The Extreme New York Delicacy You've Never Heard Of

Ah, Rochester, New York: birthplace of Kodak, Susan B. Anthony, and the first marshmallow company ever. Plus, Rochester's the home of a local dish called — yes — the garbage plate (via Mental Floss). Forget Philly cheesesteaks or Chicago deep-dish pizza. A true aficionado of American regional food hasn't lived until they've traveled to Rochester, seen the National Toy Hall of Fame, and sampled the garbage plate: a divine pile of assorted food items. 

The garbage plate is a simple concept: pretty much whatever you want, in a pile on a plate. But more often than not, according to The Spruce Eats, garbage plates consist of some sort of meat base (usually, cheeseburgers), meat sauce, fries, macaroni salad, bread, and various condiments. It all looks highly suspect together on a plate, to put it mildly, but the local allegiance to this staple is strong — there's even a site called Garbage Plate Reviews dedicated to rooting out the best ones (for now, Charlie's Restaurant holds the crown).

New York is making magic out of garbage

Before it was known as the garbage plate, the restaurant Nick Tahou Hots called it "Hots and Potatoes," as far back as 1918. The dish consisted of hot dogs, potatoes, and beans topped with onions and mustard. After droves of college kids coming into town kept asking about the "plate with all the garbage on it," its name was made official in 1992 (with a trademark, no less, per Justia). Garbage plates by any other name go by whatever the place chooses — "Trash plate," "Compost plate," "Junkyard plate," and so on, according to Visit Rochester.

The garbage plate lives in perpetuity in spite of its name, or maybe because of it. According to What's Cooking America, "Young college men living in Rochester... consider the Garbage Plate a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood." Needless to say, these rites of passage are likely to occur in a state of inebriation, or at least, late-night food lust. Maybe that's what makes the hyperlocal jumble such an everyperson's food.