ROCHESTER – If you have a split personality, if the punk in you and the yuppie both seek to be entertained, a visit to Monroe Avenue and Park Avenue will satisfy both. The most interesting parts of the two streets are less than a mile apart.
Monroe and Park are just east of Rochester’s downtown. Much of the city’s punk population hangs out on the section of Monroe between the Inner Loop (which circles the downtown) and Cobbs Hill Park, a stretch of about two miles. (Monroe extends five miles more and goes to downtown Pittsford, the most affluent town in the area.)
Park Avenue roughly parallels Monroe, separated by two or three blocks, depending on which cross-streets you take. Park is as yuppified as any neighborhood in Rochester. On Monroe, you can eat in a Vietnamese, Japanese, Greek, Texan or hot dog place, with prices ranging from cheap to moderate. On Park, the eateries are upscale and trendy, places with fancy coffees and exotic names for the pastries.
On Park, you might shop in Jembetat Gallery with its authentic African sculptures. Prices of statues are in the thousands. The gallery’s website lists a “Dogon Door” for $29,500.
On Monroe, you might shop in Archimage (its website says to pronounce it AHR-kuh-mahj) for clothes and jewelry, musical instruments or knickknacks that some might call funky, but which they call “mallternative.” Prices for some small items can be under a dollar, and few things cost more than $50.
On Monroe Avenue you might go to the Bug Jar on the weekend to hear punk bands. Many of the bars and restaurants on Park, like Hogan’s Hideaway, are likely to play recorded soft jazz.
But all this contrasting can be misleading. We are all attracted to more than one culture, and nearly everyone can appreciate and enjoy a two-prong trip to Rochester’s two most distinctive neighborhoods.
So here are some suggestions on how to get the most out of visiting both. Go earlier in the day to Monroe (unless you actually are hard-core punk and want to visit the Bug Jar at night). Visit Poster Art, 654 Monroe, to see thousands of posters, almost all for under $10 each. Some have a Western New York focus, but there are plenty of movie, music and famous artists posters.
Then cross the street and walk a block east to Rick’s Recycled Books, 739 Monroe, to see one of those used bookstores that’s so crowded with piles and piles of mostly paperbacks on shelves, on tables, on floors that sometimes you have to turn sideways to get by. One sad fact about Monroe Avenue is that over the years at least a half-dozen bookstores on the street – new, used, collectibles – have gone out of business.
Go into Archimage, 688 Monroe, and buy something funky and to DogTown, 691 Monroe, to eat something doggie. There’s the Russian Wolfhound (onions, sauerkraut, Russian dressing), Pit Bull (peppers, onions, two sauces) or Greek Stray (tzatziki and feta), and a couple dozen other choices (all with dog names: German Shepherd, Tex-Mex Mutt, Bernese Mountain Dog). And hundreds of photos of dogs on the walls.
Then go to Park. Stop in Wine Sense, 749 Park, where you’ll see signs on the wall designed to educate you about types of wines. And Jembetat, 645 Park, where, in addition to the expensive sculpture, you can purchase less expensive jewelry and buy a nice cup of fancy coffee.
Stevers, 623 Park, is one of those places that sells homemade chocolate that’s fun to look at even if you think a single bite contains more than a day’s worth of calories. But you probably won’t be able to leave without purchasing something.
Walk west a few blocks to Parkleigh, 215 Park, one of Rochester’s best-known stores. Inside you’ll find jewelry, cards, candy, cosmetics and almost anything else you would want in an upscale gift shop. It’s also something of a hangout for the Park Avenue crowd.
If you’ve let enough time pass since your visit to DogTown on Monroe, you might visit Jines, 658 Park, one of Rochester’s best-known restaurants. It’s more than four decades old; serves breakfast, lunch and dinner all day long, and has a wide-ranging menu – a lot of it is Greek (it was started by a Greek immigrant). The frittata, made with four eggs, at $6.95 is a particularly large and good buy.
The list is partial, of course, and ideally you should plan to spend four or five hours or more on each street, visit at least a half dozen shops on each, get a full meal on each, and have snacks in one or two more places.
Help your dual personalities merge.
If you go
Take the Thruway to I-490 (Exit 47), then 490 to Goodman Street (Exit 17). Turn left and go about a third of a mile to reach Monroe. Turn right onto Monroe. There’s free street parking, if you can find a space, and some small, free lots. To get to Park Avenue from Monroe, get on Goodman, Oxford, Rutgers, Dartmouth or Westminster, and go north for about two-tenths of a mile. Parkleigh is on the corner of Park and Goodman. Turn right and drive a minute or two to reach Jines. Again, street parking and some small lots are free.