Eatery serves a staple that’s an all-American food tradition
By Christopher Malone
When it comes to the residents of the Rochester area, garbage plates are not a new food concept. It’s a Rochester delicacy and, dare I say, a tradition.
If a garbage plate was consumed for the first or only time outside of the Western New York, perhaps a pilgrimage to the food staple’s mecca should be on your road trip itinerary.
Nick Tahou Hots, 320 W. Main St., is a notable name, which sounds as if it could be a beachside restaurant with a notable marketing shtick and clothing line. However, it’s a dingy-looking diner located in a landlocked urban Upstate New York city.
Before my review I had yet to enjoy a garbage plate in or just outside of Rochester. When attempting to eat an out-of-Roc version, it’s been reiterated numerous times that it’s not the same – period. These are also notable late night or early morning dishes popular post-bar scene crowd.
For those unfamiliar with a garbage plate: In the words of my friend Sarah, “It’s pretty much all the scraps of food found at a picnic piled on to one plate.”
It’s true. Unfortunately, the United States cookout culture, albeit some of the simple and best food to nosh on, doesn’t have much aesthetic pizzazz. Aside condiments and other ingredients to top on, the color palette of a Nick Tahou garbage plate ranges from mayonnaise off-white to crispy black-and-tan.
The amount of food for the price is incredibly reasonable. The cheeseburger garbage plate ($8.80), the grilled cheese plate ($7.87), two soft beverages ($1.52 each), a sausage sandwich ($2.78), and a side of baked brown beans ($2.31) came to $27 total.
Each garbage plate ordered came with a main ingredient atop home fries and macaroni salad. The two cheeseburgers were cooked on the well side, but they weren’t dried out. The patties were topped with American cheese, onion pieces, a schmear of mustard, and the in-house Texas hot-style sauce. The same toppings came with the grilled cheese plate as well.
The two grilled-to-golden-brown-perfection cheese sanwiches were cut diagonally, and placed strategically. The schmear of mustard graced the halves, and the Texas-style chili sauce was dumped on. With every bite of burger or grilled cheese, some mac salad and/or home fries are picked up for each bite. For garbage plates being unattractive piles of food, there is a method to presentation.
There isn’t a lot of added salt to the dishes, so feel free to salt to preferred taste. The home fries were hot and crispy. The mac salad was light on the mayo, and the elbow noodles were accompanied by diced veggies. The garbage plates also come with a few slices of Italian bread, which, if saved until the next day, will get questionably hard overnight.
I returned to the counter where diners order and pick up the food – there’s no table service, and customers are required to take care of their trays — and ordered a sausage sandwich with the works and an order of the baked beans.
The sausage sandwich, which comes in a bun, is also topped with the bit of mustard, onion bits, and Texas hot style. One of the staff mentioned that the beans are cold; as a first time eater at Nick Tahou’s, I am unsure if the beans are normally cold (this being a warning) or sometimes hot.
The sausage sandwich was really good, and the meat was much tastier than the burger. The beans on the other hand – meh. I hope these come out hot on a regular basis, because cold baked beans are not the way to go. The consistency of the side dish was fine, but temperature did break it.
Aside the beans and the mac salad, which thankfully was not hot, the rest of the meal was prepared in sight and made as ordered.
Nick Tahou Hots is a pure definition of a greasy spoon eatery. The quasi diner serves a particular staple that’s definitively an all-American food tradition. The garbage plate is to our country as poutine is to Canada. Is it healthy? No. It’s it worth trying? Absolutely.
Although not all the elements of the experience were remarkable, you can’t go wrong with the guilty pleasure food high a garbage plate promises. Nick Tahou Hots has been around for more than 100 years, and may the legacy continue for many more.
Nick Tahou Hot
320 W. Main St., Rochester, NY 14608
www.facebook.com (search “Nick Tahou Hots”)
Daily: 10 a.m. – midnight.