Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pedro's Restaurant & Cantina (Los Gatos, CA): Nachos with Chicken

So, how do you make an excellent evening watching the awesome How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular with the kids, my mom and dad, aunt, sister, and future brother-in-law even better?  A tasty plate of nachos for dinner, of course!

Pedro's has been in down town Los Gatos for years and has always served excellent, if a bit overpriced, gourmet Mexican cuisine.  I've been going there since I was a kid and have always loved the food, especially their bottomless baskets of warm, thin, crispy chips.  Our group happened to end up there after the show at HP Pavilion and although I really had enchiladas on my mind, I knew that I had to try their nachos to see if they measured up to the quality of the rest of their dishes.

I do appreciate "restaurant-style" nachos (one layer of chips with all of the ingredients neatly piled on top).  It's easy to get all of the ingredients in each bite, making for a satisfying nacho dining experience.  These ones were very good, even though the chicken was grilled and they didn't add any salsa.  However, they let them sit for a bit too long so the beans made the chips soggy (why do I always forget to as for no beans?) and the chicken was overpowered by the generous helpings of sour cream, guacamole, and beans.

Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes: Once again, grilled chicken, with all it's dryness and too many beans making otherwise excellent chips soggy, knocked a significant chunk off of the score.
Side Note: If you're feeling rich and frisky, try a shot of one of their numerous top shelf tequilas.  You can spend up to $75 for a shot!
Map to Location:

Las Palmas (San Jose, CA): Super Nachos with Chicken

Welcome to Las Palmas! Did I read that sign on their front door correctly?  "No Food, No Drinks Allowed?"  Nice...

Thankfully, this is just a case of poorly handled English. They have food and drinks here and you're perfectly free to partake.

I was a little hesitant to come to Las Palmas.  I used to work right down the street from this restaurant and all of the people I worked with told me it sucked.  I'm willing to give everyone a first chance, so my nacho wing-woman and I went ahead and stopped by for some lunch.

So...  look closely at that picture.  What looks a little odd about these nachos?

Plastic cheese!

It had been quite awhile since I'd encountered a respectful-looking taqueria such as this that took the lazy route and used canned queso for their nacho cheese.  Not that I don't like the stuff - it's just that when you have a great-looking plate of nachos with juicy and decently-flavored shredded chicken plus all of the other expected ingredients present and accounted for, an oozing pile of yellow goo doesn't seem to fit in.

Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes: Good Chicken, nice presentation, a decent salsa bar to spice things up, but plastic cheese nachos can't really score higher than this.
Map to Location:

Tu Mero Mole (San Jose): Chicken Mole Nachos

Tu Mero Mole?  Again?  Yes, again!  Why?  This place has such a variety of meats to add to their various delectable dishes that it keeps me coming back over and over to try the many possible iterations of their always tasty nachos.

This time I chose to go with their namesake, chicken Mole.  To be honest, I've heard mixed reviews of Tu Mero Mole's Mole from the various people that I've come here with.  Some think it's "unique" and some think it sucks.  As a topping for a plate of nachos I found it to be pretty darn tasty.  The sweet and savory flavor combined with the sour cream and guacamole plus the texture of the chips and meat made for a complex, yet rich and satisfying flavor that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes: Interesting mix of flavors, but unfortunately, Tu Mero Mole always loses a point for their chicken being grilled and a little dry instead of shredded and juicy, no matter what sauce it's combined with.  They also don't use fried tortilla chips, so they lose ½ a point there as well.
Map to Location:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Freebirds World Burrito (San Jose, CA): Small Nachos with Carnitas

Welcome to Mondo Burrito and Chipotle's worst nightmare...

Freebirds World Burrito is a new chain of made-to-order taquerias with a rock 'n roll edge and some darn good food.  A friend at work tipped me off to this place and after hearing about it I had to go.  Why is it Mondo Burrito and Chipotle's worst nightmare?  The food is better, the staff is friendlier, and the prices are lower.

