Homemade Garbage Plates

by Erin

Whether you have a giant appetite or are in need of good hangover food, my hometown’s garbage plate will fill you up. Pile up on mac salad, home fries, burger patties, and homemade meat hot sauce!

Garbage Plate 1

Today I am sharing a very special local dish from where I grew up, known as the Garbage Plate. Not a very appetizing name right? Let me explain… A Garbage Plate is a combination of one selection of typically cheeseburger, hamburger, red hots, or white hots. But you can also choose Italian sausage, chicken tender, haddock, fried ham, grilled cheese, or eggs (yes eggs and it’s called a Breakfast Plate – it’s delicious). Then you choose two sides of either home fries, French fries, baked beans, or macaroni salad. On top of that are the options of mustard and onions, and a proprietary hot sauce, made with spices and slowly simmered ground beef. And then it’s all served with Italian bread and butter on the side. I like to use the bread to swipe up any remaining sauce when I’m finished! There’s actually a specific way to put it all together too. Click HERE to see how!

Are you hungry yet? Okay I know what you are thinking, and yes, it is definitely more popular to the college student crowd. Although I’ve actually eaten it sober many many more times than under the influence. Nick Tahou Hots is the originator of a the Garbage Plate and it’s popularity has spawned several imitators in the Greater Rochester area, including Mark’s Texas Hots (“The Sloppy Plate”), Gitsis Texas Hots (“The Gitsis Plate”), Empire Hots (“The Trash Plate”), Fairport Hots (“The Hot Plate”), Tom Wahl’s (“55 Junker Plate”), Jimmy Z’s (“Five Star Plate”), and others. Another fun fact, Health.com named the Garbage Plate the fattiest food in the state of New York, which is not all that surprising.

Garbage Plate 2

As for me and my history with the Garbage Plate, I used to get it with baked beans instead of mac salad, but I slowly converted over the years to enjoying the mac salad more. Today my perfect Garbage Plate is cheeseburger with mac salad, home fries, and a huge amount of ketchup. I go though half a bottle in one sitting, no lie. After cutting up the cheeseburgers and mixing it all together I swear it all gets absorbed and nearly disappears. Here is my plate before being cut up and mixed. I thought of posting a mixed picture but it’s not really a pretty sight.

As for my Memphian friends who I subjected this upon, they all loved it! Granted most of them had a half sized plate, but that’s really how much you should eat unless you like testing out how clogged you can get your arteries in one sitting. The bonus to this meal was the Genesee beer, found at a local grocery store! Never thought I’d see the day that a Rochester brewery would have a market in the south.

One year ago: Baked Oatmeal with Blackberries and Bananas

Two years ago: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes


Makes 4 garbage plates (serves 4 garbage-plate-pros or 8 regular people)



1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 lb. ground beef

1 cup water, plus more if needed

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 Tbsp brown sugar (or 1/2 cup grated carrots)

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tsp chili powder

3/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves


8 beef patties, cooked

8 slices of American cheese (preferably white but did yellow this time)

4 cups macaroni salad

4 cups home fries (cubed hash browns), cooked

1 large yellow onion, diced

Ketchup, mustard and Frank’s hot sauce

1 loaf of fresh Italian bread, sliced and buttered

1 case Genny Light/Genesee beer


  1. In large skillet, fry chopped onion and garlic in oil until soft. Add meat, stirring constantly to keep its texture fine. Once the meat browns, add water and tomato paste. Simmer 10 minutes. Add sugar (or carrots) and spices. Simmer 30 minutes, adding water if necessary to keep it moist but not soupy. Remove from heat and process using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor*.
  2. To assemble the garbage plate, melt one slice of cheese on each beef patty. Place 1 cup of macaroni salad and 1 cup of hash browns each onto four plates. Place 2 beef patties on top of the heaps, in the center. Spread mustard and diced onions over the beef patties. With a ladle, cover the center of the heap with plate sauce. Top with ketchup and/or Tabasco sauce, and garnish with buttered bread. (Also, here’s a slide show of how to put together a garbage plate.)
  3. Best served with Genny Light or Genesee beer.

