The “Garbage Plate” — an amalgamation of picnic items like a hamburger patty on a plate with sides including macaroni, raw onions, and hot sauce — was first invented at Nick Tahou Hots, a restaurant in Rochester, New York. The exact date is disputed — some say the dish’s creation dates back to 1918, though the name came much later — but what’s clear is that over time, the dish has become Rochester’s most iconic meal, with versions found all over Monroe County.
Brooklyn Hots, a new Clinton Hill restaurant and bar that opens on Wednesday, March 30, at 291 Greene Avenue, near Classon Avenue, pays homage to owner Brian Heiss’ Rochester roots with a version the team calls trash plates (he can’t use Garbage Plate on the menu because it is trademarked).
“To me, trash plates are drunk food,” Heiss tells Eater. “I’ve pretty much only had them after working a late-night shift or going out.”
While Heiss says he loves the kitschiness of the trash plate, he also sees an opportunity for Brooklyn Hots to showcase the Rochester favorite without using processed meats and frozen veggies. Instead, his version will “highlight seasonality, high-quality meat sourcing, and, yes, fresh vegetables.” (Except when it comes to the hot dogs. For those he’s using Zweigle’s, another Rochester, New York, import since 1880).
The hodgepodge dish will no doubt be the biggest draw at the shoebox-sized restaurant with around 16 seats, where Heiss will be the only chef in the kitchen, at least to start.
To that end, the streamlined menu features several mix-and-match sections: To start, there are shareable options like the Rochester delicacy of pizza logs, a spring roll-like appetizer with mozzarella and pepperoni (whether the red sauce is in the roll or served on the side “splits families apart,” says Heiss, and he’s still figuring where to diplomatically land). For the trash plates, diners can pick two sides (such as macaroni salad, coleslaw, or home fries), a protein (including add ons like a smash burger; hots, the Rochester term for hot dogs; or mushroom caps), and toppings (Rochester-style “meat hot sauce,” raw onion, mustard, and Frank’s hot sauce, among others).
Separate from the plates, there are items like smash-style cheeseburgers and hots served butterflied with relish and mustard. For diners who want to stick with vegetables, there’s a seasonal veggie toast, a shaved Brussel sprout salad, and a deviled egg Caesar salad — all subject to rotate.
Eventually, brunch will also launch this year, with dishes like a French toast with espresso mascarpone and berries, pancakes, a “breakfast burger,” and a fried egg dish of some kind.
Heiss and his partner Matt Nelson also run Radicle Wine, the hip next door natural wine shop they opened in October 2020. Brooklyn Hots could be, Heiss points out, the only time trash plates have been served with natural wine in a restaurant setting. Though customers can bring bottles from wherever they please, corkage fees are waived for bottles purchased at Radicle.
One thing Heiss is sure about is that he doesn’t want Brooklyn Hots just to be “some natural wine bar” in an area of Brooklyn where the style of low-intervention wines is increasingly popular. He adds that after years working in natural wine (he was a manager at nearby Fort Greene Heritage Wines, where he hired Nelson), he understands the criticism that the wine industry can often feel steeped in “pretension” and hopes Brooklyn Hots can offer a welcoming experience.
Much like at their neighboring wine shop, where a local jazz band often performs on the sidewalk on Saturdays, music will also be a focus here. “One of the first things we did was get the right speaker set-up,” says Heiss, who like his partners at Radicle are musicians. Brooklyn Hots has a record player and even installed a DJ booth, “even though it meant losing a few seats in our already small space,” he says with a laugh.
Now that the restaurant is fully open with a food menu, Heiss and his team hope that Brooklyn Hots can bring some of the Rochester spirit to his neighbors at the new venture, that, above all, “just wants to have fun.”