Loud Rock Music playing inside and out plus some unique decor give this place an unusual feel for a taqueria.

Thank goodness I tend to go to lunch a little early, too.  When we got there just before noon, the ordering counter was moderately busy and plenty of seating was still available, but by the time we were eating our food just after noon the line was almost out the door and most of the tables were taken.  Word is apparently getting around.

I ordered the Small nachos ($5.00) and the friendly dude behind the ordering counter walked me down the line, asking what I'd like to add.  This is a similar setup to Mondo Burrito and Chipotle, but I personally think that Freebirds' choices of ingredients are better.  I went with the following:
- Carnitas
- Shredded cheddar and Jack cheese
- Pico de gallo
- Onions
- Cilantro
- Sour cream
- Guacamole
- Queso (not out of a can - this is the good stuff, made in-house - tasty!)
- "Bad A** BBQ" sauce

Yes, you read that last ingredient correctly - barbecue sauce.  I would normally never put BBQ sauce on my nachos, but my friend highly recommended it.  Great suggestion!  A tip - try a nacho with BBQ sauce and their tasty green salsa together.  Great combo!

Rating: 4½ out of 5
Rating Notes:  Great selection of ingredients, moist, flavorful carnitas.  5 bucks!  These nachos would have been 5 stars, but the chips, while light and crispy were not the home-made type and they don't melt the shredded cheese.  These are no-cook nachos - amazing that they taste so good!
Map to Location: 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

La Playa (Fort Bragg, CA): Nachos with Chicken

Last weekend, my wife and I escaped to Fort Bragg for a weekend getaway.  We stayed in a very nice hotel, right above the Noyo river and bay with a jacuzzi tub and excellent views.  We spent all weekend doing whatever we wanted with no particular agenda - just the two of us.
So what could make this even better?
Going out for nachos, of course!
Alas, when you're on vacation and try a new restaurant, you really never know what you're going to get.  Especially when you're in an area where the main revenue stream is tourism.  This time I didn't get a great plate of nachos.  Despite the home-made chips, which were admittedly pretty good, everything else was super bland and the carnitas had that "barnyard" flavor that you never want to encounter with pork.  They also didn't microwave these long enough so the cheese wasn't all melted.
Glad the rest of the trip was spectacular!

Rating: 2½ out of 5
Rating Notes: Don't bother with this place.  If you want good, reasonably priced food in Fort Bragg, I recommend you go to Jenny's Giant Burger.
Map to Location:

El Guapo's (Campbell, CA): Santiago Nachos with Carnitas

This place is cool!  Let's start with the artwork:
How about a Lucha-deer?
Bitchin' paintings!

And I have to admit that I kind of like lowrider bikes...
So how were the nachos?
Friggin' great!  These are El Guapo's "Santiago Nachos" (the other choice is "Mexican Nachos").  So what makes them special?  Besides the complete set of "usual" ingredients, they include cheddar, pepper jack, and feta cheese, plus black beans.  Great stuff!  And all 4 of the salsas in the picture are excellent.  I couldn't decide which to eat with each delectable bite.  For the meat, I chose carnitas.  This was definitely the right choice.  Moist, flavorful, and in large strips.  Not quite as good as those from El Pastor #2 in San Jose, but definitely up there with the best ones I've had.

Rating: 4½ out of 5
Rating Notes: These were awesome!  Would have been my first 5 out of 5 if the chips had been home-made fried tortillas.  Also, these were pricey.  What you see in the picture is a half-order and admittedly a big portion, but these were $10.81 with tax - very steep.  Oh so close!
Map to Location:

Una Mas (Campbell, CA): Chicken Super Nachos

Una Mas is just a few minutes from my work.  I really wish it was better.
I'll make this one quick and simple:
Grilled chicken - ok but not what I look for.
Microwaved - not all of the cheese was melted.
All ingredients present and accounted for - cheese, meat, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream.
Chips - not great.  Not home made.

