Editor’s Note: Thanks, Greg, for enlightening the Mid-Atlantic about garbage plates. I only made some small edits, all indicated in brackets, where your writing became a little, um, rowdy.
“The band is setting up; go now! Quickly!” Those animated words made my heart jump into a tizzy as I ran towards the promised land where kittens purr and children frolick. The tension is the air was palpable as I was unsure whether I could obtain the package in time. Mary and I dashed towards the tent, anxious and excited. I looked around briefly and then my heart skipped a beat as I saw the oasis at the end of my long trek. As we shuffled into line my pulse quickened with anticipation. The sign said Nick Tahou Hots. It was time. Garbage Plate time.
Rochester oh Rochester, how boring and easy to mock art thou. For those unfamiliar with my wonderful quasi-Canadian hometown, Rochester is a decent sized city in Western NY. By decent sized I mean big enough to have an [aquarium], but small enough where there are [popsicles]. Nevertheless, Rochestarians are notorious for defending “The Roc”, especially in the face of clear evidence that it [provides minimal entertainment for its youth]. Inevitably, the argument (at least in my case) comes down to a simple truth: Rochester has Garbage Plates, and your hometown does not.
Let’s do a quick background on the Garbage Plate: It was invented in the 50s or something at a place called Nick Tahou Hots by a bunch of college kids who wanted to eat a bunch of fatty food. There are a bunch of variants on the infamous plate, and if you’re anywhere near Rochester, there’s going to be a “Hots” near you to serve their particular take. The basic model is a bed of macaroni salad and home fries, topped by two cheeseburgers, onions, ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce. There’s even a side of Italian bread to mop up the grease. Now before you [become discontented with my statements], when I say hot sauce, I’m not talking that Tabasco stuff. This hot sauce is a spicy meat sauce. Kind of like if you removed the tomatoes from pasta sauce and added pure awesome.
Nick Tahou’s is the original plate, and legally the only place that can call their plates “garbage plates”, but that’s just like how bandages are always called band-aids. Now until last Friday, I had never had an original plate, and everyone claims the original is the best. See, I frequent a place called Fairport Hots which is much closer to my house, and I couldn’t imagine how a plate could possibly be better. Nevertheless, I went into my first Tahou plate with an open mind.
The clock was ticking as I wolfed down bite after bite, taking special care to alternate between the cool mac salad and the scorching hot burger and homefries. See along with garbage plates being a source of Rochestarian pride, a point of personal pride is how fast one can eat one. One of my Villanova buddies came and visited me one summer and after being unable to finish a Fairport Hots plate, he has been ridiculed ever since. I was racing my girlfriend, who along with her stunning beauty has some serious plate eating skillz. I won of course, mostly because she didn’t want to eat the really stale bread that Tahou’s put on the side.
How did the plate compare to my beloved Fairport Hots model? Unfortunately, the Tahou plate came up short in almost every category. Along with having significantly less mac salad and home fries than I’m used to, there was only one cheeseburger! One cheeseburger!! What is this, the third world?!?! The onions were sparse, and the hot sauce was even sparser. The home fries were too hot and the cheeseburger was too cold. Was it delicious? Of course it was. But as far as comparison to Fairport Hots, there was no comparison.
In conclusion, a garbage plate is a dish that goes beyond food to the point where it defines my entire region. Even when Jon Stewart mentioned Rochester on the Daily Show last year, he immediately told the people of Rochester to “get their heads out of their Garbage Plates.” For those who want to try a piece of this fatty heaven, you can only get a decent plate within about an hour of Rochester. You can sleep on my couch if you make the trek. After all, I’m not going anywhere. I love my Roc.
Here are some sweet links for garbage plate research:
 And by awesome I really mean grease and fat.