Glorious mess -- Rochester's 'garbage plates' - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Glorious mess -- Rochester's 'garbage plates'

Updated: May 7, 2012 03:29 PM EDT
© Todd Coleman / Bonnier © Todd Coleman / Bonnier

By Brent Cox

Some years ago, I got a job at a bar in my hometown of Rochester, New York. After work, I would hit a diner called Mark's Texas Hots for a cheeseburger, fries, and macaroni salad, all swimming in a chili-like "hot sauce."

Though I didn't realize it then, I was eating a garbage plate.

Chicken recipes at Saveur»

Originally called hots and potatoes and subject to umpteen variations, the garbage plate is a dish stacked with short-order proteins (franks or hamburgers, fried ham or haddock, eggs), piled with two of three sides (french or home fries, macaroni salad, baked beans), and doused in mustard, ketchup, onions, and mild hot sauce.

It is native to Rochester, a city of big appetites and working-class budgets.

16 easy casseroles at Saveur»

The Garbage Plate originated at Nick Tahou Hots, a downtown lunch spot opened in 1918 by Alex Tahou, a Greek immigrant, who named it after his son.

During the Depression, Tahou devised his hots and potatoes, with cured "red hot" franks and uncured "white hots," as a low-cost belly filler.

By the 1980s, college kids were asking for "a plate with all that garbage," and the phrase stuck.

Says Tahou's grandson and current owner, Alex, Jr., "We tried to fight it. 'Don't say that; it doesn't sound good when you call it garbage.' But when the powers that be are stronger than our desires, who are we going to please, customers or ourselves?"

The Saveur 100: Recipes and techniques» 

Since then, the garbage plate has embedded itself in Rochester's DNA.

The trademark resides with Nick Tahou Hots, so elsewhere it's trash plate, sloppy plate, messy plate. But no matter the name, its lifeblood is the hot sauce, a greasy condiment riddled with meaty griddle scrapings and spiced with paprika and cinnamon.

Though the spices are prevalent in Greek cooking, Tahou insists that the hot sauce came from a Mexican man who Alex, Sr. befriended.

"My grandfather gave him a place to sleep and food," and the man gave him the recipe. Such a return on kindness is the stuff of which, in Rochester, legends are made.

Nick Tahou Hots
320 West Main Street
Rochester, NY 14608

© 2012 SAVEUR
All rights reserved.
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by WorldNow
3514 State St. Erie, PA 16508
Newsroom: (814)454-8812
Toll Free: 1(800)454-8812
Business offices: (814)454-5201
Share Stories
Submit your stories to our site!
Share Photos
Share your photos in our community galleries
Mobile Site
Be sure to stay constantly updated with the power of WICU12 and WSEE at your fingertips
Free Android App
Free iPhone App
Free iPad App
Storm Tracker App
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WICU. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.
                   WICU/WSEE - 3514 State Street Erie, PA 16508 - (814) 454-5201 -