For the following iconic bizarre dishes, beauty is in the eye (or tastebuds) of the beholder. They may not win any Instagram competitions, but they're a testament to American ingenuity and display a devotion to creativity with comfort food. These dishes exist because some visionary chefs and restaurateurs across the country were unafraid to say "YES" to more gravy, French fries, chili and anything else for the sake of inventing some messy and indulgent, but brilliantly weird foods.
The Garbage Plate, Nick Tahou Hots (Rochester, NY)
Perhaps the country's most famous towering pile of food, the Garbage Plate's origin is widely attributed to Nick Tahou Hots, a Rochester institution since 1918. The base of the dish is always the diner’s choice of two sides — home fries, French fries, macaroni salad or baked beans — topped by your choice of meat — hot dog, hamburger patty, Italian sausage, or chicken tenders. Finally, the whole mixture is dressed with mustard and onions, then doused with Nick’s signature hot sauce.
photo credit: Eugene Peretz
Loco Moco, Eggs 'n Things (Honolulu, HI)
A regional Hawaiian delight that can be found throughout the islands (Eggs 'n Things is just one noteworthy purveyor), Moco Loco is a layered dish of fried eggs, a hamburger patty, white rice, brown gravy, and sometimes Spam (ubiquitous in Hawaii) or other meats.
7 Pound Breakfast Burrito, Jack-n-Grill (Denver, CO)
Not exactly your padre's grab-and-go, foil-wrapped burrito, Jack-n-Grill's 7 Pound Breakfast Burrito is every bit as intimidating as it sounds, filled with 5 lbs of potatoes, 12 eggs, 1/2 a pound of ham, onions and green chiles (fire-roasted on the premises), then topped with a mound of cheese and their signature green pork chile. The Travel Channel's Adam Richman threw in the towel while attempting to tackle this burrito beast, but if you manage to succeed, your polaroid will have a place on their wall of fame.
The Hot Hamburger, Murphy's Steak House (Bartlesville, OK)
Leave your preconceived notion of a "hamburger" at the door at this Bartlesville institution dating back to 1946. The Hot Hamburger is a gut-busting tradition that layers a generous hamburger steak patty on buttered Texas toast with grilled onions (optional but only a rookie would forego them) and an ungodly amount of fries. The whole thing is smothered in glorious brown gravy.
Pastrami Cheese Fries, Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen (Portland, OR)
Not all loaded fries are created equal. Many spuds become soggy under the weight of chili and a variety of other toppings. But we can totally get behind an over-sized plate of thin, crispy fries topped with a heapin' helpin of Kenny & Zuke's signature pastrami and covered with melted Swiss cheese. Something this extraordinary probably shouldn't be hiding under "Sides" on the menu.
Chili Six-Way, Blue Ash Chili (Cincinnati, OH)
It's difficult to spend any amount of time in Cincinnati without stumbling face first into a plate of chili, be it 3-, 4- or 5-way. Blue Ash takes things a step further with their chili 6-way: that's their signature Cincinnati-style chili (1) on top of spaghetti (2) topped with copious amounts of shredded cheese (3), onions (4), beans (5) and the coup de grâce, fried pickled jalapeno caps (6).
The Tamale Spread, McClard's Bar-B-Q (Hot Springs, AR)
A former favorite of President Clinton (before he went vegan — raise your hand if you saw that coming), McClard's signature item is the Tamale Spread, a heaping pile of food consisting of two open faced tamales covered with Fritos, beans, chopped beef barbeque, and no insignificant amount of cheese and onions. It all combines for one intense, yet strangely delightful flavor.
Slayer, Kuma's Corner (Chicago, IL)
This perpetually packed headbangers' hamburger heaven names their innovative burgers after metal bands (Black Sabbath, Mastodon, Pantera, etc). The Slayer might be the most hardcore of its offerings — a bunless spread composed of a 10 oz burger patty, chili, cherry peppers, melted Monterrey Jack, green onions and of course, ANGER (this is actually listed as the final ingredient on the menu).
Tender Royale, Pepperfire (Nashville, TN)
A relative newcomer to Nashville's hot chicken scene, Pepperfire does not withhold the heat when it comes to their take on the pan-fried, cayenne-crusted bird. Their most unique contribution, however, is the Tender Royale, a deep-fried grilled cheese with melted pepperjack oozing out the edges that is then topped with three sizable tongue-torching hot chicken tenders. The cayenne dusting lightly coats the bread of the grilled cheese for quite the taste sensation — fork and knife it, lest you make a bigger mess.
The Big Woody, Billy's Blue Duck BBQ (Liberal, Kansas)
A Liberal local favorite for barbecue, burgers and Tex-Mex offerings, Billy's is the home of the behemoth Big Woody — a 10-inch Hebrew National hot dog that's deep-fried, wrapped in a tortilla, and smothered in chili, cheese and onions (sour cream is optional).