Rating: 3½out of 5
Rating Notes: Not a lot going for these.  I probably should've tried a different meat, but their only other choice was carne asada or steak or something and beef at taquerias is usually tough and I almost never like the taste.
Map to Location:

Super Taqueria (San Jose, CA): Chicken Nachos

Ah yes, back to my college days.  Super Taqueria is a chain, but I have a soft spot for the one on 10th street in San Jose, right next to the San Jose State campus.  I used to go here and grab a big fat Chicken Super Burrito between classes.  I was hopeful that their shredded chicken was still excellent!  Thank goodness nothing had changed.  Moist, flavorful and plentiful, just like it should be!
Now - don't get too excited yet.  First, the presentation was so sloppy and boring looking that I had to add a nice sprinkling of salsa.  Much better.
Take a closer look.  Anything missing?
What??  Yes, I went up to the counter and asked both the cooks and the cashier, just to make sure they hadn't forgotten to put cheese on their nachos.  Nope.  They don't put cheese on their nachos.  WTF?
As it turns out, a friend of mine's uncle owns the Super Taqueria chain.  He was kind enough to call his cousin, a manager of one of the restaurants what the deal was.  His cousin said "Nachos with cheese is the American way of doing it.  We do it the traditional way."
Remember my post on the origin of nachos?  My friend did and he called his cousin on it.  His cousin simply replied with a chuckle.  Lame.

Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes: Really good chicken and the nostalgia factor helped a lot here.  Price is very reasonable as well.  Would have been a 4 or maybe even a 4½, but no cheese?  Come on!  Bush league.  The last time I encountered this was at Fiesta Taqueria in Campbell, but that's one of the worst taquerias I've ever been to so it didn't surprise me at all.
Map to Location:

Las Flamas (Santa Clara, CA): Chicken Nachos

Ok - I know, it's been a long time!  I'm sorry I made all of you nacho lovers wait, but you're about to get a bunch of new posts, so stand by!
So - Las Flamas!  I like the name, I like the logo.  I actually like the fact that they even bothered to have a logo.  Very rare in the taqueria world!  So how were the nachos?
Let's start with the chips.  Very promising - chopped, fried tortillas, just like God intended.  But, they were stale!  I hoped that since my nachos would be cooked, the chips would be crisped up...
Nope!  However, look at that presentation!  Very nice indeed!  The chicken was grilled, and as is typical with this method, it was a bit dry.  However, the flavor was good and these nachos really had nice attention to detail with the ingredients included.  How often do you see chopped cilantro on nachos?  Excellent!  A good, solid plate of nachos.

Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes:  Could've gotten another 1/2 point if not for the stale chips.  Awarded these an additional ½ point for their presentation and the nifty logo.
Map to Location:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NO NACHOS - Chalateco (Santa Clara, CA): Chicken Torta?? - NO NACHOS

What a disappointing Tuesday!  I was very anxious to go to Chalateco, a place that I used to go to back when I worked for RJ Associates on the Alameda.  Wouldn't it be great if this place, just a hundred yards or so from Wicked Chicken (AKA Cluck U, University Chicken, and Smoke Eaters) had good nachos?  I'd have everything I needed in a 2 block radius!

Alas, there are no nachos to be found there, period.  I even asked the ladies working there if they could just make me a plate of nachos (it's not like they don't have everything they need there to make them).  The answer was no.  Now, let's just say that they had agreed to make nachos for me?  What would have happened?

First of all, the terrible freebie chips that they gave us would have started off on the wrong foot.  Just look at these:
Coarse and rough, like corn meal put together with elmer's glue or something.  Ugh.

The chicken on my torta was very good, however and would have made for an excellent nacho meat selection.  The guacamole on my torta, which also would surely have found its way onto my nachos was also very good.

Sadly, we'll never know what could have been, and even if they do eventually serve nachos, I won't be coming back.  There are too many as yet undiscovered taquerias and restaurants to try.

