Quick Bites: Michaels reinvents itself
As one of the oldest established restaurants in Rochester, Michaelshas long been known for its consistency.
Consistent classic American steakhouse menu, consistent great service, consistent cookery, consistent seasonal specials.
Well, hold on to your hats, because Michaels 2.0 is more comfortable with change.
The 63-year-old restaurant recently underwent an interior renovation to the restaurant space, as well as a menu overhaul. With a restaurant formula that's worked for more than 50 years, garnering awards and recognition along the way, why change things up now?
"We're trying to get ahead of the curve," says owner Michael Pappas of the changing restaurant landscape. "Fifty-five percent of customers are looking for natural or organic ingredients in their meals now, and we needed to change to give customers what they want."
This means grass-fed beef, organic greens and other natural, specialty ingredients for side dishes, and sustainable seafood, such as wild-caught shrimp. This is where Michaels' expert cookery comes in: Some of those cuts of natural beef require a more delicate hand to bring out the flavor, and they don't disappoint.
Michaels also is looking to attract a younger crowd, like those who frequent newer restaurants like Chester's, The Loop and Sontes. In addition to adding natural and organic ingredients, this also means Michaels' menu also is sporting a wider-ranging flavor profile by incorporating some spicy dishes, as well as expanding its healthy Mediterranean section. The physical remodeling has resulted in a sleeker look and more private spaces for dining, which Pappas says younger diners are looking for.
"People also have the impression that we're expensive," says Pappas. "So we've added lower-priced items by keeping our quality but offering smaller portions."
For example, there now is a "Manhattan" steak, which is a similar cut to a New York strip but comes in at less than $20.
Other menu highlights include a Burrata mozzarella caprese salad, which combines California cow's milk mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, red onions and organic greens. A limited-time steak and lobster special also now is on the menu for a reasonable $25.95, as well as the Pappas Greek salad topped with sustainable, ocean-raised salmon.
Because so many more of their ingredients are locally sourced, sustainable and organic, the menu also will be changing more frequently depending on what's in season and available.
But Pappas knows they had a good thing going, too, so some things won't change.
"Our service will remain excellent," he says, "and we're reinventing some old classics, like Oysters Rockefeller and Escargot."
One of the touches that says it all to me is the "new" Michaels logo outside the restaurant entrance — which is actually their original logo, an art deco-inspired design from 1951. "We're still a classic American restaurant, but a lot of what we're doing is new," says Pappas.
Michaels is located at 15 South Broadway in downtown Rochester.
Toga-tastic at Athens Fest
If you're looking for some delicious family fun (and a cultural lesson or two) this weekend, be sure to take in Athens Fest, a first-of-its-kind festival on the Peace Plaza on Aug. 1-2.
Organizers say they're not trying to compete with Rochester's historic Greek Fest, which happens in a few weeks — they just want to celebrate ancient and modern Greek culture in a variety of ways.
Among many different activities, I love how Athens Fest is bringing together many different cultures that have been influenced by or partnered with Greece, like Ethiopia (Nile Restaurant), Italy (Salute!), and India. And of course, Mac's and Nupa will be there to represent Greek cuisine as well. You go for the Toga Run, pottery throwing, Greek makeovers or chariot rides — I'm going for the food.