The classic Nick Tahou’s “garbage plate” of Rochester is built on a foundation of macaroni salad or fried potato cubes. Then it’s piled with hot dogs, hamburgers or other short-order delights, and topped with Greek-style meat sauce, mustard and onions.
It’s hard to find a decent substitute in Erie County, but more than one searcher has been pointed to Zorba’s Texas Hots (6184 Transit Road, Depew, 685-4948). There, the Texas Prairie Platter has satisfied customers for more than a decade.
“It’s a lot different, though it’s a similar concept,” owner Thomas Galanes Jr. said. The Prairie Platter was actually not his idea. “I’d live to take credit for it, but I can’t,” he said. Credit belongs to Joel Rapp, a friend who suggested that several menu items could be combined for a greater effect.
Galanes’ father opened Zorba’s in 1973. It’s a breakfast and lunch place, focused on omelets, pancakes, fries and Sahlen’s hot dogs with Texas hots sauce. Which, as most Buffalo hot dog hounds know, is not hot sauce at all, but beanless beef chili with Greek spicing, like a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg, that hails more from Thessalonika than Texas.
“I cook 35 pounds of ground beef in a pot, and after I let it cook for like three hours, I skim off 80 percent of that fat,” Galanes said. “I add onions, garlic, breadcrumbs, and a lot of spices. That’s the secret, the spices.”
The Prairie Platter started with a full plate of shoestring cut french fries, similar to McDonald’s fries in size. Those are topped with two grilled, chopped up Sahlen’s hot dogs. It’s sprinkled with onions, then covered with yellow mustard and sliced extra sharp cheddar cheese. Which is, in turn, smothered in three ladles of that beef Texas hots sauce, which is hot enough to melt the cheese. “That’s the whole idea,” Galanes said.
New employees always wonder who would order the Prairie Platter, Galanes said. Then they watch it get ordered all day, every day. “I make ‘em for breakfast, I make ‘em for dinner,” he said. “I make ‘em for teenagers, I make ‘em for seniors.” Sometimes an older couple will come in and share one.
It’s a lot of food for $6.50, Galanes said. “It’s incredibly reasonable, and that’s why we’re still here. We work on volume, not on profit. As long as the door keeps opening and closing, we’ll be here.”
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