Rating: 0 out of 5
Rating Notes: No nachos = no score
Map to location:

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vivas (Santa Cruz, CA): Nachos with Chicken

I ordinarily wouldn’t eat nachos twice a week (yes, I’m closely watching my diet lately), but my wife and I happened to be in Santa Cruz for a Friday afternoon appointment.  What better way to end a week than with a tasty plate of nachos?

Vivas is a refreshing twist on the usual taqueria.  They serve most of the same dishes as most taquerias, but their ingredients are all natural and mostly organic.  These nachos had a distinctly homemade taste to them, which in this case was quite a nice surprise.  The chicken was grilled, but served in large pieces and very well rubbed down with a great tasting spice mix.  The only gripe I had about these nachos was that they were microwaved, and, much like someone may at home, they forgot to “nuke” them long enough so the cheese wasn’t totally melted.  The price was a little dear ($8.49 + tax) but I’ll give them a pass on that for using organic ingredients.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Rating Notes: Could have been excellent if broiled rather than under-nuked.  Chips, although festive in their multi-colored regalia, weren’t nearly as tasty as home-fried tortillas.
Map to location:

El Tule Taqueria (San Jose, CA): Nachos with Chicken

Well, I really must’ve ordered the wrong thing at this place because most of the reviews on Yelp are very positive.  I hear they even serve chapulines (grasshoppers)!  There’s a reason that the picture for this plate of nachos is in grayscale.  They were that bland.  Kind of reminded me of Jalisco in Campbell (a taqueria that I’d actually been to several times before starting this blog, but will not return to because of their high prices and lackluster food).

I even forgot to ask for no beans, and after tasting the plate, couldn’t believe that with both chicken and beans present there was such a dearth of flavor.  Will not be returning to this place.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Rating Notes: Bland.  Lame.  Very slow service compared to most taquerias.
Map to Location:

Dona Maria (San Jose, CA): Supreme Nachos with Shredded Chicken

Ok, this is a little weird.  I swear I did a post on this little taqueria before, and my nacho wing-woman correctly insists that we’d eaten here before.  I just can’t find it.  No matter – you’ll just have to believe us!

So, why another repeat taqueria visit, after just having re-visited Mondo Burrito the week before?  As it turns out, the last time we went to Dona Maria, I ordered chicken nachos and they came with grilled chicken.  If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I don’t particularly like grilled chicken and vastly prefer the shredded type.  We found out later that Dona Maria’s does offer shredded chicken so we decided to go back (it’s just 5 minutes from the office) and give them another chance.

How was it?  We’ll, it certainly looked nice, and all of the ingredients that I usually look for were there, but despite being tender, the shredded chicken was somewhat dry and didn’t have a lot of flavor.  I definitely preferred it over the grilled variety from last time, though, and a nacho bite topped with guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, and a jalapeno certainly tasted good!

Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes:  Could have been a 4, but the chicken wasn’t up to the level of many other places I’ve been to.  Home made fried tortilla chips kept it “real”.
Map to Location:

Mondo Burrito (Santa Clara, CA): Mondo Nachos with Carnitas

So, what could make me return so soon to a taqueria at which I’d already sampled the nachos?  A “Groupon”, of course!  Half off ain’t bad and it’ll get me to most taquerias without hesitation.  That said, I returned here to buy lunch for me and my nacho wing-woman and once again I was very satisfied with the food.

The first time we came here, I requested a half-order of nachos.  I wish I’d done the same this time, but instead I got all excited and ordered “Mondo Nachos”.  HUGE helping, as you can see from the image.  And yes, I ate too much.  This time, instead of the somewhat bland “spicy” beef that I ordered last time, I got the carnitas.  Pretty solid flavor and nice and moist, although they still weren’t as good as the carnitas at Al Pastor #2.

Good stuff, and a great price with the Groupon!

