Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Eating Garbage in Rochester

Unless you're from Rochester, New York, I'm willing to bet you've never heard of a "garbage plate" before. My boyfriend Jake, a Rochester native, told me about garbage plates almost three years ago. I thought he was joking – who would willingly eat something that referenced garbage? Images of food scraps and messy dishes filled my mind.

When Jake insisted that I try a garbage plate when I visited Rochester, I didn't really know what to expect. As it turns out, garbage plates are just a combination of different foods thrown together into one pile. For the bottom of the plate, customers usually choose two "sides" such as french fries, home fries, mac salad, or baked beans. On top of the sides is some sort of meat like hamburger patty, cheeseburger patty, hot dog (called "white hots" or "red hots" in Rochester), or sausage. Toppings vary, but typical options are ketchup, mustard, onion, and "hot sauce" (a spicy meat sauce).

Wimpy's Burger Basket

Stepping up to order my garbage plate, I decided on a pretty standard order: mac salad, home fries, cheeseburger patty, onion, mustard, and hot sauce. One bite made all of my suspicions disappear. The garbage plate exceeded my expectations; it was as if all of my favorite summer foods were uniting in one meal. The mac salad and fries worked surprisingly well together, and the smothering of hot sauce was delicious with everything. I actually want to recreate the hot sauce at home. Jake mixed the items on his plate together into one big ketchup-y mess but I kept my foods separate. I'm guess I'm not hardcore enough, by Rochester's standards.

Now whenever Jake and I visit his family in Rochester, we almost always stop to get garbage plates. Our favorite place is Wimpy's Burger Basket, which also sells normal hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, wraps, and other finger foods. Jake also recommends Nick Tahou Hots, dubbed "home of the garbage plate." If you ever find yourself in Rochester, New York, I suggest giving this strange local dish a try.
Nick Tahou Hots