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I’m sure many of us remember a dish from maybe our town or regional area you grew up with that sounds confusing or maybe even unappetizing to an outsider. But among these regional delights, I’m pretty sure no dish compares to the monstrosity of a traditional Rochester Garbage Plate.

The Garbage Plate originated at a local Rochester, New York restaurant, Nick Tahou Hots. This dish was created for college students who needed something filling during a long and late night out at the local bars. Since its creation, there have been many variations made for the garbage plate.

Let’s start with the base: half of the plate is covered in a creamy macaroni salad and the other with crispy potatoes, usually home fries or crinkle-cut french fries. Next, you top your base with two smash cheeseburger patties, and finally (like there wasn’t enough on the plate) the whole dish is topped with “hot sauce” which is a spicy chili-inspired meat sauce.

Although that combination is seen as the “traditional” ingredients, some variations include baked beans as a base, or hot dogs may be substituted for the burgers. The dish is finished with optional chopped red onion and dressed up with your favorite condiments.

Okay, I know that’s a lot and when I made this dish, I was very intimidated by all of these elements.

I took the most traditional route that included the mac salad, home fries, two burger patties, and hot sauce.

I started by creating the Mac salad, so it could sit and chill in the fridge while I tackled the other elements of this dish. I used our Food Truck Hawaiian Mac Salad which has the perfect amount of sweetness that would cut through all the saltiness this dish held.

Next it was time to cook this “hot sauce.” In my opinion, the spicier the better so I added a good amount of Frank’s Red Hot sauce that gave the sauce a sharp vinegar taste and a kick of heat. Since I do not eat meat, I opted for Impossible ground beef which is a plant-based alternative that looks a little too suspiciously like real meat.

I made the sauce like I would make chili just with no beans or veggies included. You want a runny consistency so it easily pours over the whole dish.

Lastly, I cubed up my potatoes to fry and used the rest of my ground “beef” to make smash burger patties, which are just really thin patties, and topped them with cheddar cheese.

After all of that work, it was time to assemble and taste my confusing creation. And I couldn’t be more excited and honestly a little scared to try this.

In the end this combination somehow… worked! The creaminess of the mac salad mixed in well with the crispy potatoes and the spicy chili sauce. It tasted like a mixture of a tater tot casserole and a deconstructed sloppy joe. Would I make this again when I need to make dinner for the week? No. Did the garbage plate taste like garbage? Also no!

If you are a native of Rochester and are craving this regional concoction or are just wondering what this tastes like for yourself, give the garbage plate a whirl! You’ve got to try it at least once!

Makes 1 plate

10m prep time

30m cook time

3h inactive

Rated 1.0 out of 5
Rated by 1 reviewers
When you share or print a 12 Tomatoes recipe,
you're making mealtime meaningful.
100% of the Share to Care sponsor fees fund meals for families in need. Learn More
  • ½ lb of ground beef
  • 2 lb of potatoes, cubed
  • 2 sandwich slices of cheddar cheese
  • 4 cups vegetable oil
For the salad:
  • 1 cup of half-and-half
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 lb dried elbow macaroni
  • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 carrot finely grated
  • 1/4 cup celery, finely diced
For sauce:
  • ½ lb ground beef
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth
  • ½ white onion chopped
  • ½ can (3 oz) tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  1. First, make the salad: In a medium bowl, whisk together the half and half, mayo, grated onion, sugar, salt, and pepper. Chill until ready to use.
  2. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the macaroni. Add 5 minutes to time on package instructions - overcooking the pasta helps it absorb the dressing.
  3. Drain macaroni, then add back to pot. Add apple cider vinegar and stir until absorbed. Cover pot and set aside to come down to room temperature, at least 20 minutes.
  4. Once the pasta has rested for 20 minutes, add half the dressing and stir to combine. Cover again and let cool for 20 minutes more. Add in the remaining dressing, along with celery and carrots. Adjust seasoning as needed and chill until ready to use, at least 2 hours.
  5. Next, make the sauce. Heat a skillet pan at medium heat and add olive oil and minced onion. Cook onion until translucent (5-7 minutes), then add in the ground beef and cook until browned.
  6. Add in tomato paste and let cook with onion and beef for 2-3 minutes. Next, the hot sauce and seasonings; cook until the sauce reaches a low simmer.
  7. For the potatoes: Add vegetable oil to a large pot and heat to 350° F, add potatoes in batches and fry until golden.
  8. Next, cook the beef patties. Heat a pan to medium-high heat and roll tge ground beef into golf ball-sized balls. Place them on the pan and press them flat with a spatula, cook until browned; add slices of cheese on top of the patties and cook until melted.
  9. Time to assemble. Divide macaroni salad and potatoes on each half of the plate, add the two patties on top, and top with chili sauce. Top with desired condiments.

A chaotic delight!