Now you’re (trash) talking: the ‘Garbage Plate’ – cuisine, Rochester-style


A thing of local legend, the ‘Garbage Plate’ is delicious food, for sure – and when it’s done Rochester-style it’s done best. Sure, we might well say that, you’d exclaim; but we know what we’re talking about because we know only too well just how well the ‘Rochester Garbage Plate’ is!

What is a ‘Garbage Plate’?

First things first; the name’s actually a trademark. Yes, really. It’s owned by the Nick Tahou’s restaurant, the home of the original, bona fide Garbage Plate. That said, imitation is the greatest form of flattery, as they say, so visitors’ll find different versions of the dish in menus all over town and in the wider Rochester area (so, don’t doubt it; you’ll definitely be able to sample the greatness of a Garbage Plate wherever you’re staying in the vicinity, not least if it’s at the Rochester Riverside Hotel).

And when we say variations, we mean variations – everything from health-conscious iterations to upscale versions to even a sushi spin on it. Be aware too that, dependent on where you’re looking to dine, it may be referred to as something that sounds slightly different (the term’s trademarked, after all) – so the likes of a ‘Rochester Plate’, a ‘Trash Plate’, a ‘Trasher Plate’, a ‘Compost Plate’, a ‘Junkyard Plate; or even the imaginative ‘Sticky Icky Plate’.

Traditionally speaking, though, the ‘Garbage Plate’ is a combo-dish the serves up a choice of cheeseburger, hamburger, Italian sausages, steak, chicken and white or red hots, usually on top of any of the following; home fries, french fries, baked beans, and/ or macaroni salad. Oh, and it’s usually topped off with ‘Rochester hot sauce’ – a particularly spicy meat sauce. And, if you’re lucky(?), yours might come with optional mustard and onions (a ‘heartburn garnish’). And just to round things off, buttered bread’s often served as a side too. It should be pointed out, though, no Garbage Plate – nor any of its imitations/ iterations – is a mere piling up of similar-ish food on one plate, as you might get at a chain eatery. No, siree!

A Rochester institution

To be fair; for the locals of Rochester, the Garbage Plate’s not always something that’s their automatic dish of choice when eating out; in fact, while some love it and are proud of its role as a local tradition; others do rather loathe it. Dreamt up for the Nick Tahou’s menu years ago, so the legend goes, when some students walked in one night and declared they wanted a plate ‘with all the garbage on it’, it’s undeniably, rightly become an icon of the town and area.

Mostly because, although in its purest form it’s far from the healthiest thing you might munch your way through and digest, it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted and, over time, it’s helped put the place on the map – comedians ranging from Jon Stewart to Jim Gaffigan to the Second City troupe have helped publicise it (and the city) when they’ve visited and it’s become notorious via magazine articles, online blogs and all manners of media.

Where to go for a Garbage Plate

Any of these Rochester eatery mainstays are a good bet – whether you’re in town for pleasure or making use of meeting rooms Rochester:

  • Nick Tahou’s (320 W Main St, Rochester, NY 14608) – traditional version
  • Sticky Lips BBQ City Music Hall/ Sticky Lips BBQ Juke Joint (625 Culver Rd, Rochester, NY 14609/ 830 Jefferson Rd, Rochester, NY 14623) – BBQ version
  • Stingray Fusion (food truck; various locations) – sushi fusion version
  • The Cub Room (739 S Clinton Ave, Rochester, NY 14620) – upscale version
  • Effortlessly Healthy (1440 Scottsville Road, Rochester, NY 14624) – healthy version.