Imagine. You are a college student in Rochester, New York. It is 3 A.M. and you have been partying all night. Somebody says, "let's go get something to eat!" You and your buddies pile into the car. No one has said the word, but everyone knows where you are going.|
You are going to get a GARBAGE PLATE. You are going to the legendary Nick Tahou Hots.
Be sure to bring along spare change for the Nick Tax- money to payoff the panhandlers outside because Nick Tahou is located in a not so great part of downtown.
Inside, as one alumnus of the Rochester Institute of Technology put it: "Who can forget the atmosphere- grease, knife fights, grease, prostitutes, grease, Nick and grease."
After the bars close on Saturday nights the place is packed.
You have taken your life into your hands to get to the door of Nick Tahou Hots. You enter to find the usual familiar faces behind the counter. The short angry man with his stomach overlapping his belt that shows through under his t-shirt.
His apron hangs down to his knees with stains of what looks like a month worth of GARBAGE PLAES. The cook is a skinny blond haired fellow with a cigarette hanging from his mouth and a bullet hole in his left cheek. As he turns to look at you smoke pours out of the hole in his cheek and he gives a little smile. You step up to the counter and at that moment a roach runs to the center and stops. The man with the belly looks at it and with a swift downward blow smashes it with his hand. And with his hand still on the crushed roach he looks at you and says WHATEL YA HAVE?
You'll have a GARBAGE PLATE of course!
What is a GARBAGE PLATE?
Start with a plate covered on one side by hash brown potatoes (home fries) and on the other side by macaroni salad, which many claim is the best that you have ever eaten. You can substitute beans or french fries for one or both. Next, you top that with your choice of a bunless cheeseburger, hot dog, italian sausage, Delmonico Steak, eggs (yes, you can get the GARBAGE PLATE for breakfast), etc. Next, they ladle on the hot sauce (what most people would call chili), then they throw on a little mustard and a handful of raw onions.
It is not much different than loading up your plate at a backyard barbecue or a Thanksgiving meal only that the Nick Tahou Garbage Plate looks disgusting. But, it tastes so good.
They give you a bottle of ketchup and a bottle of Frank's Hot sauce with your order. Regulars recommend using about half the bottle of ketchup. You dig in using the three slices of Nick's Italian bread that comes with your meal to help scoop the mess up. Prices range from about $4.50 to $6.50.
Eating a GARBAGE PLATE is a rite of passage for one of the many college students in Rochester. If you can't eat a whole plate you are looked on as a wimp. A true test of manhood is being able to eat two or more plates at one sitting.
Nick Tahou has a second location in a safer less colorful part of town, but what is the fun in that. Both locations were open 24 hours a day seven days a week, but in March 1999 the original began closing at 8 P.M. due to excessive violence.
After four Rochester college students were fired upon by a panhandler who walked up their car window, asked for a cigarette, then pulled a gun, a police officer remarked to a newspaper, "When going for a garbage plate, citizens should be advised to stay aware of their surroundings."
Customers have marveled at the police's response times to calls to Nick Tahou�s.
Nick Tahou fans are spread throughout the United States. Many are alumni of Rochester colleges who pine for a plate.
Nick Tahou has fan websites on the internet. The authors of one describe their Sunday morning ritual of breakfast at Tahou's. Others reminisce of their fond memories at Nick's.
One Tahou fan tells a story of how a friend suggested they stop at Nick�s for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning before driving three hours to his parent�s house for Thanksgiving dinner. He talks of the inner conflict between having a �Thanksgiving Plate�, which would have given him legendary status among his friends, but would ruin dinner at home because he would be too stuffed. He reluctantly and perhaps regretfully passed on Nick's.
What causes this cult like devotion? The food? The after-meal sore belly? The ambiance? The danger? Is it some kind of test of macho
For those who place more of a value on their life, a GARBAGE PLATE can be had from the Nick Tahou booth at the annual Lilac Festival.
Nick Tahou Hots is listed as a favorite in Rochester Dining Guides. It was featured in a story on the Food Network.
Nick Tahou arrived in Rochester in 1937 and started selling hot dogs from a cart at the railroad depot. He later opened his own restaurant. The original restaurant was moved years later to make room for an interstate overpass.
Nick Tahou died after a long illness in 1996. The weekend he died it was frontpage news in Rochester. The evening television news carried special reports.
Nick's son Alex runs the restaurants, today.
Nick liked to wander through the restaurant, sit down and tell his stories to entertain the customers.
One favorite he probably told a million times: "When I married my wife she thought I was a Greek God. Now she thinks I am a god damn Greek."
If a college guy brought a date with him, Nick would probably tell a story about "a beauty and a beast."
"You know for 60 years, I worked behind the counter, customers always bothering me. No mustard. Extra sauce. Gimme this, gimme that. Always, customers bothering me. So, finally I say that's it. I'm done! So I retired. You know what I do now? Now, I come in and bother the customers!"