Brooklyn Hots, a restaurant in Clinton Hill with versions of the Rochester delicacy known as a garbage plate, is shuttering on December 30, after around nine months in operation.
Owner Brian Heiss, a Rochester native, opened the restaurant in March 2022. The idea for the spot, located at 291 Greene Avenue, near Classon Avenue, was to showcase the spirit of the regional dish (he called them trash plates, as Garbage Plates is trademarked), first invented at Nick Tahou Hots, an iconic restaurant in Rochester, New York.
Heiss attributed the closure to several factors: He said he simply was not making ends meet with the business and was hemorrhaging money from rising food costs. Likewise, he added that the hype around the restaurant had become its own fallacy of sorts: Crowds lined up at the restaurant in its initial months of operation, but then customers feared the lines and thought they couldn't get a table inside the tiny dining room, even when service subdued.
“This is one of those sad moments where I wish I was a rich kid,” said Heiss. “But unfortunately I’m not, and I am just losing money.”
Heiss’s version was more dressed-up than the humble garbage plate is known around Monroe County. At the time of opening, Heiss told Eater that he wanted to pay homage to the garage plate’s kitschiness, without using processed meats and frozen veggies, aside from Zweigle’s hot dogs, produced in Rochester since 1880. Here, the garbage plate would grow up a bit, or at least, get a very Brooklyn makeover, highlighting “seasonality, high-quality meat sourcing, and, yes, fresh vegetables.” Heiss and his team differentiated themselves by making almost everything in the restaurant in-house, with behemoth, made-to-share portions to justify prices higher than those in Rochester.
Upon opening, Brooklyn Hots ignited conversations that went viral online about what does —or doesn’t — constitute a garbage plate, with some garbage plate die-hards taking issue with the use of vegetables, and the dish being served in the presence of natural wine. Mainly, though, the Clinton Hill neighborhood and Rochester imports showed up for the restaurant, says Heiss.
Brooklyn Hots was a somewhat rare BYOB spot, which made it feel approachable and low-key. Heiss is a co-owner of the next-door spot Radicle Wine, and part of the business model at Brooklyn Hots was to encourage customers to pick up bottles, with no corkage fee at the restaurant.
And though Brooklyn Hots was obviously known for the trash plates, they served several other, less-talked-about items, including $10 smash burgers, standout pickle plates, and comforting “pizza logs,” essentially a pizza spring roll mash-up. If customers wanted to stop by for a snack, it was easy to have an affordable meal, by New York standards.
No matter what you think of a Rochester-inspired restaurant in Brooklyn with natural wine, it was unlike any other in Brooklyn. “I still think it was a really fun idea, and once people actually stopped by they saw what we had going on was special,” said Heiss. “It was just hard to communicate everything we had going on to customers.”
Heiss says he will explore trying to relaunch Brooklyn Hots, or at least some version of it, in the future, perhaps in a different neighborhood and with more casual digs — but it all hinges on getting investors. For now, he’s focusing on winding down Brooklyn Hots. He says he’s still figuring out whether Brooklyn Hots’ last day on December 30 will be normal service or a party, with details to be announced. Radicle Wine remains open.