Hello fellow vegans, it’s Emily. As I type this, it’s 45 degrees and rainy in good old Rochester, NY; Friday it was 80 degrees. That’s just one of the joys of our Northeast climate.
But what we lack in sunshine and a stable climate, we make up for with Wegmans. Although the grocery store now has stores up and down the East Coast, Rochesterians are still incredibly loyal to the once little grocery store that opened nearly 100 years ago in Rochester. It has everything from a fully stocked organic and vegan/gluten-free section to prepared foods and a daycare (for real). I’ve often said it’s the only thing I’ll miss about upstate New York when I leave – just ask Alec Baldwin’s mom.
Wegmans not only owns grocery stores, but also restaurants. A little more than a year ago, they opened Next Door Bar and Grill across the street from their flagship store. The restaurant is a mix of modern American and Japanese cuisine. My non-vegan boyfriend and I went recently for dinner to celebrate his birthday.
A vegetarian friend of mine told me they cooked for her off menu, so I was very excited to see if they would be willing to do the same for me. I booked reservations a week in advance and told them on the phone I was vegan. The woman on the other line thanked me for letting them know, and I felt confident about the restaurant selection.
The atmosphere inside the restaurant is extremely chic. In the lobby, Granny Smith apples are lined up in cedar wall shelves and fill the air with their aroma. An open air dining room layout with minimal lighting, a bar with leather chairs and a DJ and a Japanese-style sushi bar definitely make this a special occasion venue.
Although all of the vegetarian items are clearly marked on the menu, there were no indications for vegan options. When my boyfriend politely asked the server if the chef would take any special vegan requests, he checked with the kitchen. No go. Instead, he pointed me to a few vegetarian options, which I then explained to him had hidden dairy ingredients. I settled on an order of edamame tofu hummus and baked pita bread (which the server very nicely double-checked as vegan-friendly).
The hummus was delicious. It had an amazing zing to it with an abundance of lemon zest and a kick with crushed red peppers. But I was essentially eating an appetizer as my meal. It’s something almost every vegan has tolerated on occasion, but this was supposed to be a fine dining experience. For all the love I have of Wegmans, I was quite disappointed. Next time I’ll stick with the vegan prepared foods the store has plenty of.
Next Door Bar and Grill
3220 Monroe Ave.
Rochester, NY 14618