The Buffalo wings at McMurphy's? The au gratin potatoes at Michael's?
Columnist Steve Lange looks back at five favorite restaurant meals from long-gone Rochester restaurants.
Regularly, I make lists in my head, such as Top Five Concerts I've Seen (You're tied for No. 1, The Ramones and Neil Young) or Five Most Boring Museums I've Forced My Family To Visit (You win in a landslide, Celery Interpretive Center).
I do this for various reasons, such as at night to help me fall asleep or during the day to kill time in meetings.
Or, when anyone is telling me a long and involved story about their dream.
Or, during any children's play, dance recital or band concert when none of my kids are on stage.
Some of the lists are more difficult than others. A few weeks ago, I instantly rattled off Five Favorite Cars I've Owned (I still think about you a lot, 1984 Buick Skyhawk).
But I had a very tough time trying to rank my Five Coolest Apartments. (Sure, the basement apartment in Cleveland had mushrooms growing out of the floor, but we also had a refrigerator with a keg inside and a tap handle through the door. Is that better or worse than the high-ceiling loft in Ypsilanti with the hardwood floors? Better, probably, because of that keg thing.)
Last week, while eating lunch and watching a training video at my desk, the presenter said "biting off more than you can chew," and I spent the next 10 minutes mentally ticking off my Five Favorite Meals Of All Time.
The top three included a rack of ribs in Tennessee, a steak with goat cheese in northern Michigan and a sampler platter at an Alabama restaurant that stood on stilts over a catfish pond. As soon as I thought about that one, I could taste the blackened catfish, even as I chewed on my ham sandwich. That meal was that memorable.
Then, because the webinar still had an hour left, I added a bonus sublist: Top Five Restaurant Meals From Rochester Restaurants That No Longer Exist.
Here's what I came up with.
1. The Buffalo wings at McMurphy's. I consider myself a bit of a Buffalo wing aficionado. When we lived in the basement apartment in Cleveland (see above), we spent most nights eating at whatever bar offered 10-cent wings.
When we lived in the loft apartment in Ypsilanti (see above), we spent most nights eating 10-cent wings. And so it went, from apartment to apartment, for about an eight-year period, during which I consumed — and I just did the most depressing math of my life — an estimated 32,000 wings.
Once, when I lived in Ann Arbor, we drove five-plus hours to Buffalo, New York, just to eat wings at the Anchor Bar, the birthplace of Buffalo wings.
So, yeah, I know a little something about Buffalo wings.
And I know McMurphy's had the best wings in town. It would make sound financial sense for one of the area bars or restaurants to add those wings back to the menu, if only for the money I would spend alone.
2. The Mooseburger at the Smiling Moose. Sure, people point to the Highway 52 expansion project as a catalyst for the $6 billion DMC investment, a plan expected to transform the entirety of Rochester. But was it really worth it if it meant we had to tear down the Smiling Moose? Probably not.
3. The mussels in white wine sauce at City Cafe. If only to give me some foodie cred, especially considering what's next on my list.
4. The fish basket at Long John Silver's. If only for those little crunchy things that came with it. Also, I miss those pirate hats.
5. The au gratin potatoes at Michael's. And I don't even like au gratin potatoes. I miss these because, in the 16 times we ate at Michaels, wife Lindy, when taking her first bite of the au gratin potatoes, moaned with pleasure in a way that made others around us uncomfortable, 16 times. I'm sure the women within earshot were doing that "I'll have what she's having" thing. Also, secondarily, I miss that filet mignon.
Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.