Rochester Magazine's Best Restaurants 2020

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Tonic - Local Kitchen & Juice Bar

Best Place for Vegetarian Food

Tonic Local Kitchen & Juice Bar

1217 2nd Street SW

507-258-5224 |

Our take:Tonic boasts "good food that is good for you." And with fresh juices, tried-and-true family recipes, and locally sourced ingredients, they’re making good on that promise.

Finalists:Old Abe Coffee Co., Lettuce Unite, Bar Buffalo, Twigs, People’s Food Co-op, India Garden

Best Bartender

Josh Kral at Bitter & Pour

18 3rd Street SW


507-322-6320 |

Our take: Kral has been called "The genius behind B&P's 30-plus cocktails." So there's that.

Finalists: Sean Stuart at Bleu Duck Kitchen, Kasey Kephart at Half Barrel, Cole Kundert at Newt’s, Nic Jeno, Gil Paz at Rooster’s Barn & Grill

Best Italian Dish

Lasagna at Victoria’s Ristorante & Wine Bar

7 1st Avenue SW

507-280-6232 |

Our take:The generous portion of this award-winning lasagna can easily be shared. If you’re into that kind of thing.

Finalists:Gnocchi at Terza, Lasagna at Terza, Ravioli at Twigs, Rosa Verde at Victoria’s, Chicken Alfredo at Victoria’s

Best Tacos

Taco Jed

808 South Broadway Ave.


507-258-9064 |

Our take:Try the Flower Child taco, even if you’re not a vegetarian. Trust us on this one.

Finalists:Hefe Rojo, Lucy’s Tacos, Tap House, Guerita’s Window, Taco Moreno

Best Dessert

Banana Cream Pie at Chester’s Kitchen & Bar

111 South Broadway (Shops At University Square)

507-424-1211 |

Our take:If history is any indication, you should also be able to enjoy this delicious concoction at Chester's Thursdays Downtown booth this summer.

Finalists:Bunnie’s Coconut Cake at Canadian Honker, Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies at Bleu Duck, Tiramisu at Terza, Chocolate Bread Pudding at 300 First, Cheesecake at Mr. Pizza North

Best Cocktail

Problem Solver at Bitter & Pour

18 3rd Street SW


507-322-6320 |

Our take:Tucked away on Historic 3rd, the "subterranean hideaway" is the perfect backdrop to sip on the Problem Solver … or any of Bitter & Pour’s handcrafted cocktails.

Finalists: Old Fashioned at Bleu Duck, Old Fashioned at Half Barrel, Old Fashioned at The Porch, Doli at Chester’s, Blackberry Mojito at Tap House, Purple Rain Martini at Martini’s

Best Asian Place

Pho Chau

1014 North Broadway

507-281-3342 |

Our take:There’s a reason Pho Chau finds its tables full on a daily basis. Fresh ingredients, an authentic Vietnamese menu, knowledgeable servers, and buzz-worthy pho (Vietnam’s classic soup) have made Pho Chau a star in Rochester’s dining scene.

Finalists:Mango Thai, Hunan Garden, Wong’s, Asia Fusion, China One

Best Burger

The Classic at Hot Chip Burger Bar

1190 16th Street SW


507-424-0080 |

Our take: You can’t beat the basics. The Classic Burger boasts two four-ounce patties, American cheese, pickles, onion and "special sauce."

Finalists: Marvin Burger at Newt’s, Bleu Duck Burger at Bleu Duck Kitchen, Abbott’s Gold Bacon Burger at Canadian Honker, My Bleu Heaven Burger at CB3, County Fair Burger at Rooster’s Barn & Grill

Best Brewery

Little Thistle Brewing Co.

2031 14th Street NW

507-226-8014 |

Our take:Little Thistle’s owners, Steve and Dawn Finnie, set out to create a welcoming space for the entire community when they opened their doors in 2018. And they succeeded.

Finalists:Forager, Thesis Beer Project, LTS, Grand Rounds, Kinney Creek

Best Sandwich

Banh Mi at Old Abe Coffee Co.

832 7th Street NW


507-271-0294 |

Our take:The vegan café has a strong following—and it’s the banh mi that has the greatest buzz when it comes to lunch fare. The secret, according to some? That salty vegan bacon.

Finalists:Turkey Avocado at Chester’s, Walleye Sandwich at Canadian Honker, Turkey Club at City Market, KFC at Cameo, Rotisserie Chicken at Chester’s

Best View

The Tap House

10 3rd Street SW

507-258-4017 |

Our take:If you don’t land a rooftop table this summer (and that winning view of the Plummer Building in Rochester’s skyline), a table on the sidewalk is a solid second for people-watching on Historic 3rd.

