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The Unique Tastes of Upstate New York


Food is a big deal in Upstate New York. That may sound like a silly statement–because who doesn’t think food is important–but in the regions and areas across New York, you’ll find beloved and unique food that you just can’t get anywhere else.

The regions are peppered with local farmers markets and world-class restaurants that are focused on farm-to-table dining. There’s craft beer and local wine from the Finger Lakes. And just as frequently, if not even more so, you’ll find local cheap eats that are delicious and rightfully loved by locals and visitors alike. They’re not just popular because the dishes served are affordable, but the ambiance of the quick dining establishments are welcoming and homey. You’ll feel like a “regular.”

So, what are these unique foods that can only be authentically found in Upstate New York? Keep reading to find out!

The Garbage Plate
Originally hailing from Rochester, NY, I could not write about food from the region and not include the infamous Garbage Plate. It’s been a staple in the area since the Great Depression era, and now is enjoyed by Rochester residents and visitors all the time.

It’s a combination of greasy, delicious food all on one plate. The basic makeup is this: You get to choose a burger or hot dog and add some form of fried potatoes and then baked beans or macaroni salad. And don’t forget the meat hot sauce–a local favorite!

Okay, so it may not sound necessarily appealing, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. There’s a reason they are the region’s cuisine. Looking for more? Read this guide to the Rochester Garbage Plate.

Utica Greens
A favorite in Central New York, Utica Greens is a tasty Italian side dish. It comes from home-cooked variations and kitchens of mothers and grandmothers who did not want to waste any food, so they created new side dishes with what they had. The delicious dish is usually made up of sauteed greens, hot peppers, a cured meat like ham or prosciutto, topped off with cheese and bread crumbs!

Of course, there are many varying recipes, but you’ll be able to find the dish in many restaurants in Utica and across Central New York!

White Hots
Remember when I mentioned Upstate New Yorkers' love for cheap and quick eats? Hamburgers and especially hot dogs are a big part of this, too. On any given summer day, you’ll find neighbors and friends grilling outside, or you can stop into a local burger joint any time of year for a delicious bite. Either way, you’ll be asked, “do you want red or white ?"

You might be taken back because they are not talking about wine, but that’s just a common term for asking which kind of hot dog you would like.

Beef on Weck
This German-inspired sandwich is simple but not for the faint of heart. It’s traditionally thinly-sliced roast beef served on a kümmelweck roll (a hard roll sprinkled with coarse salt and caraway seeds) with a side of horseradish. Don’t let the simplicity of the sandwich fool you -- the flavorful dish is a favorite among residents in Western New York.

Grape Pie
Time for dessert! My favorite part of every meal. I love sweets and am proud to call myself an aficionado of local desserts (but I’ll try any kind of dessert, trust me!). A classic Finger Lakes region dessert is grape pie. This sweet and delicious treat signals the signs of fall in the region–arguably the most beautiful season in Upstate. With the abundance of grapes in the Finger Lakes regions– it’s actually considered the grape capital of the world– the pie was created with concord grapes as the delicious filling. It’s a unique treat you don’t want to miss out on!

Needless to say, Upstate New York is full of unique foods you’ll want to try on your next trip across the border!