inherent with most places serving menus of that size. We’re proud of their ability to keep each meal time anchored to a single page, but yet provide such a wealth of a-la-carte choices that it’s safe to bring your perpetually indecisive mother-in-law along with you. There isn’t a ton of real estate here and reservations aren’t accepted for brunch, so plan accordingly if you’re traveling with a group. Pro tip: Flying solo can quickly net you a stool at the breakfast bar sometimes.