48 Hours In Rochester

As you roll down
the steep hill heading northbound into downtown Rochester, something funny happens. Maybe it has to do with leaving the superstores and mini-malls of Troy in the dust and entering a fairytale Main Street where lovingly cared for buildings date back to the mid-1800s and people wander about purposefully on foot. 

Suburb envy?
Perhaps. But all for good reason. Rochester is an archetypal bedroom
community. It’s highbrow, but friendly. Fancy, yet wholesome. It’s
filled with beautifu
l people who like to jog and bike, dine and shop, and partake in all the upper-middle class activities that make life so sweet.

Now, it’s your turn to sample that sweet life, and here’s metromode’s 48-hour sampler.

Friday afternoon

Lunch like a
local at Lipuma’s Coney Island, where the line for Coney dogs is often
out the door. Seating inside is cozy, though limited, b
there’s ample room on Lipuma’s deck overlooking Paint Creek. Or, grab a
picnic table along the famed Paint Creek Trail, where zealous ducks
will vie for your last bite of hotdog bun. This 40-year-old
establishment is best known for its killer Coneys, but the
Chicago-style dogs, tacos and homemade soups are also townie favorites.
Look for the top-hat wearing hotdog on the door.

Spend the remainder of the afternoon in downtown Rochester on a mini gallery crawl. Don’t miss Paint Creek Center for the Arts
for their always curious and compelling exhibits. During November and
December both floors will transform into a Holiday Objects boutique
with glass, ceramics, painting, jewelry and mixed media artwork at
affordable prices. But, be sure to catch Tom Carey’s “Scary Monsters”
exhibit before November 9 when it comes down to prepare for the holiday
hoopla. Upstairs, installations by Andrew Thompson and cool Letterpress
work by Amanda Hatch will also wow you for
another week.

Cary Gallery generally hosts Michigan artists at all levels of experience and professional development. Cary’s personal forte and favorite exhibition fodder is water color, but the exhibit starting November 15 is color photography by a couple of traveling sharp shooters: Nancy Stocking and Ron Teachworth.

Friday evening

The romantic, dark wood-paneled walls and comfy leather seats at 4th
St. Grill will encourage you to slow down, relax and melt into your
meal. Start off with tender calamari filets, then move toward the
steaks on which 4th Street banks its reputation. The
Chateaubriand presented tableside for two is a mouth-watering
tenderloin treat. If seafood is your preference, the grill’s plethora
of options, including of Chilean sea bass and Dover sole, won’t
disappoint. End the night with a Spanish coffee, flamed with a
cinnamon-sugar rim, at 4th Street’s mellow bar or dance to live music with other revelers at Rochester Mills Beer Company.

Saturday morning

Your breakfast should be driven by one word (prepare yourself): Zwetschgenkuchen. These Bavarian plum-prune delicacies from Give Thanks Bakery & Café
must be the pastry chef’s version of divinity on earth. A seasonal
delicacy, made from a special plum, means you ought to get ‘um while
you can. Give Thanks pastries are created with such care, you can’t go
wrong with anything behind the glorious display cases, from almond
croissants to apricot-walnut tarts. Grab
a baguette (the closest to a Parisian baguette you’ll find in these
parts) and a loaf of Swiss multi-grain bread for sandwiches and
out-of-this world toast. All of the hand-crafted breads, which take
three days to make with natural starters instead of yeast, are amazing.
Next month, the bakery will start making Dresden Stollen bread for the

For a complete 180 degrees from a mall-shopping experience, take a stroll through Rochester’s four-by-six-block downtown district, chocked with historic buildings and funky, independent boutiques. Visit Jo’Lyn Fashions, Janet Varner and Flirty Fashions for women’s wear; Elements and Firebrick Gallery for home décor; and Talulah Belle for
gifts and trinkets. Another cool stop: Haig’s of Rochester Fine Jewelry
has a second floor gallery of Asian antique art, with Paul Haig holding one of the largest collections of Asian artifacts in the country.

Whoo R U, an
upscale resale shop staffed by volunteers, is a jim-dandy place to wile
away an hour while feeling good about every dollar you spend. Profits
from the volunteer-run shop assist families and women with
cancer-related financial issues through the Rainbow Connection, a local
charity. Whoo is a proverbial den of secondhand items, brimming with
housewares, furniture, men’s and women’s clothing, books, linens and
other treasures rescued from estate sales. Find the perfect vase,
evening gown or overcoat — maybe even a new set of dishes.

Saturday afternoon

For lunch, dive into a burger and fries at Red Knapp’s Dairy Bar,
the 58-year-old storefront diner. Inside, retro chrome stools surround
two horseshoe counters dotted with red Tidynap holders. The dreamy
chocolate milkshakes, made with hand-dipped ice cream, are served in a
fountain glass, with the naught-to-be-left leftovers presented in a
gigantic, metal cup. Piped in 1950s music adds to the ambiance.