*I like to prepare my sauce the day before. I feel like the flavors mix together better if they sit in the fridge overnight. But you must resist the urge to spoon off the grease that settles on top before reheating it!

Source: Adapted slightly from The Lynches.

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Myk October 23, 2016 - 7:32 pm

Oh, gee’s I was hoping my reply did’nt sound assertive, my bad. I had happen to be looking on the internet and I was seeing all these sites posting about the “hot sauce”, and I was like you gotta be kidding me, they got it wrong. So when I got to your site I had to post a comment, sorry if I came off rude. I just made plates today for my buddies, needless to say we are all stuck on the couch LOL. Thanks for the reply. I hope you have an OUTSTANDING week.

spiffycookie October 27, 2016 - 11:08 am

Myk, no worries! Sometimes it’s had to express passion over the internet without sounding assertive. Enjoy your week as well!

spiffycookie August 16, 2017 - 4:08 pm

Myk, I thought you’d like to know that the most recent time I made this sauce, I used shredded carrots instead of brown sugar and it tasted great! I cannot say if it tasted differently but it’s nice to know I can omit processed sugar. I don’t normally have lard on hand so I had to go without that. I also used a large instead of a medium yellow onion (all the yellow onions I use are Spanish).

Myk October 22, 2016 - 7:54 pm

Spiffy cookie,,great site you have, good for you, I wish I had all the experience and knowledge you do to do this. I really do mean that, I dont want anyone thinking I am being condesending. Kid oh, the “hot sauce” here is 100% wrong, I promise. I am a food a holic and I LOVE COOKING AND BAKING. I fix cars for a living currently, BUT I used to work with the guys who where the cooks at Bay Hots and Empire Hots in Webster(Bay Hots is long gone). They are Bosnian, former Yugoslavia. Anyway, I just want to help put another perspective on it. These guys are real good dudes and they taught me how the REAL Trash Plates are made, which they learned from the former cook of Nick Tahoes. The meat sauce, use melted LARD to cook 1 LARGE Spanish or Mayan onion, NOT SWEET EVER, add the LEANEST hamburger you can get at Wegmans,I think its 15/85, add ABOUT a half cup MINCED carrots AFTER the hamburger just starts to brown and CONSTANTLY STIR the hamburger with a fork to keep it fine, and once the hamburger is cooked add Cayenne, some paprika and black pepper and salt to taste and keep at low after cooked. The trick is to use a HEAPING SCOOP of lard, it needs to be stupid greasy in the pot of meat sauce, and the “heat” comes from the cayenne, dont go crazy with it, start at 1 tsp and go up in 1/4 tsp incraments to taste if you want more heat. There is NO SUGAR OR BROWN SUGAR EVER in this, just what I listed is whats in the ” hot sauce” The mac salad is easier than you might think. Its the burgers that are a pain to get right.

I live in NC now and there is a place that actually thinks they can make these, needless to say they went out of business a while ago. I make these for my friends and they are hooked. I had to of my buddies that had to go to Rochester for business and I told them to stop at Empire Hots, and they came back and said that I was spot on and they LOVE Garbage Plates. I f I can be of help please let me know, and it is really AWESOME to see a rochester native posting this. Take care,,, Myk

spiffycookie October 23, 2016 - 10:24 am

Myk, I definitely wasn’t trying to say that this was the real hot sauce but it’s what I found on the internet from someone who said it tasted close to the real thing and it is pretty good. I definitely believe you when you say they start with lard! Thanks for all the other tips, I will have to keep them in mind the next time I make it!

Peabody June 9, 2016 - 4:28 pm

I need like 80 of these.

Ashley Nevis April 1, 2016 - 12:06 pm

Wow, what a crazy coincidence! It really is a small world!

