Have you ever had a late-night moment of truth, usually after more than a couple drinks (if you’re of legal age, of course), where you look into the fridge and you think “oh yeah, I got this.” You’re the Gordon Ramsay of condiments, the Julia Child of leftovers, and that takeout box from a week ago? That’s definitely still okay to eat. You plop down on the couch with a plate of something, and it’s the most majestic, delicious thing you’ve ever eaten. You Fieri it up, you pound it down to Flavortown, and you wake up the next morning realizing that you ate a hot dog and mashed potato sandwich with pickles, barbecue sauce and some Kraft Singles, and, in a moment shared only between you, the cat and the carpet, you know it was delicious. Now, if you want that glorious experience in daylight, with other dignified humans in public, you need to head to Nick Tahou’s Hots in Rochester, New York. Their specialty? THE GARBAGE PLATE.
Yes, they make something called a Garbage Plate, and it’s a certified, glorified, delicious mess. It starts with a solid, starchy base—your choice of French fries, home fries, macaroni salad or baked beans. Then, you get your protein in the form of hot dogs, hamburgers or cheeseburgers plopped right on top, and finish it off with mustard, onions, hot sauce, ketchup, etc. Served with a side of Italian bread and butter, it’s both local legend and culinary tourist's destination, and while it miiight clock in around 3,000 calories, it’s a must-try if you’re in town. And while there’s been variation through the years with different additions and offerings, the current iteration of the Garbage Plate is an eternal masterpiece.
While the Garbage Plate is simple in concept, it is rich in meaning. Alex Tahou, current owner and Nick’s grandson, sees the Garbage Plate as emblematic of what food should be all about: the eaters, the customers, the people who make restaurants the cornerstones of their communities. The Garbage Plate provides the people of Rochester a lot of good, honest food for a reasonable price, and it stands for the very principles of American ingenuity and freedom. It stands for our duty and right to break down the barriers of what should and shouldn’t go together traditionally, of norms and standards of appearance and presentation, and celebrate that which matters most: taste. So the next time you microwave a late-night monstrosity, remember you aren’t alone. Whether at a table at Nick Tahou’s Hots or from the floor of some other apartment in some other city at 2 a.m., you’re in the great company of a nation of Garbage Platers. God bless America.
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