After lunch, take a stroll along the Paint Creek Trail, which heads
north from downtown along a busy, but serene, pathway. Once trafficked
by trains on the old Penn Central Railroad, the trail is now frequented
by Rochester’s nature lovers and athletes who enjoy walking, biking,
jogging and skiing the wide trail that runs up the Paint Creek Valley
to the village of Lak
e Orion. Stop at the plentiful bridges, side trails and benches for creek-side daydreaming.

Saturday night

Let the
eco-buzz commence! Tasty organic vegan meals, sodas flavored with Agave
nectar, sustainable seafood, and dinner tables formed from compressed,
milled sunflower seeds make Mind Body & Spirits much
more than your Saturday night dining choice, but a destination for
learning and awe. Almost every feasible green option you can conjure
has been built into this two-story sustainable masterpiece opening
October 30 — even a “bio-digester” that turns restaurant w
aste into fertilizer for herbs growing in the onsite greenhouse. 

At Mind Body & Spirits
you’ll find a year’s supply of broken booze bottles artistically reused
in the flooring and trim, walls made from recycled milk jugs, and mod,
sustainable cork and bamboo flooring in the dining rooms. Even the
journals for sale in the sec
floor Higher Ground Lounge are made from elephant dung paper. Dine
downstairs for dinner, and relax in the lounge afterwards with coffee,
organic wine, and desserts like the Michigan apple rose, a bak
petite apple with caramelized cider sauce over homemade ice cream.
(Editorial prediction: the couch in front of the second floor picture
window will soon be the most coveted s
eat in town.)

Not quite ready for bed? Take
a stroll along Rochester’s incredibly quant Main St., where starting
December 1, all buildings are covered with holiday lights from sidewalk
to roof, making for quite a spectacle.

Sunday morning

Don’t miss a morning visit, sans the afternoon crowd, to Yates Cider Mill in Rochester Hills, commencing the day with fresh donuts and cider and a stroll around the historic cider mill and grounds (open through Dec. 21). A circa-1894 water turbine still powers the cider operation and has attracted generation after generation of local families. Part
of the tradition is meandering along the Clinton River on a half-mile
trail adorned in Michigan hardwoods. It’s a fine path to dawdle along,
especially this time of year when the low, late-autumn sun and bare
trees paint the trail with abstract designs.

Continue your
morning sojourn at Bloomer Park, just a few miles from Yates. Where
John R Road dead ends, Bloomer Park, a bit of natural bliss plopped in
northern suburbia, begins. Behind the 1930s timber and granite stone
shelter a 183-step staircase leads to a circuit of narrow trails that
snake through dense woods. Here, you can escape car noise and exhaust
fumes, and recharge along the park’s miles of hiking and biking trails.
After your trek, check ou
t Bloomer’s Velodrome,
a steeply banked wooden bike track where bikes can reach up to 42 mph.
It’s pretty cool to watch the cyclists fly by. If you dare, the special
bicycles required on the track can be rented.

After working up a healthy appetite frolicking about the great Michigan outdoors, end your Rochester weekend at the Royal Park Hotel, a five-star fortress with a gray slate roof and a notorious Sunday brunch. Entering the Royal
Park is a spectacle in and of itself, and you’ll be surrounded by
finery — like Murano glass chandeliers with their magical, milky
sparkle and Sahara Gold marble flooring from a Pakistan quarry.

Brunch is served at the Brookshire Restaurant, which has a long
outdoor patio paralleling a stretch of Paint Creek and an inside dining
area that mixes contemporary styles with old-world elegance.

If you’re in the mood for breakfast, let Maurice the omelet maker create a masterpiece for your plate. Coffeecake,
scones and eggs benedict are part of the mix. Other action stations
along the buffet rotate — and you could find stir-fry Thai, pasta, or
fajitas on any given week. The salads, including a perfectly seasoned
black bean-asparagus salad, are remarkable, but you’d be truly crazy to
not save room for dessert. The Bananas Foster is so buttery and
delightful — a perfect accompaniment to the whimsical melodies of the
Brookshire’s pianist.

Having sampled
the sweet life through Rochester’s mélange of food, natural landscape
and intriguing art, you ought to depart this bedroom community with a
sense of warmth and overindulgence — and, more than likely, a yearning
to return soon.

Melinda Clynes is a metro-Detroit-based freelancer and a regular contributor to metromode and Model D. Her last article was48 Hours In Dearborn.


Yates Cider Mill

A couple walking through a colorful canopy of leaves

Art installation at Paint Creek Center for the Arts

Whoo store front

Burgers, Fries, Milkshakes = Red Knapps Dairy Bar

Brew Kettles at the Rochester Brewery

A young couple pass the time while waiting in line for cider and donuts at Yates Cider Mill

All photographs by Marvin Shaouni
Marvin Shaouni is the managing photographer for Metromode & Model D.