About Me

Currently a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, I study urban sociology and inequality. Originally from Western Pennsylvania, I am particularly interested in how changes in regional economic structures effect stratification and mobility opportunities, particularly for the working class. I also participate in the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Urban Excursions #2, Local Eats #3 - Rochester, NY

This post will be the second in the Urban Excursions series I am writing on this blog.  It will also be the third in the Local Eats Series on this blog.

First Impressions:

It may have been the overcast skies, but the city of Rochester seemed gloomy when I drove into town. My brother and I visited the city from about 1pm until 11pm on a weekday.  During our whole visit, it felt very rust belt.  The neighborhoods looked like flatter versions of the neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, and in some places the city seemed a lot like a smaller version of Cleveland, OH.  One interesting thing I did not expect, but noticed was that folks around Rochester seemed to have an accent sounded to me like a mix of Canadian without the "eh" and midwestern.  With just a few hours in the city, we had some adventures, tried some new food, and took a few pictures. Rochester was not a bad place to visit. Here is what I thought of it.

Places I Visited:

When we arrived in town, my brother and I were hungry.  So I searched on my smart phone for the "best burrito in Rochester" and at the top of the search results was Sol Burito.  We both got the Fajita Burrito. It was good. Probably not the best burrito I have ever had. But it was large, reasonably priced, and good.  The chips were fresh and crunchy, the salsa as good, and the Saranac Root Beer, which is apparently the ubiquitous drink in Rochester, washed everything down well.

After lunch we decided to stop at a place several folks recommended to us - the House of Guitars.  The place is a mess, has lots of good music and equipment in stock, and the folks were friendly. Very rock and roll and certainly worth a visit for any music fan.

My brother and I had traveled to Rochester planning to ride some of the mountain bike trails near the city.  Whenever we travel to a new place planning to ride the trails, we try to stop by a local bike shop to make sure we have the best info on the trails we are going to ride. Trevor was also having shifter problems, so he was hoping to have that looked at.  So, we stopped in at the Tryon Bike Shop. The shop seemed a bit high-end, situated in a what looked like an old bank building, with most of the bikes in the shop being very expensive.  The guys working at the shop that day, though, were very informative. They gave us clear directions toward the trails we wanted to ride. They also fixed up my brother's bike for a very reasonable price.

While visiting the shop we learned about their interesting business model.  Compared with most bike shops I have visited, they had much less inventory in stock in the shop. I asked them about this.  They explained that their goal was to be competitive with internet pricing on most bike-related items.  Like book stores competing with online book retailers, many bike shops are struggling to be competitive with internet prices.  Customers want the convenience of trying on bikes and clothing in person, and having a relationship with the mechanics at a local shop, but often internet prices on things like bicycle frames or helmet lights are so much lower it is hard for a frugal customer to support the local business.  Tryon Bike Shop's answer is to meet internet prices.  By keeping their inventory low, and explaining to their customers that they will meet most internet pricing, they encourage customers to use the store to purchase bike accessories, rather than internet retailers.  With their Wrench Club, they also offer customers who purchase a membership the ability to rent time, space, and tools in their repair shop, so the customers may repair their own bike themselves.  It's a new business model, and I am interested to see how well they continue to do. I certainly realize that many bike shops are looking for new ideas to stay relevant to their customers and competitive in the market.

After our stop in the bike shop we set out to ride two sets of trails - the Tryon Park Trail and the Irondequoit Bay Park West Trail.  The trail maps can be found here.  These trails were interesting.  First, they were close the city and surrounded by residential areas, and in the case of the Tryon Park, a highway on one side.  The trails were smooth, well-sculpted single track.  They were fun trails to ride.  They were clearly made for mountain bikers and predominantly used by mountain bikers.  If I lived here, this would obviously be a fun, convenient place to ride.  The Tryon Park trail, though, was a bit confusing.  It seems that the locals had built several alternate and overlapping trails around the main trail. My brother and I spent much of the afternoon stopping just to make sense of which direction the trails were going, and we had some difficulty finding our way around.  Also, in some of the lower areas, there was a strong sewage smell.  Another problem was the occasional shattered glass we saw on and along the trail.  I suppose this is something unavoidable in an urban trail, and thankfully neither of us got a flat tire.  Neither trail was very rocky, but we did encounter the occasional cement slab.  The Irondequoit Bay Park West Trail was less confusing and more fun.  Both sets of trails seemed to crowd a lot of mileage into small areas.  The Tryon Park trail also had a fun set of whoops that passed through a bowl at the top of a hill, too, which we had fun riding through.  Here are some pictures:

After several hours of riding, my brother and I wanted to get some food before we headed back to our campsite, an hour south of the city.  Driving around the city, I had noticed signs for places selling "hots" all over the city.  So, I went back to my phone, searching the internet for "best places to get hots in Rochester."  Reading the information that came up aloud, I said something about a garbage plate.  This triggered my brother's memory, and he recalled seeing an episode of some travel food show covering garbage plates in Rochester.  It seemed the most famous garbage plate restaurant closed early that night, so we ventured to place called Dogtown.  Located close the same place we got our burritos earlier in the day, Dogtown is a very relaxed establishment with some outside seating.  Below is an overexposed picture of my junkyard plate.  If you're not sure what you're seeing that is macaroni salad and home fries burried under a burger and a split hot dog, which is covered with chili, mustard, and onions.  It was delicious and awful at the same time.  I immediately wanted to eat it again while I simultaneously regretted eating it.  Again, a Saranac Rootbeer washed it down well.

Lasting Impressions:

Overall, the visit to Rochester was a good one. In less than 12 hours we had met cool folks at an interesting bike shop, saw the incredible House of Guitars, ate some cheap but good food, and ridden some new trails.  The city was gloomy, but we had fun exploring it.  Later in the day, we drove out toward Lake Ontario to give it a look, and that drive took us past the Kodak factory, which was incredibly industrial looking with pipes that seemed to go in every direction into and out of the building.  I expect winters would be particularly long, cold, and dark, and difficult here, as it seemed gloomy in the summer and it sits on a great lake.  The trails were fun, if a bit cramped and dirty, but they were good trails for an urban setting.  The people were friendly and helpful.