Only one food has dominated the diner scene in Western New York for the past 100 years — the garbage plate. The name might be nauseating, but the people of Rochester, New York can’t get enough.
The dish originated at Nick Tahou Hots restaurant. When the restaurant opened in 1918 under the name Hots and Potatoes, owner Alexander Tahou began serving a meal that was basically a heaping plate of everything the kitchen had to offer.
When his son Nick eventually took over in the 1940s, renaming the restaurant after himself, he dubbed the dish “the garbage plate.” Nick Tahou also solidified the array of ingredients, creating the traditional recipe that continues today — two hamburger patties on top of home fries, macaroni salad and baked beans, slathered generously with ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce.
Though this is the classic concoction, there are many variants of the dish as well, with ingredients such as hot dogs, eggs, steak, and sausage. The assortment is limitless, which is why it’s called the “garbage” plate. But for the garbage plates, the disorder works — it’s a little bit of everything, and it tastes great.
The dish has a long history with the town. Many Rochesterians survived the Great Depression by spending a few cents at Hots and Potatoes, according to Eater.
Today, it’s a staple of every Rochester resident’s diet. Youtube personality and Rochester native Jenna Marbles even featured the garbage plate in her video, “My Boyfriend Cooks My Favorite Meal.”
“There aren’t many restaurants that have as long as history as Tahou’s, so growing up in Rochester, the plate has been a part of the lexicon forever,” Naomi Silver, a Rochester resident, told Eater. “Night shift workers eat them for breakfast, they’re perfect for lunch and dinner, at a ball game, and they’re a staple after an evening of partying. It’s not glamorous. It’s just good.”