Rating: 4 out of 5
Rating Notes:  Last time I gave them an extra ½ point for their unusual build-by-request setup, but this time, they have to stand on their own.  The Carnitas got them the extra ½ point this time due to good flavor and decent quality.
Map to Location:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ruby's Taqueria (Sunnyvale, CA): Nachos con Carne - Al Pastor

That last post took a lot out of me, even though it was super cheesy, so I'm just cranking this one out to get caught up! ;-)

We had to travel a bit further than usual to get to Ruby's, but any lunch is better and totally worth it when you go and hang out with an old friend you haven't seen in awhile.  He only had to walk a few blocks to get there, though - lucky mofo!

After looking behind the counter and seeing all kinds of activity with different meats and such, I decided to go for something other than chicken this time.  Al Pastor!  And no beans, please!

I gotta stop doing this - just stick with shredded chicken...

Don't get me wrong, the Al Pastor was ok.  Good flavor, just kind of chewy with lots of fat that I had to discretely spit into napkins.  My friend had some of their spicy shredded chicken and said it was awesome (doh!), so I'll likely get that next time we go here.

As far as the other ingredients, I was surprised to see my old friend, Queso Plastico (plastic cheese suace), which in this case actually went fine with the meat and generous portions of jalapenos, guacamole, and sour cream.  Overall, a decent lunch, and reasonably priced ($4.99 + tax for the nachos).

Rating: 3 out of 5
Rating Notes: Great home-made chips, but I just can't score any plate of nachos that uses plastic cheese sauce above a 3½ anymore and the fatty Al Pastor knocked another ½ point off.
Map to Location:

Casa Lupe (San Jose, CA): Nachos with Chicken

Casa Lupe and the Case of the Mysterious Tortilla Chips
(To be read in the voice of Sgt. Joe Friday from Dragnet)
***Warning: you may groan when you read this***

Chapter 1: The Setup
It was high noon on a sunny summer's day.  The kind of day that makes you wonder why you hole yourself up in an office all day for the almighty Dollar.  My partners and I rolled into the strip mall in our "nacho cruiser", not quite knowing what we'd find.  Prior evidence showed that Casa Lupe was one of those places where peoples' dreams came true - dreams of spicy, tangy food from south of the border, dreams of drinking beer on the clock and staggering back into work to fall asleep at their desks.  Nevermind that it had the same name as a similar joint a few miles away where the rival owner was undoubtedly plotting a nasty fate for our suspect.

Chapter 2: Uneasy
We exited the vehicle and walked through the summer heat and into the building.  The only other patrons were an innocent couple sitting in the booth closest to the door, obviously planted there to make the place look busier than it actually was.  I knew we'd better watch our backs now.
We looked around.  Clean, well-set tables, festive streamers, even a couple untouched pinatas hanging from the ceiling, waiting for some poor, blindfolded kid to take a whack at them.  Something wasn't right…

Chapter 3: The Heat is On
Out of nowhere, a waitress appeared.  Startled by her sudden presence, I reached for my phone, ready to call in for backup.  But Partner "A" nodded to me, which signaled that this was the nice lady she'd gathered intel on earlier that day.  A waitstaff veteran - 3 kids, a husband that made an honest living, and a pet dog named "Sparkito".  No need for alarm here.

Our waitress brought us our menus, water, a warm basket of chips, and 3 kinds of salsa.  Things were definitely shaping up.  As we dug in and started munching like squirrells discovering their stash of nuts in the dead of winter, I looked over at "A" and watched her smile turn to alarm.  I could tell the heat was getting to her.  Someone had obviously spiked the salsa with some serious peppers and was probably in a corner somewhere, laughing, knowing they got the drop on these all-American public servants.  That was nothing compared to what we were about to discover…

Chapter 4: A Stale Motive
Ah ha!  They couldn't hide it any longer.  The chips!  Something was very wrong.  The warmth coming from the basket of chips was nothing but a decoy.  Usually a warm basket of chips indicates crispy, fresh, deep fried tortillas.  Not this time.  Some chips were crispy, but most were stale.  I was baffled.  I'd never seen anything like this before.  Warm, stale chips?  Partner "N" and I nodded to each other knowingly.

