Most everywhere you look around town these days, there's a great coffee shop. (And we're totally into it.)
Back in the dark ages, before most cities in this part of the world—big or small—even knew what coffee was supposed to taste like, years before there was even a Starbucks in New York State, let alone way out here in the western hinterlands, Rochester had Java's.
A quintessentially 1990s-cool coffeehouse, mostly because it was opened in 1992, Java's on Gibbs Street in Rochester's central business district was the handiwork of Joe Palozzi, a local guy who left to grow coffee in Hawaii, eventually making his way home, where he opened his eclectic café, directly next door to the Eastman School of Music.
Back then, Java's was the sort of place you went out of your way to visit, because there just weren't enough places like it, not at the time. Palozzi found the sweet spot, apparently, because not only did Java's stick around, it begat other Java's, including a location at the historic Rochester Public Market. Next door, in the building with the "Best Coffee at the Market" sign, you could, until close to the end of his long and colorful life, often find Palozzi at the roaster, at home among a content crowd of coffee lovers, local gossips and market hands.
Java's is still here, still on Gibbs Street. Twenty-five years later, it's part of a wide-ranging scene that includes a host of other local shops and chainlets that mostly (if not exclusively) followed in its wake, early enough that by the mid-2000's, when much larger East Coast cities were only just starting to climb onto the modern coffee culture bandwagon, Rochester's scene appeared to be firmly entrenched.
Not content to slide into complacency, however, a wave of newer openings is shaking things up once more, making this one of the most extensive scenes in a city of this size, at least in this part of the world. Stopping by to check it all out? Here are the need-to-know addresses.
Ugly Duck Coffee
Talk about a front row seat to the future—this multi-roaster, pop-up bar has now settled into a thoroughly modern, permanent home, directly across the street from a giant urban improvement project that's converting an old freeway into the city's newest (and probably, soon to be hottest) neighborhood. 89 Charlotte Street
Glen Edith Coffee Roasters
The most established of the new breed, this successful local roaster operates two of the city's all-around best (and most fashionable) cafes. This year, business partners John Ebel and Mark LeBeau branched out to open Boxcar, a donut and fried chicken joint, up near the newly renovated public market. (Donuts will be served in the shops, as well.) 23 Somerton Street, 44 Elton Street
Ryan and Holli Baker met and fell in love while working behind the bar at Glen Edith's; now they run this terrific little mobile operation together, popped-up (long term) inside Cheesy Eddie's, a classic bakery in the South Wedge neighborhood. The menu is simple, classic—cortados, lattes, cappuccinos—with seasonal signature drinks that tend to be anything but dull. A multi-roaster operation on a 2-3 month rotation, lately they've been using beans from Arkansas' acclaimed Onyx Coffee Lab. 602 South Avenue
Joe Bean Roastery
Practically a member of the old guard at this point—it's got roots going all the way back to 2004, after all—one of the earliest of the third-wavers in town (and still quite good) has now evolved into a sort of all-day café, with a complete food menu, and beer, too. 1344 University Avenue
Also try these If you're downtown, pop into the cool Fuego Coffee, a micro-roaster and café—they've just opened up an outpost at the public market, as well. Coming very soon, Fifth Frame Brewing Co. will bring the best of coffee and beer together under one roof—there'll be coffee beer, too.