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The Garbage Plate: Ben T. gets trashy

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

When you try a Garbage Plate at the original Nick Tahou Hots in Rochester, expectations shouldn’t include Kobe beef, transparent rice noodles or La Bonnotte potatoes. This is diner food strewn onto a plate, with the different parts slowly engulfed by a sloppy amoeba-like mass. The idea isn’t to paint a pretty picture—it’s to fill a yearning stomach with the elite of comfort foods.

The term “Garbage Plate” has been trademarked by the Nick Tahou Hots, but that hasn’t stopped Western New York restaurants from selling knock-off versions. University Hots on Main Street—near the University at Buffalo South Campus—offers the College Plate, which offers a few more combinations than Rochester’s Tahou Hots.


At the home of the Garbage Plate, however, the menu is fairly simple. The bed of the entree is two heaping piles, one of wedge-shaped fried potatoes and the other of macaroni salad—which fortunately wasn’t drowned in mayonnaise. The heart of the dish, however, can be any of the following: hot dogs and potatoes; hamburger; cheeseburger; sausage; chicken; fried ham; fish; grilled cheese; veggie burger and egg. The server, Stirlynn, said that the cheeseburger version was the clear favorite among diners, while fried ham and egg were the slowest selling.

Without second-guessing, I chose the cheeseburger plate. Stirlynn was quick to emphasize that the “hot sauce” lathered on top would be the highlight of the dish—in fact, the sauce is the biggest draw for the restaurant, she noted. “Hot sauce” is a little misleading, because it really shares no relationship to Frank’s (not that Frank’s is the standard for hot sauce, but I think that’s what Buffalo uses for a comparison). It’s a hefty glob of ground beef—think elementary school taco beef—with a spicy sauce that slowly drizzles down into the rest of the plate.

There’s little reason for additional condiments—the plate is rich and flavorful enough without salt and pepper, but adding ketchup would make sense. Sriracha, while delicious, would probably be overkill.

The worry is unquestionably how your stomach will react to the volcanic mass of greasy food, and I’m sure plenty of drunken horror stories have been told involving Garbage Plates. I’d like to think I have a rather sturdy stomach—I’ve managed to eat Ethiopian food 10 times in the last three months without annihilating my stomach lining (or so I’d like to think), and there was no post-Garbage Plate turmoil for me. If you mix beer, liquor and a Garbage Plate in the same night, however, your results may differ.

If you want a full history of Garbage Plates, enjoy this article by Linda Stradley from the website “What’s Cooking America?” (We’re not exactly sure that America is being cooked at all.)

Oh, you wanted a really gross photo at the bottom? Here you go:

TAGGED: garbage plate, nick tahou hots, rochester food, university at buffalo, university hots

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  1. Jennifer Lata Rung June 14, 2012 @ 12:46pm

    Yes, ketchup. Oh, how I miss Nick’s!

    Jennifer Lata Rung's avatar