ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Nick Tahou Hots, arguably Rochester’s most well-known restaurant, is in fact still open.
The creator of the iconic garbage plate reminded Rochesterians that it’s still in business Thursday morning after a local YouTube star, Andrew Rea, said otherwise during an appearance on national TV.
Rea, who hosts “Binging with Babish” on his YouTube channel, appeared in a segment Thursday on the TODAY show, where he cooked a garbage plate and gave some backstory about the Flower City’s signature dish.
However, some of that backstory included some false information.
“Nick Tahou’s is the place that invented it,” Rea said. “Sadly, they’re closed.”
Rea, when asked what he favorite dish he made for the channel, quipped that he “should have studied for this.”
Nick Tahou Hots, which has been in business in Rochester since 1918, didn’t take long to respond.
“NBC had somebody doing garbage plates that wasn’t us, so they didn’t obviously check to see what garbage plates were or who owned the trademark,” said owner Nick Tahou.
Tahou said he felt a range of emotion from being “upset,” to “disgust,” and disappointment. He criticized Rea for not knowing the 103-year history of the restaurant, calling the restaurant closed, and for Rea’s comment that some of the ingredients were made in an unsafe manner.
“He told everybody that we use grill scrapings to use the hot sauce, which is untrue, we use probably the best hamburger you can get for the meat sauce,” Tahou said. “The health department would be here in a heartbeat if we were doing that.”
Rea issued his apology on Twitter shortly thereafter.
Tahou says that the damage has been done, and that he’s been fielding calls all day having to tell customers that they’re open. But he says he has contacted his trademark lawyers to see what action can be taken, since technically what Rea made is not “a garbage plate,” as those can only come from Nick Tahou’s.
“Well I don’t really have an end goal, I’m going to see what they tell me what I have to do. NBC has to do something to right what they did, to allow that to go across the whole country, they need to take it down from their website (at a minimum),” Tahou said.
The meals campaign was started by D.C. lawyer Mark Zaid, who started the GoFundMe that feeds essential workers and helps the restaurant.
“Nick and Alex, understandably did not want just a perception of charity,” Zaid told News 8 in March. “What we’re doing is actually buying the plates for our essential workers in Rochester, the fire department, EMS police department, hospital workers.”
Zaid said his love for Nick Tahou’s runs deep, all the way back to his “pre-frosh” days at UR, when the restaurant featured prominently in many stops with him and his friends.
Then, when he founded the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter in 1985, he started a Nick Tahou’s charity run that still continues to this day. Fraternity members run a mile, eat a garbage plate, then run another mile. All proceeds to go charity.
“The thing actually gives me energy,” Zaid said. “And the reality is that that the garbage plate is such a historical part of Rochester. It is not only rich in history, but it is rich in nourishment and all sorts of energy.
Before Rea’s online apology, the discussion, predictably, went viral locally:
While the restaurant remains open, the local landmark did officially hit the market for sale earlier this year.
The building that houses Nick Tahou Hots on Main Street in Rochester, home of the original garbage plate, was listed for sale online for $975,000, according to Howard Hanna. Alex Tahou said that the property was listed by Towpath Homes, and is owned by David Vanderlinde.
The building itself is a former railroad station, but has been the home of the restaurant for generations in Rochester.
Like many, the business has been struggling during the pandemic, and then offers came in recently to buy the place.
If the building sells, the iconic Nick Tahou Hots name will live on. Owner Alex Tahou plans to license it to the buyer. He told News 8 he’s been at this a long time and thought this was a “great opportunity.”
“There’s no succession plan with family members, so when you have that — god forbid something happened to me tomorrow — what would everybody do?” Tahou told News 8 in March. “So you have to look to the future, and that’s the main reason. I know I can’t do this forever.”
Of course, Rochester takes its plates seriously, and while there are many iterations of the dish with other similar names, there is only one real garbage plate, which has been trademarked by Tahou’s for nearly 50 years.