"Dear Janice: We have friends who live right outside Rochester, and we like to visit with each other every few months. This time we would like to meet in a restaurant. Do you have any suggestions for a place that we can meet about halfway?"
-- Sandra S., Amherst
Batavia is a good midpoint , Sandra. An easy drive for all of you on the Thruway. And speaking of the Thruway, Alex's Place, an institution, is practically within walking distance of the Batavia exit at 8322 Park Road. It is a big, informal restaurant, always crowded and open for lunch and dinner. It has been around for 25 years.
Don't expect fancy food here -- it is comfortable, but rough and ready. Steaks, chops, roast beef, pasta. I happen to like the baby back ribs; the Companion does too. The half-pound of (small) shrimp served with cocktail sauce is a little more expensive than it used to be at $9.49, but people love it anyway.
The restaurant has two disadvantages. It doesn't take reservations for fewer than five people. You can call to request "call ahead seating" (585-344-2999), which means you put your name on a list just as if you walked in the door. It's not a reservation, and you probably will still have to wait, but maybe not so long.
The second problem is that the place is noisy, which might make it more difficult to catch up.
Another midpoint that I haven't personally tried, though we have friends who meet there, is the Terry Hills Golf Course and Restaurant, 5122 Clinton Street Road (Route 33). It is open to the public for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday, and for Sunday brunch.
This place is relatively quiet, I am told. It boasts high ceilings and a view of the golf course; you can reserve (585-343-0642). Lunch is burgers, wraps, sandwiches and salads. Dinner, served after 4 p.m., offers entrees like stuffed pork tenderloin and sauteed scallops.
A little farther afield, especially for Buffalonians, but so pretty and fun is Richardson's Canal House, 1474 Marsh Road, Pittsford (585-248-5000). It is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinner Monday through Saturday, but closed on Sundays.
Wonderfully historic, Richardson's opened in 1818 or around there, predating the Erie Canal, which it overlooks. It has led a checkered career. According to the inn's owners, it was mostly an inn and public house, but has also been a private home and, briefly, a nudist camp, before being abandoned in the 1960s and restored about 35 years ago. Everyone wears clothes now, and it's great looking and very well run. Eat in the more informal Cobblestone Pub, dining rooms or outdoors. The dinner menu is standard, but it has nice touches; lunch is more informal.
And even farther afield, but still worth a mention, is the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua (585-394-7070), which offers classes, tastings and exhibits all about New York produce. (Wegmans is a prime sponsor.) This is a gorgeous place overlooking Canandaigua Lake, and you can spend a whole day.
The center will open the brand new Upstairs Bistro on the site on Friday. Eat inside or outside. Log onto nywcc.com to find out more.
Janice Okun, former food editor for The News, has been out and about in the regional restaurant scene for 40 years. Send your dining questions and comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.