August 25, 2011

nachos: a perfect food

My most favorite meal in the world will come to no surprise to my friends over on Twitter.  I love nachos.  They are a perfect food.  Think about it.  When done right, they hold a gorgeous balance of crunchy and melty, fresh and cooked, hot and cold, spicy and mild.  Plus, you get to eat them with your fingers, people.
Members of both sides of my family are no doubt cringing right now.  The Italians have given me beautiful recipes and food memories of pasta, pasta, pasta.  The Germans and Polish have taught me to make amazing food with humble ingredients, resulting in comfort food that puts Southern meat & three to shame.  But I can’t deny it: I love me some nachos. 
My love of nachos reaches as far back as I can remember, but I have a specific recollection of creating the perfect nacho bite at my table-waiting job in college: the nachette.  I lovingly crafted the nachette during those long double shift days when I had no time for a break but needed a snack, placing a variety of goodies atop a chip or two.  This was before I had knowledge of tapas or small plates, but I suppose that’s what I did. 
Nachos should be a personal (read: life changing) experience, so I can only give you my basic nachos recipe:
yellow corn chips
jack/cheddar blend shredded cheese
whole pinto beans, rinsed & drained
cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
tiny diced white onion
thinly sliced fresh jalapeno
Past that, I mix it up depending on my mood and what’s on hand. 
I pile it all high atop the chips and broil until everything bubbles and the edges of the chips have browned (this is crucial).  I sprinkle fresh lime juice and chili powder over the top and use way more sour cream than I’d like to admit.  Salsa on the side.
Nachos are something I love to order in restaurants because I get to try new kinds.  I welcome any/all variations.  In fact, I discriminate against no nacho, regardless of the interpretation.   Here’s a list of some of my favorite nachos in Nashville:

Whiskey Kitchen’s Nacho Nirvana – these nachos may have gotten me through my pregnancy.  The firehouse chili is something special, and these are cooked in a fire oven so the crispy, almost-burned edges that I love so much are a perfect touch.  Oh, and these nachos include FIVE cheeses.  Five.   All my favorites come with it: sour cream, jalapenos, onions, tomatoes.  Warning: they slab a big, bitter chunk of cilantro on top.  I’m one of those people who think it tastes like soap.
Tin Roof – I have outgrown this college bar, but not the nachos.  My favorite part about these nachos is that they’re customizable.  You get a pen and a notepad full o’nacho ingredients, and you get to choose what you want.  Their cheese dip is serious business.  These are probably the largest, most generous-toppinged nachos in town.  These are my go-to to go nachos.    
Rosepepper’s Gringos – These are a bean and cheese nacho and upon first glance, they’re really basic.  But these nachos are built atop a pile of homemade, deep fried flour tortilla chips.  The flour holds the grease, and that is a good thing.  Also, Rosepepper’s ranchera salsa is my most favorite salsa in the world.  It’s a warm, chunky and mild, and I could slather it on anything. 
El Burrito Mexicano – Located in the Nashville Farmers’ Market, this is a standard fast food Mexican joint.  The nachos are a great deal – lots of food for little cost.  What makes these stand out is that there’s more cheese than chips.  They also have this really fatty, perfectly seasoned pork that’s an unusual topping for nachos. 
Suzy Wong’s House of Yum’s Asian Wonton Nachos – These are the least nacho-like nachos I’ve ever had, but I love them all the same.  They deep fry wonton wrappers in the shape of chips, and top them with edamame, tomatoes, lots of lettuce, and a bunch of stuff I can’t remember.  I know there’s a delicious cheese and Sriracha.  Great, I said Sriracha.  Now the hipsters will be ordering these like crazy.

Neely’s BBQ – I love BBQ nachos.  There are probably places in town that have better than Neely’s, but that’s the last place I had them.  I love the combination of smoky pork, sweet BBQ sauce, onions and sour cream.  I’d much rather have this than a BBQ sandwich. 
I am eager to try Chuy’s, which is coming to Nashville soon.  Rumor has it they serve free nachos during happy hour.  Get this: they serve them in a car.  I’m intrigued.  And free is good. 
So you tell me, are there nachos I should know about?  What do you consider a perfect food?


  1. You know it is coming - the mention of the most wonderful nachos in the world that were served at the long-gone AlleyCat Lounge & TexMex Grill . Those were the greatest nachos on the planet, as far as I am concerned.

    However, surprisingly enough, The Melrose Neighborhood Pub has some acceptable nachos. I had them one night not expecting much and I was pleasantly surprised.

  2. omg I love this post. I too love nachos and have never tried ANY of the ones above! This is getting bookmarked, stat. Thanks for your love of nachos! One of my favorite "perfect" foods is guacamole. I've had so many bad guacs in my's so refreshing when you have a good one. The trick I think is mashing the onions with the pepper and the salt. That distributes the oniony-ness and the pepper throughout the whole dip. YUM. I need some dinner...

  3. Suzy Wong's Wonton Nachos are to die for! Sometimes I just crave that salty crunch and I'll melt cheese over tortilla chips in the microwave and call it a day. You really can't beat nachos. Chuy's chips are awesome because they're so very thin and they have different dips to choose from. My friend Amy from Sing for Your Supper makes nachos in two ways: savory & sweet...yes please!

  4. When I was in high school, I started making what I call ghetto nachos (after I'd quit my job at El Chico and no longer had unlimited access). I put a layer of chips on a plated, spread grated cheddar, another layer of chips, grated cheddar and then microwave long enough for the cheese to melt. I might still do this. I won't say.

  5. yum!! i still think we need to all do a tour de nachos. that would be amazing!