Photos by Caitlin Abrams
Terza’s rooftop bar La Vetta in Rochester
Terza’s rooftop bar La Vetta
There’s a town in southern Minnesota that plays host to the kings and presidents of the world, though many Twin Citizens have yet to go. Rochester is less than 100 miles from here, and is most famous for being the seat of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic—but you don’t need a CAT scan to visit. Aside from its medical cache, it’s booming with breweries and has a few rooftop patios and a burgeoning food scene that takes advantage of the surrounding agricultural bounty. Whether you’re getting a checkup or just looking for a place to point your car this summer, Rochester is a great town on the Zumbro River, with plenty of local pride.
If you really want to understand the flavor of Rochester, don’t miss the Downtown Farmers’ Market on 4th Street and 4th Avenue. Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to noon, you can stroll by the fresh pickings and products from the area’s many farms. And don’t miss the food stalls, live music, chef demos, and baked goodies. rochesterdowntownfarmersmarket.org
Nova Restaurant Group
Terza’s pappardelle grilled chicken
This company has long been known for its finer dining restaurants. Chester’s Kitchen & Bar is the modern American standard in town, and Pescara can’t be beat for fresh and engaging seafood preparations. But its newest place, Terza, has really kicked it up a notch with fresh Italian food that’s accessible and engaging in a beautifully designed, open and airy space. Plus, its rooftop bar overlooking the downtown skyline, known as La Vetta, is the place to be seen with a gorgeous cocktail in one hand and noshy small plate in the other. novarestaurantgroup.com
Flapdoodles serves 24 flavors of house-made ice cream. flapdoodlesicecream.com
Zzest Café and bar
Want to get to know some talented local chefs? Check out ZZest Café and Bar, where, on an average day, there’s a changing menu that might include foie gras meatballs, whole burrata with harissa, and sea urchin tagliatelle pasta, not to mention a $36 three-course chef’s tasting menu. Plus there’s a whimsical patio out the back. zzest.com
Historic Third Street
Refresh yourself on Third Street with some whiskey at The Half Barrel.
Rochester’s nightlife is centered in the middle of downtown on Historic Third Street. Anchored on the east side by Grand Rounds Brewpub (grandroundsbrewpub.com), you’ll also find The Tap House (taphousemn.com) with some 50 craft beers and a booming rooftop patio. Next door, down a flight of stairs, is The Doggery, a basement speakeasy that serves craft cocktails, communal punch bowls, and creative hot dogs. Keep stumbling westward and you’ll hit The Half Barrel (thehalfbarrelbk.com), a whiskey bar with some 400 bottles of the brown, which can be tasted through an extensive flight list. Round the corner and you’ll find yourself at The Loop (rochester.looprestaurants.com), an outpost of the same bar/pub that lives in the North Loop and West End neighborhoods in the metro.
A bunch of punch and bar snacks at The Doggery.
There are four breweries in this city of more than 100,000, and each has its own flavor. Want to see them all? Catch the trolly offered by Rochester Trolly & Tour Company, which will take you to all four for $55.
Forager Brewery pours everything from sour to stout.
Forager has a very cool “foraged and found things” vibe, with barnwood walls, old chalkboard menus, and collected bits like the moose head behind the bar. The brewery is also a full-service restaurant with killer wood-fired pizzas and a coffee bar pouring quality third-wave drinks. There’s even a flea market area known as Kutzky Market (see shopping sidebar below) to tempt you after indulging in a glass of Gathering in the Woods, a barrel-aged sour red blend. foragerbrewery.com
Don’t skip the chewy-crusted pizzas being made at Forager Brewery. You can sit right in front of the wood-fired oven.
Kinney Creek Brewery
Around the corner from Forager is Kinney Creek, which, when it launched in 2012, was the first brewery to open in Rochester since Prohibition. The beer-geek hot spot has more of a taproom vibe than the other breweries in town, with no kitchen but occasional food trucks, and giant Jenga games. There’s a small patio in the parking lot out back. Grab a Tessalation IPA here or at other bars around town. kinneycreekbrewery.com
Grand Rounds Brewpub
Situated in the center of town, this brewpub has a friendly, laid-back feel and bartenders who greet people by name as they come in. Aside from fresh beers made onsite, you can tuck into fat burgers and sandwiches that come from the scratch kitchen. For the trip home, grab a crowler (a 26-ounce can) of the Kraus Anderson Minnesota Kolsch. grandroundsbrewpub.com
LTS Brewing Company
Feeling that Life’s Too Short, LTS is the newest kid on the block, opened last year just outside of downtown. The taproom is big and open with a nice bar, popcorn machine and food trucks, and a large patio and lawn out back. It pours a refreshing Northern German Altbier called Ctrl-Alt Delete on tap. ltsbrewing.com
Rochester’s Budding Shopping Scene
Dwell Local, Kutzky Market, Primp Boutique
From the Cooke Park Design District (home to maker marketplace Dwell Local, Fox & Fern Floral, and A Beautiful Soul new age gift shop) to contemporary boutiques downtown, Rochester is making its mark in the shop scene. Here are four relative newcomers worth visiting. —Allison Kaplan
Meander through rooms filled with art, home furnishings, and small gifts from more than 40 local makers. Owner/interior designer Paul Bennett pulls together an eclectic mix, including sculptural lighting, antique China, and refurbished furniture. Bennett pours his own soy candles, which are a hot commodity. dwelllocal.com
The back of Forager Brewing is open to artists, crafters, and collectors who showcase goods ranging from homemade soaps to vintage toys. It’s like an antique mall or pop-up shop, except it’s ongoing.kutzkymarket.com
Tucked in a strip center on the edge of downtown (with parking!), Posh is a new women’s boutique offering contemporary apparel, premium denim, and accessories. It’s a second location for this indie retailer, which is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. shop-posh.com
When this popular Twin Cities fashion retailer decided to make its move beyond the metro, the first stop was downtown Rochester. The “cheap-chic” boutique offers trendy women’s fashion, and you won’t find a price tag above $98. primpyourself.com
Where to Stay
Where to Stay Rochester 2016
Cedar Valley Resort: Photo by Doug Ohman
Lodging abounds for those looking to turn their Rochester vision quest into a long weekend.
The Towers at the Kahler Grand
Stay with the visiting dignitaries at the only five-star hotel in town, which is connected to the Mayo Clinic, and has an Old-World charm and oodles of class and amenities. towersatkahlergrand.com
Cedar Valley Resort
Forty minutes southeast of the city, this resort boasts nearby bike riding, river tubing, bluff country Jeep tours, and trout fishing. cedarvalleyresort.com
GuestHouse Inn & Suites
A family-friendly option with free hot breakfast, Famous Dave’s onsite (they do room service!), and an indoor pool with a waterfall. redlion.com/rochester