“Summerville?” Not everyone knows about this lakeside community located at the end of St. Paul Boulevard in Irondequoit. Pass under the abandoned railroad bridges, and you feel like you’re entering some ancient walled city. The origins of the community can be traced back to the turn of the century, when city dwellers would head up to the lake to cool off during the sweltering summer months. Some families established seasonal residences consisting of a large platform tent and small garden. It was a common arrangement for the wife and children to stay at the lake while the husband would take the trolley back and forth to work in Rochester each day. This community quickly became known as “Summerville,” and the tents gave way to cottages, the cottages to year-round homes.
The residents of Summerville are proud of their neighborhood, as it it is walled off from the rest of Rochester thanks to the abandoned railroad embankment that skirts the shores of Lake Ontario. But don’t let the fortifications fool you, Summerville is a fun and friendly place to visit, and a wonderful place to enjoy the warm weather months in Rochester. For your drinking and dining pleasure, there are three great establishments all located within walking distance of each other.
Owners Kae and John Lovell opened the Sly Fox Tavern (5324 St Paul Boulevard) in May 2016 in a space that was formerly a diner. You may remember I visited last month during the New Belgium launch. I was looking for an excuse to return, and their Monday half-price wing night seemed like a good one. I brought along my friend (and sometimes Rochester Beer Blog Special Correspondent) Leandra since she had never been. It was quiet, but still early in the evening when we arrived. Eric the bartender greeted us warmly and quickly poured us two cold beers (Sierra Nevada Otra Vez gose for Leandra, Heavy Seas TropiCannon IPA for myself). We enjoyed friendly conversation with some of the locals, who were both curious and amused that people from the city would come up just to drink in their little bar. It also helped that the wings at Sly Fox Tavern are crispy and flavorful. There’s also a good selection of craft beers on tap that rotate frequently, which included Rohrbach’s, New Belgium, Heavy Seas, Genesee Brew House, and Sierra Nevada.
Since the night was young and the sun was hanging low in the sky, I suggested we head down the road to Silk O’Laughlin’s Restaurant (5980 St. Paul Boulevard). Or O’Laughlin’s Silk. Or “Olies” (oh-lees). This place has so many names, depending on who you talk to. This lively bar and restaurant owned by the McKeon family is situated right on the Genesee River directly opposite from Charlotte Beach. The draft beer selection tends to biased towards standards like Blue Moon, Yuengling, Guinness, and Labatt’s Blue, but that should not discourage you from visiting. We opted for gin and tonic cocktails and seats along the railing that overlooks the mouth of the Genesee River. We sipped cocktails as the sun dipped below the carousel in the park across the way. The endless parade of small boats returning to port provided entertainment as the clouds turned from orange to purple. The restaurant was busy as many chose to dine outside and enjoy the warm breezes.
Since we had to pass back that way, I suggested a nightcap at Summerville Grill (5370 St. Paul Boulevard). While I usually meet friends here for drinks, I have been meaning to come back for dinner. I’ve had several friends tell me they have a great Italian menu, so I’m looking forward to returning for a great meal. By the time we took a seat at the bar, the dinner crowd had cleared out. We both enjoyed Sam Adams Summer Ale on draft, though other options such as Yuengling, Guinness, Labatt Blue Light, Shock Top, and Goose Island were also available. The atmosphere at Summerville Grill is laid back and friendly, much like the surrounding neighborhood.
If you’re looking to change up your summer bar routine, consider the Summerville Trifecta. As you can imagine, these places get busier as you head into the weekend, so consider visiting on one of the “off nights.” It’s a great way to escape the summer heat in the city, and you might also make some new friends along the way.