Beyond the booze
Feel like a neighbor at the Honeoye Falls Distillery
Honeoye Falls Distillery
168 W Main St.
Mayberry exists. and it's half an hour outside Rochester. At least, that's how it seems at Honeoye Falls Distillery. This is the place you hope to find in a town like Honeoye Falls,a melding of local watering hole, family restaurant, and unofficial neighborhood HQ. Such places typically only exist on grainy reruns and vaguely informed nostalgia, and yet walking into the busy but breathable crowd at HFD makes you feel like a neighbor, regardless of your zip code.
"Local flavor" isn't a clichè on these menus. While the farm-to-table movement is well established at this point the distillers and chefs at HFD take it to an extreme.
For example, one hundred percent of the ingredients used in their whiskies are sourced from not just New York State but, specifically, from Monroe County. Of course, hyper-local booze isn't guaranteed to be good, bu ask the experts: HFD's Flower City Gin recently won bronze in the 2019 American Distilling Institute's gin category.
On a rainy Friday night, "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is playing on the speaker system and the tables are full, though there are spots open at the bar. It's clear the HFD's bar and lounge, which opened in 2016, draws locals of all ages. Decor is rustic-chic, with leather chairs, long tables with barrel benches, and such farmhouse flotsam as a long-necked telephone and Remington typewriter. We order drinks and wait for a table— it's first come, first serve here— no reservations accepted.
P: The "What's New Pussycat" is a blend of vodka, lavender syrup, lemon, basil, and orange bitters. Two potential pitfalls there— lavender and basil are both loud flavors that could (and often do) easily dominate a drink. Instead, this cocktail presents a rush of lemon on the nose followed by a bright nut not overwhleming lavender, then basil undertone. Frozen Falls rye vodka lends the drink auhority without any medicinal bite.
L: I'm familiar with HFD's Flower City Gin because they launched it during Rochester Cocktail Revival last year (which I associate-produce), and every bar had a bottle on hand. It's a botanical gin for sure, so I was immediately drwan to teh "It's Electric" cocktail. In addition to the gin, there's blood orange, simple syrup, lemon, orange bitters and sparkling brut from Glenora Wine Cellars, one of the oldest wineries in the Finger Lakes. The cocktail is served in a champagne flute and tastes like a sophisticated variation of mimosa— not too sweet,thankfully, with the addition of the dry wine and orange bitters, but still bright and bubbly.
P: Just as we finished our drinks, the table is set, and we were ushered past the bar to sit down. Our group includes someone with a gluten allergy and someone who is pregnant and can't eat unpasteurized cheese, but neither of these restrictions posed a problem for the menu.The dishes listed work with any dining style, whether you're sharing small plates with friends, splitting entrèes family style, or just doing your own thing. Starters include deviled eggs with bacon jam (sweet, savory and beautifully accented), and jalepeño cheddar hush puppies (crisp and not overly greasy, with a fluffy, spicy interior).
L: We can't talk about starters without mentioning the chef's choice board, HFD's all locally sourced, rotating selection of charcuterie, bread, cheese, and pickled vegetables. It's served on a large wooden slab with each sampling lined up: several cheeses from local farms, including a house made pimiento cheese (a rare find this far north of the Mason- Dixon line), cured meats, toasted baguette (from Baker Street Bakery, this evening) and pickles, peppers, and olives. The mix of savory cheese and meats and sour pickled veggies is balanced nicely by doughy, crispy-edged baguette and sweet butter.
P: You could enjoy an array of smallplates and walk away from HBD happy (and full), but considering the available entrees, you might want to dig deep on this one. Yes, every spot has a burger, but whatmakes Honeoye Falls Distilling burger different goes back to local sourcing. HFD sends Fire Creek Farms spent grain from the distilling process to feed to feed the cows, then that same beef for the burger. Whether it's the circle of life or the chef's skill, the taste conveys something special is happening here. The pimiento cheese makes another appearance atop the burger, accompanied by bacon, lettuce, crispy onions, and a house-made sauce.
L: We also sampled the enchiladas—one of the few gluten-free options on the menu— which have a zip of spice and are covered in just the right amount of lime crema and red chile sauce to melt the chihuahua cheese and keep the braised chicken moist. And, because our server says it's always on the menu on Friday nights and everyone around us is ordering it, we also try the fish fry with a side ofhouse -made tartar sauce and had-cut french fries. It's everything a fish fry needs to be: flaky haddock (though selection rotates) enveloped in a cripy, beer-battered shell that melts in your mouth.
Honeoye Falls is undoubtedly a townie spot, but city folks make the twenty-minute trek regularly for the food and spirits (they also offer a popular bottomless brunch on Sundays from 10 a.m. until 2p.m.). They do't accept reservations, but teh wait never takes too long. And of course, teh menu rotates frequently—call ahead or visit their website to confirm the day's choices.
Leah Stacy and Pete Wayner are food and beverage-centric content creators based in Rochester.