Our (Vegan) Guide to Rochester NY

vegan guide to rochester ny
After growing up outside of Rochester, leaving and coming back and now living in the city for the past six years, this place has really become my home. Especially after running Chickpea from here, I've learned so much about the city and how to get around as a vegan.

After sharing my photos on Explore Rochester last week (week 67!), I thought it would be fun to expand on my tour and go a little more in-depth into my favorites. These are my top picks for our most-visited places in Rochester, and I know even though there are many more I could've included, I consider these the best places to check out if you're visiting or starting to live here. Enjoy and have fun around our city!

  • abundance co-op - our favorite place for hard-to-find items, bulk tofu and bulk nut butters.
  • lori’s - has really unique items, such as yogurt starters, vegan lox, and pretty much every Miyoko’s product. their bulk section is also impressive and they carry lots of fair trade items. 
  • niblack - where we buy bulk flour, salt, pepper, and spices (they have every type!) as well as hard-to-find items (such as soy powder or green peppercorns.) 
  • asia food market - we go for the dried mushrooms & seaweeds and certain ingredients you can’t find anywhere else.
  • spice bazaar - an Indian grocery store, complete with fresh curry leaves & chickpeas in pods, bulk spices, bulks grains & legumes, and much more.
  • hart’s - our favorite quick grocery stop, as it’s in the center of the city. they carry a lot of unique vegan items (like a whole wall of meats & cheeses!) and have an impressive focus on locally made goods.
  • small world food - they are amazing for high-quality breads, pastas, granolas, pickled goods, and other pantry staples. we have their miso, fermented garlic (for amazing garlic bread), pasta, and apple cider vinegar in our pantry right now!
  • rochester public market - THE place to visit if you come to rochester. it’s open year-round three days a week, but saturday is really the day to go. you can get super cheap produce from local (and non-local) vendors as well as breakfast, coffee, and pantry staples from places like Niblack & Small World, among many others!
  • good food collective - the CSA we use! it’s where we get all our food in the summer when it’s too hot and crowded at the public market. they have lots of options for extra fruit, bread, pasta, and more.
  • vive - 100% vegan high-end French food. their vegan cheese plate is some of the best vegan cheese I’ve ever had, and all their food is quite inventive. the tartines are a must-have appetizer.
  • red fern - 100% vegan comfort food. it ranges from really healthy (like their wraps & salads) to really indulgent (mac & cheese nachos, seitan steak bomb) and they have the best vegan desserts in town! they’re also quite allergy-conscious.
  • voula’s greek sweets - authentic Greek food made vegan. Voula goes out of her way to cater to vegan customers, giving a vegan option for nearly every entree. if you’re looking for a satisfying lunch or brunch head here!
  • the owl house - this is a great place to take your parents or any other party that has a mix of vegans and staunch non-vegans. their cocktails drew us in years ago, and they’re still going strong.
  • scratch bakeshop - their pastries & desserts change all the time, but there’s always something good. they make the perfect vegan doughnut as well my favorite vegan cake ever (coconut & chocolate.) and their shop is super cute too!
  • pudgy girl bakery - Jenny makes the most decadent 100% vegan desserts I’ve tried! her truffles & cheesecakes can be found at Hart’s, Balsam Bagels, and Lori’s among many others, and she does perfect custom work as well.
  • balsam bagels - our favorite place to get breakfast on the weekends, especially if we’re getting it for a crowd. they have vegan bagels and butter, cream cheese, cheese, and sausage crumbles, as well as pastries and desserts and savory options too. 
  • dogtown - dogtown has the distinction of being the best (and one of the only) place to get a vegan garbage plate. (A staple in the Rochester diet.) they also have plenty of sandwiches & hot dogs for those not wanting a giant plate full of food. ;P
  • sol burrito - a great non-chain place to get a quick taco in the city. we love their tofu & black bean burrito.
  • tap & mallet - a bar with a giant beer selection and a surprisingly great food menu - we highly recommend the tofu bites and coconut-lettuce-tomato sandwich.