Ashley Nevis March 31, 2016 - 3:47 pm

My husband is from Rochester (though we met and live in Raleigh, NC), and the first time he took me up there to meet his family, he insisted that we have a garbage plate for lunch. As someone who’s not a fan of my food touching and getting mixed together, I was skeptical to say the least, but I absolutely LOVED it! We regularly make a homemade version too, sometimes with mac salad, sometimes with mac and cheese, but we always make a point to get an authentic one when we’re back in town. Most people have never heard of them, so I always love coming across a fellow garbage plate fan! PS – hello from SRC, group C :)

spiffycookie April 1, 2016 - 7:49 am

I love meeting fellow garbage plate lovers that have since moved away and have to make homemade versions in order to satisfy the craving until you can return to Rochester to get a real one. And btw, judging by your picture I think I actually know your husband, I’m pretty sure we graduated from Athena the same year! And if I’m correct, he’s my boyfriend’s cousin’s cousin. What a small world we live in!

Damian Lynch February 17, 2016 - 11:32 pm

Thanks for posting the source. Fact is I have received some hate mail from the family which I trust means that my grandfather (who knew Nick) was close to the true recipe. BTW, recipes can not be copyrighted, thus all of the the “copycat” recipes on the internet. I have introduced my own flair to the recipe with fresh copped onions and mustard over the top of the “patty plate”. I even have zweigle’s white hots shipped down by my father to recreate the hots plate every now and then for my kids. Let’s face it though, they can’t have the experience of a 2 AM Nick Tahou’s (downtown) run unless they go to school in Rochester…… Only problem is that I heard they know close at 8 PM. Too bad, my father’s friend was held up at knife point by at that location; which adds to the (in)famous notoriety of Nick’s.

spiffycookie February 18, 2016 - 8:17 am

What an interesting story! I can’t believe you receive hate mail but you are right, that probably means your grandfather was on the right track! I also heard that the original location closes at 8pm now due to crime. Either way I miss it terribly and make sure I get one every time I visit my hometown!

Alan November 1, 2015 - 3:13 pm

Nick tahou the best late night eatery in Rochester NY baby.

Jeremy August 25, 2014 - 11:16 am

Hi spiffycookie, I grew up in Dansville and year in Rochacha (secret slang I think, hehehe) in 99. Anyway I remember Nick Tahou nights…kinda. I have been reinventing these bad a** plates myself lately. So good, though I have to admit I drink Molson with them now. I know don’t say it. It works.Thanks for the time you spent on this page :-)

Vicki @ WITK May 30, 2013 - 6:39 pm

I went to Nick Tahou’s when I was a summer intern at Kodak! Delicious and so unhealthy. Loved it :)

spiffycookie May 31, 2013 - 9:44 am

When were you a summer intern?? I did that too one year, but it was awhile ago. I think summer of 2004.

Vicki Wilde (@WildeKitchen) June 3, 2013 - 5:49 am

I was there summer of 2002, I think. So long ago!

spiffycookie June 3, 2013 - 8:07 am

How funny. Summer of 2002 was the summer before my senior year in HS. Which meant I was prob running around playing soccer and tennis.

Phillip @ electric soup makers May 19, 2013 - 6:58 am

I have never heard of Garbage plates before and to be honest if i hadn’t read this article I’m not sure i would have wanted to try one but it all makes sense now and I’m looking forward to having a go at my own Garbage plate

Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers May 16, 2013 - 5:41 pm

That is the best looking Garbage Plate I have ever seen! Looks delish!

Tracey May 16, 2013 - 4:21 pm

Oh wow, I need to show this to Shane. He’d be begging me to make it as soon as we get back from Florida! I love learning about food traditions in other parts of the country, this is awesome :)

Zainab May 16, 2013 - 3:48 pm

OMG this is AMAZING! When I was introduced to this local dish a few years ago I was skeptical but it was so good!! I will definitely try it at home now. Thanks!!

kita May 16, 2013 - 11:17 am

Dont be shocked if you see a version of this on my site soon. ;D I HAVE to try this!

spiffycookie May 16, 2013 - 11:30 am

I would absolutely LOVE if you tried it! And excited to see how you would make it :-)

Mr. & Mrs. P May 16, 2013 - 9:39 am

LOL!!! When we first read the title we were like WTH? But these looks really good.. =)

Christie May 16, 2013 - 7:52 am

OMG I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU!! I have been CRAVING a garbage plate!! People look at me like I’m insagn when I say that. They don’t see the appeal to eating one…they just don’t understand.


spiffycookie May 16, 2013 - 9:24 am

Hahahaha you’re welcome!


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