Rochester, MN in mid-January, Really?
Well, yes. When the boss says meet me in Rochester, you go to Rochester. But, that means opportunity, right? I mean, there have to be some good things going on in a city that includes 32,000 employees of the Mayo Clinic. I’ve been to Rochester a couple of times in recent years, but haven’t had time to explore the local culture and food scene. This trip was relatively quick as well, but with a bit of prior knowledge and some research I was able to make some memories.
Location, location, location. If you’re going to do it right, make sure your hotel is in a prime spot, within walking distance to planned destinations. This was especially important given the sub-zero temperatures on this trip. In this case, I chose the Hilton on South Broadway, walking distance to The Tap House and The Grand Rounds Brewery, both on historic 3rd Street. In a city primarily dedicated to the Clinic, this is the area to find bistros, bars and shops.
When I visited the Tap House last spring it was true to its name, 50 beers on tap and no food to speak of, other than a few salty snacks. At the time they had been permitted to renovate the space and begin an expanded menu. The internal wall was to come down and more seating added. For me, a place at the bar to study the taps would be just fine.
Given the opportunity to try a few beers, I chose the “flight” route, sampling the Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, Lakefront Fixed Gear Red Ale, Surly Fiery Hell (well named… the fiery part that is) and the Avery Old Jubilation. The pub menu, while relatively limited, was an assortment of appetizers, sandwiches and a handful of options from south of the border. Having eaten only an orange and some Greek yogurt all day, I went the route of the Bad-Ass Burger; a calorie-rich combination of beef, bacon and three large onion rings. The kicker was the brioche bun… hands down a better option than your typical hamburger roll. The Tap House is a great option to experience the beer scene in Rochester, but not the only option.
My plans changed multiple times on my second night. Ultimately, I joined a couple of colleagues for drinks at Forager Brewery and then dinner at The Grand Rounds Brewery. (There’s a theme developing here!) I have no complaints about any of the beers we tried. Notable among them was the Forager’s Broken Compass, a straw colored Hefeweizen, with a distinct flavor of bubble gum. Forager’s story is pretty unique. Explore their site to learn about their business model and associated business.
Dinner at The Grand Rounds was fun, but unremarkable. The fish‘n’ chips included two pieces of cod and a generous portion of fries. If I had one suggestion it would be to move off the symmetrical plating and give the dinner a little more life. My first thought when looking at the dish was… processed fish, cut in uniform pieces in a processing plant. It certainly didn’t taste that way, but that initial impression could have been avoided with little or no effort or waste (random cut of fish? lemon wedge? sprinkle of parsley?) A side note on this stop… on the way out I passed a table of three familiar looking millennials. I had seen all three working behind the bar at Forager Brewery. I couldn’t resist stopping by to challenge their loyalties. They answered as expected… “hey, we need to support the local industry, and the Hawaii 507 Coconut Stout is excellent”. No complaints here.
The down side of a quick trip is missing the opportunity to explore further. There are some other great looking spots in downtown Rochester that will be on the list, should I have the opportunity to return. For now it’s back to Vermont and the next Experience.