Today, we’re going to take a break from serious, theological discussions with some Rochester-style frivolity.
In some previous posts, I wrote about Rochester, New York’s unique contributions to haute cuisine; the delectable Garbage Plate (see here) and the indescribably delicious Zweigle’s brand, pop-open hot dogs (see here). In Rochester, one of the mandatory accoutrements to a “plate,” a burger, or a Zweigle’s hot dog is Rochester meat hot sauce. Nope, we’re not talkin’ chili, folks. We’re talkin’ meat hot sauce.
It’s reported that Rochester meat hot sauce originated with local greasy spoon diner, Nick Tahou Hots, home of the original “Garbage Plate.”
My first experience with Rochester meat hot sauce was back in the late-1960s when our family would pick up burgers to-go at Don & Bob’s (see photo far below) on Monroe Avenue. I witnessed other customers asking for hot sauce on their burger and was curious enough to try it myself. Are you kidding me?!?!?! So delicious! Absolutely NO ketchup or mustard for me on my burger or Zweigle’s white hot. Just meat hot sauce and chopped onions.
Every Rochester burger joint has its own version of the meat hot sauce, some are better than others. The common ingredients are finely-ground, ground beef with cayenne pepper, a little cinnamon, and lots of other spices and seasonings. Some use tomato paste or sauce, others don’t. The hotness meter varies widely from joint to joint, but I like hot, spicy food so that’s never a problem. Savvy Rochesterians avoid local McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s franchises because they don’t have meat hot sauce for their pre-fab burgers.
Some of the Rochester burger joints sell jars of their meat hot sauce over the counter. You can even buy jars of Rochester meat hot sauce at the local supermarkets. Put a few spoonfuls in a cup, heat it up in the microwave for 15 seconds, and voilà, it’s just like being at a local burger joint. Pictured are jars of Momma K’s, Coach Tony’s, and Don’s Original meat hot sauce. A few thoughts on each one:
Momma K’s: No zing to this one. Tastes like “Sloppy Joe” sauce. Strictly for the ladies…er, I mean for more delicate palates.
Coach Tony’s: Has a real meaty, “hamburger-y” taste with LOTS of zing. May be too overpowering for meat hot sauce novices.
Don’s Original: Delicious flavor. My favorite of the three. Takes me back to my introduction to meat hot sauce at Don & Bob’s. More of a tomato-y base than Coach Tony’s and a slightly less-powerful kick.
Also available around town are Steve T’s, Zweigle’s, and Uncle Timmy’s versions. We’ll sample those three in our upcoming part two installment.
Click on the link below to view the various Rochester meat hot sauces available online from NY Style Deli:
If you google “Rochester Meat Hot Sauce” you’ll also find many make-at-home recipes.
Postscript: Other local greasy spoon diners owned by Greek families in the area serve their version of meat hot sauce as a breakfast and lunch accoutrement. My perfect breakfast: two eggs, sunny-side-up, rye toast, home fries, and a small bowl of meat hot sauce on the side. I understand that the idea of meat hot sauce over eggs at 8:00 a.m. in the morning can be a little daunting for the uninitiated, but trust me on this one.
Disclaimer: This post is for entertainment and informational purposes only. I take no responsibility for any subsequent, health-related issues. 🥵
Above: An original “Garbage Plate” served at Nick Tahou Hots is comprised of two hot dogs or burgers over home fries and macaroni salad, all smothered with a generous helping of Nick’s meat hot sauce and chopped onions. For calorie counters, that’s 1700 calories and a whopping 88 grams of fat.
Above: Don & Bob’s at 2545 Monroe Avenue, circa 2001. Rochester’s one-time premier burger joint opened in 1954 and finally closed in 2001.