5 Must-Try Foods Rochester is Known For

5 Must-Try Foods Rochester is Known For

By: Nicholas Sollitto


March 2, 2022

Nicknamed the “Young Lion of the West” in 1838, Rochester has long been a city focused on development and expansion. This expansion was historically stimulated by the creation of the Erie Canal. Today, Flower City is best known for its vibrant downtown, which is fueled by vast culinary explorations.  

Since 2000, more than $2.5 billion has been invested in Downtown Rochester. This investment has groomed Rochester into the fourth-largest city in New York State. Subsequently, this dramatic growth has modernized and elevated Rochester from a forgotten “boomtown” to a thriving metropolitan area where diversity and creativity are combined in celebration.  

Leading this celebration is Rochester’s smorgasbord of spirited restaurants and historic dishes, including the infamous garbage plate. To learn more about Rochester’s culinary highlights and to answer what food Rochester’s known for, keep reading! 

What Unique Food is Rochester Known For?  

From the aforementioned garbage plate to white hots, tomato pie and everything in between, Rochester is home to an array of unique and delicious dishes. Here are a few that you should know about:

1. Garbage Plate 

Ahh, yes, the infamous garbage plate. The dish that put Rochester on the culinary map, and the No. 1 answer to that burning question, “what food is Rochester known for?”  

In its most basic sense, a garbage plate is a large helping of macaroni salad or baked beans topped with a meat of your choosing (hamburger, hot dogs, chili, etc.) and served with fried potatoes. Though, at Nick Tahou Hots, the landmark restaurant responsible for launching the plate more than a century ago, the garbage plate has become something else entirely: a source of immense city pride and the talk of culinary lore.  

2. White Hots 

You can’t take a culinary tour of the Rochester area without mentioning white hots. These unique hot dogs have been a city staple for more than 100 years.  

Looking for an alternative to traditional hot dogs, C. Wilhelm and Josephine Zweigle combined uncured and unsmoked pork, beef, and veal to create the “white hot” in the early 1920s. Ever since, the name Zweigle’s has been synonymous with “white hots” and “red hots,” the latter of which is a regional name for a traditional hot dog. Both white hots and red hots are served across the city with yellow mustard, relish, onions and other toppings.  

3. Cannoli Pancakes 

Any best foods list from Rochester has to include cannoli pancakes. No, you are not dreaming. One half dessert, one half breakfast, this unique creation was made famous by Steve’s Diner. The diner is also home to Love Cakes, an oversized take on traditional pancakes.  

The Love Cake is served at Steve’s in a variety of flavors including, chocolate chip, sausage, pumpkin, Oreo cookie, grasshopper and even sausage.  

4. Tomato Pie 

Blessed upon the northeastern United States by Sicilian Immigrants, tomato pie is a highly debated and contested food in upstate New York. (Don’t even mention Philadelphia’s version of the dish in New York tomato pie conversation. It’s just not worth it.)  

When you are visiting Rochester, then please do stop in and try tomato pie for yourself. You won’t regret it. A reconstructed pizza dish credited to Utica, NY, tomato pie has since migrated across Upstate and you can now find it on menus in Rochester, Buffalo, Amherst and elsewhere.  

The dish is well known for its thick, chewy crust and for the reverse layering of tomato sauce over cheese.  

5. Beef on Weck 

Another ROC specialty that originated elsewhere in New York State, Beef on Weck is a roast beef sandwich served on kummelweck bread. The top bun of the sandwich is normally dipped in an au jus and spread with a substantial amount of horseradish.  

If you ask a Buffalonian, you can’t find proper beef on weck anywhere outside of the Queen City. However, many Rochester citizens think the beef on weck served at The Angry Goat Pub is the best in the state.  

Where to Eat in Rochester, NY?  

Now that we have explored what food is Rochester known for, we should probably tell you where to eat. In addition to Nick Tahou Hots, Steve’s Diner and the others we have mentioned already, there are a number of local restaurants in the Rochester area waiting to serve you a tasty meal.  

If you are looking to get your hands on a white hot or red hot, check out Dogtown, Henrietta Hots or Schaller’s. Those excited to try tomato pie will want to visit Rubino’s Italian Foods or Savoia Pastry Shoppe.  

In addition to searching for the unique foods included on this list, you can also explore several other culinary offerings in Rochester. For a local fish fry experience, head on over to Bill Gray’s or Captain Jim’s Fish Market.   

Those looking to finish off their meal with a sweet treat can do so at Abbott’s. The historic creamery offers slow-churned frozen yogurt in a variety of flavors including classics such as vanilla and chocolate.  


Q: What food is Upstate NY known for?  

A: Upstate New York, from the finger lakes to the mountains, is known for a variety of cult-classic foods. The garbage plate from Rochester, buffalo wings from buffalo and tomato pie for Utica are three of the most infamous plates.  

Q: What is in the garbage plate in Rochester?  

A: The garbage plate, infamously created at Nick Tahou Hots, includes a customer’s choice of meat (cheeseburger, Italian sausage, steak, chicken or even fish) served over a combination of french fries, baked beans or macaroni salad. Most Rochester residents also add a dash of hot sauce.  

Q: Does Rochester have good food?  

A: Rochester is consistently recognized as one of the best cities for food in the United States. The city supports a diverse and creative array of restaurants. The town is also well known for its host of unique offerings including the garbage plate, white and red hots and tomato pie.  

Wrapping Up: Rochester’s Unique Foods 

While Store Space won’t be able to help you free up more space for a second garbage plate or another red hot, we can help you free your household from clutter. If you are looking for professional storage solutions in the Rochester area or elsewhere across the United States give us a call at 833-786-7366.  

In addition, you can also use our storage finder to locate self storage in Rochester. We are Storage That Cares. 

writer nicholas sollitto and his sweater

Nicholas Sollitto is a contributor to Store Space who also enjoys rooting for the Detroit Red Wings, reading Vonnegut, and hiking.


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