Chapter 5: That's Nacho Average Plate of Food!  Or is it?
After the shocking incident with the chips I held out hope that since the plate of nachos I ordered would be cooked, there wouldn't be any chance of stale chips sneaking their way in there.
Was I ever wrong.
We're talking about some devious criminal minds here.  Beneath the tender, decently flavored chicken, the generous dollop of guacamole, and the pile of sour cream and cheese, I found more of those devious, ironically stale chips.  They'd obviously been through the oven, but they somehow managed to disobey the laws of culinary physics.  I doubt that even if they were convicted for this disobedience and put out on the chain gang in the hot sun that they'd crisp up.
Chapter 6: The Long Ride Home

We never did find the sick mind behind those chips and the waitress didn't give us any more information.  We'd hit a wall.  The only comfort we could take was in knowing that there are a thousand other taquerias in this town of culinary criminals and we'd never have to return to this place and risk broken teeth from stale chips again.  As we rode off into the warm afternoon sun, I could see the disappointment on A's and N's faces, but I took comfort in knowing we'd lived to eat another plate of nachos next week…

Rating: 3 out of 5
Rating Notes: Just the facts, ma'am.
Map to Location:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Taqueria Cazadores (Santa Clara, CA): Nachos with Chicken

Sometimes, to get good food, ya gotta go to the "wrong" side of the tracks.  Not that anywhere in the city of Santa Clara is nearly as "wrong" as the funky parts of some cities in California, but hopefully you get my drift.  This little taqueria with 90% comfy booth seating (Nice!) is located off of Lafayette near Monague Expressway in a somewhat hidden strip mall.  20 minutes from my office, but worth the trip (and risk?).  Sorry - I'm over-doing it.  For the most part, the folks at Cazadores (Spanish for hunters) didn't over-do it on the nachos.  Characteristics of this plate fall into 3 categories:

- Cheese microwaved with some unmelted shreds hanging out on one side of the plate
- Under-ripe avocado (althought I love "pure" guacamole, I would rather they'd mixed the slices up with something else to mask this)
- My friend had to mix  of their salsas together (pico de gallo and roasted salsa) to get something that was really tasty, although the creamy green salsa (tomatillo and avocado?) was pretty good, if not a bit too spicy)

Just right:

- Chicken in a sauce that tasted a lot like enchiladas (bonus!)
- Home-made fried tortilla chips.
- I Remembered to hold the beans
- Their Logo...
...awesome, eh?  Looks like a cross between a jackalope, a lion, and a deer!

- Come on - just because I used a Google Wallet voucher ($5 for $10 of food), you add a $1 gratuity?  And you didn't even walk our food over to our table?  Puh-leaze!
- $3 for a 16 ounce bottle of Coke?  Ouch.
- $10.93 total for nachos and a can of coke is seriously pricey - thank God I had the Google voucher!

Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes:  Above average chicken, built-in enchilada taste and home-fried chips will get me every time!  Could have done with some better avocado/guacamole and salsa.  Questionable neighborhood.
Map to Location:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Taqueria Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA - duh!): Super Nachos with Chicken

Wow - just when I thought I'd reached the pinnacle of shredded chicken (Pollo) goodness with Angel's Rock House and would never find anything even better, I come to this place and am blown away.  No contest, this is the best meat I've had on nachos anywhere (Rio Adobe's Adobado Pork is probably a close second if we're counting every type of meat).  No salsa on this batch, but the guacamole, sour cream, and jalapenos mixed in with the tasty chicken had the overall flavor of a delectable plate of chicken enchiladas, my next-favorite Mexican food.

Incidentally, I discovered this place while I was with my buddy, getting food for "Man Movie Night".  We were passing by on our way to Taqueria Vallarta and he said, "That place is pretty good." I said, "Really?  Should we go there?"  "Sure."  One fateful U-turn later, there we were, getting what would become my go-to chicken nachos in Santa Cruz.  Nice!

