When The New Yorker's Elizabeth Barber highlighted the Garbage Plate in her preview of Brooklyn's Buffalo City Fair without mentioning Rochester, Twitter was set ablaze with responses that rivaled the Frank's RedHot-ranch dressing fiasco of March.
Nick Tahou Hots, on West Main Street in Rochester, is credited with founding the Garbage Plate and, due to a trademark filed in 1992, no other restaurant can legally use the name on its menu.
For those unfamiliar, the Garbage Plate is a protein - like cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, ham or fried fish - set atop a combination of macaroni salad, home fries, baked beans and/or french fries, then topped with a special Texas sauce (and often mustard and ketchup). It's just as customizable as it is messy.
Rochester natives become touchy on social media whenever the term Garbage Plate is used by another business, fiercely defending their ownership in the same way that Buffalonians get worked up over mention of Buffalo wings.
After reinforcing Rochester's pride in the Garbage Plate, Nick Tahou manager Don Walls - who'd heard the response to the article but hadn't read The New Yorker's article yet - explained the originality of the plate.
"People try to mimic it but no one can get it right, especially the sauce. No one [else] can call it a Garbage Plate," he said, adding that the Garbage Plate was founded during the Great Depression. "We have customers coming here from Canada, Brazil, across the world to try it."
Even on menus in the Buffalo area, steaming melanges of comfort food strive to replicate the Garbage Plate. Here's a look at six meals that don't stray too far from Nick Tahou Hots' concept.
*Prairie Platter ($6.50, price as of 2014) from Zorba's Texas Hots (5 Lee St., Depew).
It's a mound of fries, topped with two hot dogs, mustard, onions and cheese, slathered generously in Texas Hot Sauce. A half-sized version of the platter is available, too, for more moderate eaters.
*Burning River Garbage Plate ($12) from Riverstone Grill (971 E. River Road, Grand Island).
Riverstone is the lone offender we could find that actually uses the term "Garbage Plate" on its menu, but the appetizer itself is more akin to poutine than the signature Rochester dish. It's house-cut fries, topped with barbecue sauce, beer cheese, jalapenos, beef chili and a drizzle of ranch, and then finished with either brisket or smoked pulled pork.
*Almost Famous Hangover Plates ($8.99 to $11.99, pictured as lead image) from Greek to Me (2309 Eggert Road, Tonawanda). Close to Nick Tahou's in terms of its listed ingredients, Greek to Me offers a range of options - hamburgers, hot dogs, steak and grilled cheese - for the starring role atop various sides.
*Great Plates ($10.99) from Bill Gray's (8214 Main St., Clarence). Available with a hot dog, a cheeseburger or both over macaroni salad, home fries, baked beans, french fries or tater tots with your choice of toppings. The Clarence location is the lone Buffalo spot for Bill Gray's, which has 12 different franchises in the Rochester area.
*Garbage Breakfast ($8.95 to $9.25, depending on topping) from Helen's Kitchen (4187 Transit Road, Clarence).
It's eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, peppers, onions, mushrooms, potatoes and cheese all on a plate almost the size of a hubcap, according to News contributor Lizz Schumer.
*Trash Plate from Theo's Family Restaurant (563 Main St., Arcade). According to Yelp, the Trash Plate is on the specials menu, but you can find plenty of photos on Theo's Facebook page.
*Related: Eater wrote a detailed piece on the Garbage Plate last fall