Finalists:Five West, Whistle Binkies on the Lake, Hot Chip, H3, Chester’s

Best Place to Eat with Kids

Hy-Vee Market Grille

Four locations|


Our take:Market Grille’s kids’ meals include both the expected (grilled cheese or chicken bites, anyone?) and the unexpected (like the Wok-N-Roll).

Finalists:Canadian Honker, Newt’s, Wildwood Sports Bar & Grill, Chuck E. Cheese, Porch

Best Fine Dining


150 South Broadway (in DoubleTree Hotel)

507-280-6900 |

Our take:If you want fresh seafood, a creative culinary team, and superior service, you can't go wrong with Pescara.

Finalists: Bleu Duck Kitchen, Chester's Kitchen & Bar, 300 First, Terza, Victoria's, Pittsburgh Blue

Best Bar Service

Bitter & Pour

18 3rd Street SW

507-322-6320 |

Our take:Great service, and one of the best whiskey sours in town (and we've tried a lot of them).

Finalists: Half Barrel, Bleu Duck Kitchen, Newt's, Chester's, Rooster's Barn & Grill, Dooley's

Best Place for Seafood


150 South Broadway (in DoubleTree Hotel)

507-280-6900 |

Our take:Why not go all out? Start with fresh-shucked oysters on the half shell followed by the lobster bisque and topped off with the lemongrass-crusted tuna. (And while dessert options don't include seafood, we swear by the crème brulee.)

Finalists:Candian Honker, Casablanca, Bleu Duck Kitchen, Red Lobster, Pappy's

Best Pizza Place

Pasquale’s Neighborhood Pizzeria

130 5th Street SW

507-424-7800 |

Our take: Though owner Pasquale Presa has centered his restaurant on authentic New York pizza, he has also established himself—and his award-winning pizzeria—as a beacon of community, philanthropy, and Minnesota Nice.

Finalists: Mr. Pizza North, Mr. Pizza South, Pi Pizza, Redwood Room, BB’s Pizzaria

Best Restaurant Service

Twigs Tavern & Grille

401 6th Street SW

507-288-0206 |

Our take:Stellar service isn’t the only thing Twigs has going for it. The restaurant’s patio is another award winner, and they boast a second kitchen for their gluten-free menu.

Finalists:Bleu Duck, Canadian Honker, Chester’s, Five West, Pescara, Terza

Best Coffee Shop

Café Steam

315 South Broadway (original location)

150 South Broadway (at Hilton Doubletree)

1929 2nd Street SW (at Thesis Beer Project)

201 4th Street SW (at One Discovery Square)

507-208-4160 |

Our take:We’re still partial to Steam’s original location, where brick walls, local art and live music make for a fabulous working lunch or date night.

Finalists:Moka, Old Abe Coffee Co., Fiddlehead, Dunn Bros., Bravo

Best Catering

Canadian Honker Catering

2112 2nd Street SW

507-258-4633 |

Our take:Don't forget to add Bunnie's Coconut Cake to your order. (It's a finalist—and for good reason—in this year's "Best Dessert" category.)

Finalists:J. Powers at the Hilton, Pinnacle Catering, Hy-Vee, Victoria's, Catering by Design

Best Bar Food

Wildwood Sports Bar & Grill

1517 16th Street SW

507-226-8380 |

Our take:Wildwood doesn’t just have great bar food—it also has some of the best happy hour specials in town. Like 2-for-1 taps and $3 off apps.

Finalists:Newt’s, Rooster’s Barn & Grill, Tap House, Whistle Binkies, Chester’s Kitchen & Bar, Half Barrel

Best Steak Place

Pittsburgh Blue Steakhouse

10 E. Center Street (in downtown Hilton)

507-361-2560 |

Our take:Dry-aged beef hand-cut by master butchers. What else can we say, really?

Finalists:Texas Roadhouse, 300 First, Chester’s, Pescara, Lord Essex

Best Trivia/Bar Games

LTS Brewing Company

2001 32nd Avenue NW

507-226-8280 |

Our take:In addition to the brewery’s extensive board game collection, they offer trivia nights, cribbage and euchre tournaments, and much more.

Finalists:Tap House, Little Thistle Brewing Co., Charlie’s Eatery and Pub, Wild Bill’s, Kinney Creek

Best Sushi

Ichi Tokyo

3449 22nd Avenue NW

102 20th Street SE

507-288-2577 |

Our take:We recommend the all-you-can-eat sushi. (Yes, we wrote "all-you-can-eat-sushi.")