  • food truck rodeo - a big food truck festival held every last wednesday night of the month. the lineup always changes, but there’s always a few vegan options, including Eat Me ice cream, which has the best vegan ice cream we’ve ever had. get there early to beat the lines!
  • get caked - a bake shop in the Village Gate that sells lots of vegan & gluten-free desserts, including my favorite cookie of all time, their blueberry oatmeal cookie. a must try!
  • the playhouse/swillburger - rochester’s only barcade (as far as we know) that serves vegan burgers, fries, and milkshakes. also great for non-vegans (aka great to take a group of people visiting), this place has a burger bar, a real bar with alcohol, and a big selection of arcade machines. they have a rotating selection of food, so there’s always something new to try (like a creamsicle milkshake or falafel burger - all vegan.)
  • ugly duck coffee - a roaming coffee cart, soon to be permanent in the city. You can find him often at Scratch, Swillburger, and many other locations listed at his website for THE best hot chocolate, or for coffee drinkers, a great coffee ;)
  • greenovation - a big warehouse filled with everything from furniture to dishes. this is where Utter Clutter keeps their current home - definitely a place to check out for reusing other people’s old items.
  • rehouse - where we’ve been scouting old kitchen equipment, vintage tile, trim, flooring, and bathroom fixtures. why go to the big box store when this is cheaper and with more character? but it’s also good for small items - we recently bought a big old cutting board there!
  • abode - a great mix of vintage & new pieces to create a peaceful, unique home.
  • little button craft & press - we do a lot of craft shows every year, but little button is like those craft shows all year round. you can find totally unique, high-quality locally-made goods here for yourself or for people on your gift list.
  • useless objects - filled with rehabbed furniture, lighting & smaller pieces, there’s always something we bring home with us after visiting. (and they’re all far from useless.)
  • craft shows like secondstoriemayday underground - these are two of our favorite craft shows to get items for ourselves & our friends. (including candles, jewelry, paper goods, ceramics, and more.) be sure to check our upcoming events for more chances to go to these shows.
  • highland park & lilac festival - one of the most beautiful green spaces in the city, and definitely the most packed ones during the lilac festival. it’s a must-visit place in the spring, where you can smell the flowers all around the city. there’s a gorgeous castle and the ever-instagrammed lamberton conservatory here as well.
  • cobb’s hill park - this is our favorite park as it’s close to where we live, but it also has the best view of the city from the water reservoir, as well as some of the best graffiti on the old water towers. it’s a great place to visit if you’re looking to walk around on a nice day!
  • the little - a local movie theather showing both new & old films that’s in a great area for a date night :)
  • eastman house & the dryden - a museum dedicated to film & photography (after the late George Eastman, founder of Kodak, which is also a fun place to visit here.) the dryden is part of the museum but acts as its own attraction - it acts as an archive of (some rare) films that are shown on a nightly basis. we’ve been there for Buster Keaton movies accompanied by live music as well as Miyazaki movie series - they really do it all, and give great context to the films shown.
  • museum of play - if you have kids, this is a must-stop. I’ve been going there since I was a little kid and now we take our nieces there all the time! highlights include the sesame street “exhibit" and a mini-Wegmans that I still get so excited for.
  • park ave festivalcorn hill arts festival - two of the many festivals we like to go to with friends & family in the summer. there’s always good food options to find, as well as many vendors to grab ceramics & small-batch pantry staples from!
  • durand beach - an actual sandy beach on the coast of Lake Ontario. if you're sick of the flat rocks (which, we're really not!) this is the place to go in the summer for a fun party.
  • wall/therapy - rochester should be known for its murals, if it isn’t already. you’ll find some amazing artwork throughout the city - follow their map to get around Rochester in a beautiful way.

So have you been to any of these? What did we miss from our list? Where should we explore more? Let us know in the comments!