These are Rochester's Best New Restaurants
Tom Yum Noodle Soup. Jalapeno poppers in flaky spring roll wrappers. Bangers and mash. Cuban Sandwich on naan bread. The Peanut Butter Old-Fashioned. A computerized, state-of-the-art flat-top grill with hydraulic arms.
Our readers pick six of Rochester’s best new restaurants.
Winner: Thai Pop
4 Third St. SW, Rochester
Welcome back! ThaiPop opened just six months ago in the historic building that has housed Wong’s Cafe, Sontes, and Grand Rounds Brewing/Nellie’s on Third. However, the owners and food aren’t new to Rochester. Chef Annie Balow began making Thai cuisine in the family’s apartment, then hosted pop-up kitchens at Forager (where they were featured as a Best New Restaurant runner-up in our April 2019 issue), Grand Rounds, and Marrow. Those pop-ups sold out every time—and you’ll still want to make a reservation to sit down at their new brick-and-mortar restaurant. Business is bustling, Balow says.
Feel the sand under your feet. Balow wants customers to feel like they’ve stepped into a vacation spot—and the tropical cocktails, 200-some houseplants, and modern takes on “ancient” Thai recipes certainly help with that. Sip a “Long Boat Home” cocktail with a melange of liquors and Thai tea, or cool down with a “White Elephant” mocktail, featuring coconut cream and lime-kefir simple syrup.
“Yum” is in the name. Balow’s sticking to her 2019 goal of “getting people to try something new every time they come here.” However, first-timers can play it safe with the ever-popular Tom Yum Noodle Soup, with street-style broth, ground pork, fried garlic and lime, and egg noodles.
Missing the pop-ups? In the next few months, Balow plans to introduce limited “tasting menu” nights, where she’ll exhibit potential add-ons to Thai Pop’s seasonal menus. She sees them happening once a month—check ThaiPop’s Facebook and Instagram for the first shot at a seat.
3708 Broadway Ave. N, Suite 160, Rochester
The latest in restaurant royalty. Purple Goat is owned by the Creative Cuisine Company—yes, the ones who run Newt’s, Hefe Rojo, City Market, and the Redwood Room.
“Recognizable food with a creative twist.” General manager Charles Morris applauds the restaurant’s beef (a house blend), sun-dried tomatoes in his favorite Gorgonzola Cavatappi (Pomodoraccio), and high-quality ingredients—but the dishes are “amplified” in other ways. Like jalapeno poppers in flaky spring roll wrappers, and “avocado verde” salsa.
Swing a hammer. Keep an eye out for a revamped patio area—the restaurant plans to add daily special events, like bean bag tournaments and family game nights, live music, and maybe even ice cream and slushy specials. But in the meantime, you can challenge your friends and family to classic Midwestern pursuits like corn hole and “hammerschlagen.” And don’t worry about crowding—Morris estimates that the outdoors can seat more than 100 customers.
A killer lineup. Co-owners Kari and Andy Friederichs looked at the “core offerings” of food halls around the states to choose their restaurant lineup: Murdoch’s Place, a beef burger-and-hotdog joint, Julio’s Tacos, Reids Pizza, and Birdie’s, which dishes up its namesake. (Chicken. It serves fried chicken.)
Something old, something new. The Workshop’s “Minnesota Room” overflows with keepsakes like Rochester posters and antiques, a mural of the state butterfly and bird, a Tonka Truck, and Paul Bunyan, and the original entry door (it’s green and on the wall—you can’t miss it). But if you look further around, you’ll find plenty more—like the original workbench, now serving as a community table in front of the bar. Or the “Seneca” sign hanging over the new entrance, gifted by the food processing company that used to be located across the street.
Grab a drink. Kari Friederichs recommends the “Geez Louise” from the Workshop’s cocktail menu (black cherry rum, strawberry, and basil), but the Blackberry Bourbon Smash is also a crowd favorite, with its simple ingredient list: Maker’s Mark, blackberries, mint, and lemon simple syrup. Personally, we’re curious about the Peanut Butter Old-Fashioned.
Olde Brick House
19 1st Ave. SW, Rochester, in the Kahler Grand Hotel
Bangers and mash. No, seriously, executive chef Justin Berhow says you should order those—he does when he dines at Olde Brick. Pair them with the meatloaf or, if you’re looking for something lighter, the beet and goat cheese salad. Those “bangers”—or sausages, if you want to be boring—are made with 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey. And this is only place in town you can get them.
“Casual fine dining.” Olde Brick House’s laid-back vibe is perfect for your pickiest teen, but the interior is upscale enough to impress the grandparents as well. And the happy hour specials make it a perfect place to grab a drink with friends. Plus, the menu is going to have something for everyone. “Most Irish food is basically just comfort food,” Berhow said. “It’s hearty food that makes you feel good.”
Authentic Irish decor. Get this: pretty much everything you see in the restaurant—the booths, tables, chairs, flooring, pictures, and general brick-a-brack—was imported from Dublin. The ongoing pandemic didn’t even keep those crates from making it over. That’s what we call dedication.
Boulder Tap House
24 17th Ave. NW, Rochester
Here’s your order right here. The Waite Park-based chain Boulder Tap House serves “speedy, relaxed, family-oriented” fare, according to assistant general manager Jack Poepping. The tequila lime chicken tacos are a favorite. “I’m addicted to them, I can eat them seven days a week,” he adds. Poepping says you can’t go wrong on the menu, but he thinks the Cuban Sandwich on naan bread is overlooked—give the crispy, cheesy offering a try next time you’re overwhelmed by the options.
I mean, it is a beer place. Choose from 40 beers and ciders on tap, including Little Thistle’s Brave Woman Scottish ale and Four Daughters’ Honeycrisp Loon Juice cider.
Totchos for the table. The fully-loaded tater tot nachos—or totchos—already come with cheese sauce, tomatoes, green onions, lettuce, black olives, salsa, sour cream, and a choice of meat. But Poepping has a secret—if you ask for them “Tap House Style,” they’ll replace the cheese sauce with House Sauce, and add peppers, mushrooms, and burger sauce. “It’s a giant mountain of tater tots and toppings,” he says.
3401 Northern Valley Pl. NE, Rochester
That was quick! Tavern 22 didn’t have much time to make this list—the bar and grill opened its doors in October, just in time to get on our voters’ radar. Owner Scott Schneider chalks their success up to great cooks, plenty of specials, and attention to the decor—it’s a super-comfortable space.
They’re watching you. The walls of Tavern 22 are covered with stuffed, taxidermied animals, and some are exotic—like a polar bear, an African sheep, a mountain lion, a LION lion… Schneider got most of them from the late Dick Hawkins, who hunted big game all over the globe during the late ‘90s. “They’re great conversation and educational pieces,” he says. “My grandkids had only seen them in books, and they think it’s the coolest thing.”
That was (also) quick! Take a look at the state-of-the-art flat-top grill: Schneider says it’s computerized and features hydraulic arms to help cook fish, chicken, and steaks from both sides, “in a third of the time.” “Things that take other people 20 minutes, we can do in five,” he says. “Our ticket times are fast, and they all turn out great.”