Finalists:Ootori, Kumo, Fuji, Jenpachi, Zen Fusion

Best Bar

Bitter & Pour

18 3rd Street SW

507-322-6320 |

Our take:It’s only fitting that Bitter & Pour would earn the "Best Bar" vote, as they’ve also garnered this year’s top awards for best cocktail, best bartender, and best bar service.

Finalists:Tap House, Half Barrel, Wildwood, Whistle Binkies, Rooster’s, Crooked Pint

Best Happy Hour

Wildwood Sports Bar & Grill

1517 16th Street SW

507-226-8380 |

Our take:Combine Wildwood’s "best happy hour" win with their "best bar food" award and you have a can’t-miss night out.

Finalists:Chester’s Kitchen & Bar, Half Barrel, Bleu Duck Kitchen, Applebee’s, Rooster’s Barn & Grill

Best Server

Amber Bacon at Five West

1991 Commerce Drive NW

507-361-5555 |

Our take:Last time we were at Five West, Amber waited on us. And she may have been smiling the entire time.

Finalists: Andrew Ferguson at Bitter & Pour, Jack Lester at Forager, Erin Rose at Rooster’s Too, Yvonne Krause at Hot Chip, Isabel Rodriguez

Best Breakfast Place (TIE)

Five West Kitchen & Bar

1991 Commerce Drive NW

507-361-5555 |

Our take:How can you go wrong with a breakfast menu that ranges from breakfast lasagna to S’more waffle?

Rooster’s Barn & Grill

Rooster's Too

2280 Superior Drive NW,

4576 Maine Avenue SE

507-226-8885 |

Our take:Breakfast is just one of the "Six B’s" that Rooster’s is famous for. The others? Burgers, broasted chicken, beer, billiards, and bullseyes (darts).

Finalists:Canadian Honker, Benedict’s, Brother’s, Newt’s, Dunn Bros.

Coolest-Looking Restaurant

Terza Ristorante

30 3rd Street SE

507-216-9590 |

Our take:We’re not sure if it’s the high-backed booths, the influence of Italian architecture or the wood-fired pizza oven visible behind a dramatic, tiled arch. But it doesn’t matter. The outcome is a warm and inviting setting for the restaurant’s authentic Italian dishes.

Finalists:Five West, Bleu Duck Kitchen, Hot Chip, Cameo, Forager, Lord Essex

Best New Restaurant

Cameo at the Castle

121 North Broadway Ave.

507-361-2070 |

Our take:As good as Cameo is, it’s made even better by its location. Take a trip to the upper floors of The Castle before or after your meal for a visit to Collective Books & Records, Queen City Coffee, or the center’s other offerings.

Finalists:Pittsburgh Blue, La Petit Cafe, Benedict's, Los Arcos

Best Restaurant More than 30 Minutes Away


208 N. Main Street, Nelson, Wis.

715-673-4717 |

Our take:BBQ is all the rage these days—and J&J’s is at the top of their game. The family-run business opened its current location in Nelson in 2001, where they continue their tradition of Southern-style pork bbq.

Finalists:Four Daughters (Spring Valley), The Front Porch Bar and Grill (Kellogg), Estelle’s (Harmony), House of Coates (Rosemount), Stagehead (Red Wing)

Outside of Rochester, Best Restaurant Within 30 Minutes

The Hubbell House

502 N. Main Street, Mantorville

507-635-2331 |

Our take:It’s worth the drive for the history alone—the Hubbell House has stood in the same location since 1856. But you’ll want to stay for the food, including their award-winning, hand-cut steaks.

Finalists:Tilly’s Tavern (Oronoco), Douglas Saloon (New Haven Twp.), Misplaced Magnolia (Kasson), The Pondy (Mazeppa)

Best Barista

Andrew Meissner at Bravo Espresso

111 South Broadway (in University Square)

507-281-4076 |

Our take:This isn't Meissner's first time winning Best Barista honors. He also took the title in 2012. Probably because he's one of those baristas who, if you're a regular, starts making your drink before you even get to the counter.

Finalists:Will Forsman at Café Steam, Eric Straubmuller at Dunn Bros., Breanna Holtan at Queen City Coffee, Patrick Phelan at Fiddlehead, Abe Sauer at Old Abe Coffee Co.

And... Rochester's Best Restaurant

Bleu Duck Kitchen

14 4th Street SW

507-258-4663 |

Our take:Located in the historic Conley-Maass-Downs building, Bleu Duck manages to feel both comfortable and upscale­­—and has a menu to match (and is sure to impress any foodie.) First timer? We recommend trying one of Bleu Duck's Tuesday night "Date Nights," which includes two entrees, a dessert and a bottle of wine.

Finalists:Twigs, Chester’s, Pescara, Five West, Canadian Honker, Victoria’s

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