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Feeling Like Garbage

March 4, 2019

It’s Monday. I’m coming off a weekend on the bat mitzvah circuit in New Jersey. And I’m not feeling all that great. While I’m tempted to blame my spike in weight on the challah, bagels, cream cheese, hummus, donuts, baked brie, tater tots, cake, and ice cream from the festivities, that wouldn’t be fair.

New Jersey often gets a bum rap. Frankly, I can’t bring myself to throw the pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich under the bus either. Because if anything were a distillation of New Jersey, it would be this diner staple.

Part of me wonders if the Nick Tahou Hots garbage plate is a similar distillation of Upstate New York. I had a local knock off version last week at The Excelsior Pub in Albany. Now I have a craving to go to the mothership.

The most remarkable part of that sentence is that after eating a garbage plate, and feeling like garbage, I totally want another.

If none of this makes sense, read on, and allow me to explain.

Rochester has a place. It’s called Nick Tahou Hots. And they have a specialty called The Garbage Plate. It doesn’t take a genius to guess that it’s a lot of greasy, sloppy food thrown into a styrofoam clamshell box. The combination of ingredients can be adjusted to the eater’s taste, and the main protein of this regional delicacy is either hot dogs of hamburgers.

When I first heard about this dish, it sounded vile. It still sounds vile. I mean, most of it is fine. But one of the traditional ingredients really filled me with dread.

Because there is absolutely nothing wrong with fried potatoes topped with cheeseburgers, and slathered with a meat and onion chili sauce. Even if you douse the whole thing with hot sauce, and cover it in diced onions. It seems like one could avoid ketchup without drawing too much ire. Especially if you reach for the brown mustard, which feels like the better old man condiment anyhow.

However, once you add macaroni salad to the mix, the whole thing sounds infinitely less appealing.

After years of avoiding this regional specialty, I finally surrounded myself with enough relocated Rochesterians, and gave it a go. While the macaroni salad was definitely an unusual component to this plate of meat and potatoes, by the end of the dish, I was totally into it.

Despite thinking in my heart of hearts that I would enjoy the hot dog version of this dish better, I went with the more traditional cheeseburgers. That’s two cheeseburgers, mind you. Two cheeseburgers on top of a pile of fried potatoes, scoops of macaroni salad, and ladles of spicy meat sauce is a lot of food. Certainly more food than I’ve been consuming recently. But I finished the whole damned thing. Partially out of duty. But I also found that, much like a burrito, those last few bites where all the flavors meld together are the best of the entire experience. That meant I was scraping up the creamy, meaty bits of commingled sauces with the last few pieces of smashed up potatoes.

As much as it kills me to say this, I’ve come to realize the macaroni salad defines this dish. And while it may sound disgusting, miraculously it’s not. I still can’t figure out why.

What I have figured out is that I need to get another one of these in my life soon. I want to try the version with hot dogs, because for me the weakest link was the burgers themselves. I wanted something like Five Guys, but burgers that tender and tasty when cooked to well done aren’t easy to find.

I also need to get myself to Rochester, and try a bona fide garbage plate from its source.

So yes, I’m feeling like garbage.
But I’m also feeling like garbage.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Benjamin M. permalink
    March 4, 2019 11:57 am

    Glad you enjoyed your Garbage Plate. In Rochester, it is served on paper plates (not foam boxes) and one of the challenges is to finish eating it before the plate is so soaked with grease that you can see through it. Also, the mac salad at Nick Tahou’s tastes nothing like the stuff here (I would argue it tastes like nothing at all). But, it is part of the experience.

    When you are in Rochester take a visit to Tahou’s. It is an experience.

  2. Steph permalink
    March 4, 2019 12:00 pm

    Rochester is an easy drive and there’s lots to check out while you’re there! Don’t miss the flagship Wegmans in Pittsford, and if you go with the whole family you absolutely have to hit the Strong Museum/National Museum of Play.

  3. Rob permalink
    March 4, 2019 12:02 pm

    I dove into the real thing at Nick Tahou’s during a weekend that also included dining at Wegman’s and a vist to the Genny brewery. What a trip!

  4. dave permalink
    March 4, 2019 12:26 pm

    I can’t let myself enjoy a garbage plate because I am aware that the mac salad contains mayo and mayo is disgusting… Anyhow, if you ever find yourself in the Utica/Rome area stop at a Nicky Doodles for a “Doodle Dumpster.” CNY’s take on the plat du garbage. Nicky Doodles in general is awesome. They do a hot dog involving mac salad too if memory serves.

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