Rating: 4½ out of 5
Rating Notes: Also included home-made deep-fried tortilla chips like God intended!  Would have hit the magic 5 if it had pico de gallo and no beans.
Cautionary Note: You see that pinkish-red salsa on the right in the photo?  Stay away from it.  Tasted like a cross between pico-de-gallo, and sauerkraut and almost burned my face off.  Nasty stuff!
Map to Location:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mariscos El Rincon Restaurant (San Jose): Supreme Nachos with Chicken

For this "Nacho Tuesday" excursion, I ventured almost 10 miles (gasp) from my workplace.  A Friend had recommended it to me, so I called him up, picked him up, and off we went.  How was it?  Lemme just say that the company was the best part of my lunch (and there was a waitress who was pretty easy on the eyes, too!)

These nachos reminded me of a Playboy model.  You look at the picture, drooling  because she looks so incredibly appetizing, so perfect, so put-together, but once you get to know her, there's a good chance that she won't be at all compatible with your tastes.  All the elements were there - shredded chicken, chips, sour cream, guacamole, real cheese - but upon taking a bite, I found bland chicken, mediocre chips, watered-down sour cream, and not enough guacamole (the guacamole was actually pretty darn good).

Rating: 3 out of 5
Rating Notes: I'll take the Playboy model instead.
Map to Location:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Taco Bell (Everywhere): Beefy Nacho Burrito

You all knew that sooner or later I'd return to the site of my first nacho blog post.  Why did I do it?  Wouldn't you if you loved nachos and heard that they'd invented a burrito with nachos inside it?  That's right, nachos in a convenient, portable, edible package!  Word.

So, what was it like to eat such a glorious creation?  Well, let's not forget that this is Taco Bell.  BUT, I do like a bit of plastic cheese every now and then, and the chips stayed surprisingly crunchy from beginning to end.  Of course, that may be due to some crazy Clark-Griswold-inspired food additive but that's to be expected when you venture into the realm of fast food.  And I must admit that I loved the idea of being able to eat nachos while I was driving home.  Try that with a "normal" plate of nachos and it'll be the last nachos you ever eat!

Even though it's par for the course, I must point out the stark difference between the picture in the Ad and what this thing actually looks like when you unwrap it an take a bite:

Look how the chips, meat, "cheese" and sour cream playfully spring forth from the burrito in the ad, as if to say, "Hey!  There's a party in here!  Come on over!"  Then look at the dark, cheesy pit of despair that is the reality of this fast food creation in real life.  Would I eat one again?

Hell yes!  Doesn't everyone love to huddle up in a dark cheesy pit of despair every now and then?

Rating: 3 out of 5
Rating Notes:  It gained 1/2 a point for being portable, but lost 1/2 a point for not actually being a plate of nachos.  Surprisingly good taste!
Map to Location: If you really need me to tell you where to find a Taco Bell then you're probably living somewhere that there aren't any...

Taqueria Tlaquepaque #2 (San Jose): Super Nachos with Carnitas

Great name!  And there are 3 of these in San Jose.  Try saying Tlaquepaque (tuh-lock-way-pock-way) 3 times in a row!  Wait - no - #1 is closed for some reason, so just say it twice!
So, from what I heard from a semi-reliable source, this mini-chain of taquerias is home of some of the best carnitas around.  Impressive, considering how many taquerias there are within a 10 mile radius of it!  But…
Take a look at the picture in my previous post (Al Pastor #2), then take a look at the picture in this post.  Do the math.  Actually, don’t even do the math (my apologies, I should never ask my readers to do math!), just look.  Yep, no comparison.  To their credit, the chips were great – can’t go wrong with the home-made deep-fried tortilla type.  Good guacamole and salsa, too.  I’d eat here again if I were in the neighborhood.  My friend’s cheese enchiladas were very tasty and enchiladas are my second favorite Mexican food!

Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes: Disappointing carnitas, but great chips and good cheese, salsa, and guacamole.
Map to location

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tacos Al Pastor 2 (San Jose, CA): Nachos with Carnitas

I don't care what anyone says.  Questing for the best nachos never gets boring!  2 more reasons for this that came out of this nacho excursion:

1. When you have really good meat, it's a whole different experience.  Take the awesome carnitas on these nachos for example. Big, tender, flavorful chunks of pulled pork and plenty of it made me devour this entire plate without even thinking about it.  Some of the best meat I've had anywhere.  When the meat sucks or is mediocre, he whole experience becomes nothing more than a way to fill your stomach.  When the meat is this good, every bite is pleasurable and you hope your stomach never fills up!

2. This may be silly, but the fact that this place had a mascot, "El Taquito" and the character that add's to the dining experience makes a difference to me!  It means that the owners didn't just open yet another taqueria, they took the time to create something extra to be remembered by.  Give me an El Taquito sticker - I'll stick it on my window!

Rating: 4 out of 5
Rating Notes: These could have scored higher, but the miniscule amount of cheese that had cooled to the point that it glued the chips to the plate plus the lack of sour cream and pico de gallo made these a bit dry overall and hurt the rating.  Thankfully, that could be easily remedied by some customizing of the order.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mondo Burrito (Santa Clara, CA): Mondo Nachos with Spicy Shredded Beef

This super-popular taqueria, with an excellent name is located right next to Santa Clara University and is almost always hoppin' at lunch time, especially on Fridays.  We got lucky and walked in right before a big rush.  This being my first time here, I was happily surprised by their point-to-what-you-want style of food preparation.  Kind of like the all-the-rage "Chipotle" chain of taquerias but with better prices and more choices.  I ordered my nachos with the jack/cheddar cheese mix, spicy shredded beef, olives, green onions, tomatoes, sour cream and guacamole.  Aside from cringing when I saw them melt the cheese in a microwave, it was refreshing to be able to watch my nachos being built the way I wanted - cool!  Combine that with a surprisingly friendly and talkative cashier, great-tasting green salsa, decent chips and  the ability for this nacho fan who is getting a bit more health conscious to get a "half-order" and it all added up to a tasty and pleasant dining experience.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Rating Notes: Would have been a 3½ due to the lackluster flavor of the beef, but they scored an extra ½ point for the novel build 'em how you like 'em setup.  AND I might have given these a 5 or at least a 4½ if they'd let me take home that cool inflatable Corona biplane that's hanging from the ceiling!
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Puerto Azul (San Jose, CA): Super Nachos with Chicken

Ha!  You thought that this place would have a blue door, didn’t you?  Actually, it's white, BUT the awning, and walls on the way into this quaint little restaurant are definitely blue as can be!  I certainly wasn't feeling "azul" at all when this appetizing-looking plate of nachos was delivered to our table.  They had everything a plate of nachos should: shredded chicken, sour cream, guacamole, jalapeños and tomatoes.  The chips were even of the home-made, fried tortilla variety (the REAL tortilla chips that every taqueria and Mexican restaurant SHOULD be serving!).  So why didn't they score higher?
No, you presumptuous nacho lover, it wasn't because I couldn't see them due to the light reflecting off of the giant soccer (fooootbol) trophies in the corner.
It wasn't because I was distracted by the multiple shark jaw skeletons they had hanging on the wall.
It wasn't even because of the stale-looking buffet right next to our table that only one person visited the entire time we were eating lunch.
It was because like many restaurants that specialize in seafood, they don't take a lot of care in the flavoring of their more pedestrian meat selections.  In this case some fairly bland chicken.  That said, I'd definitely walk through the puerto azul again to try some of their tasty-sounding seafood options!
Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes: Maybe I should have had them put some shrimp or fish on them?  I'm a little averse to trying shrimp nachos again at this point because of the Wahoo's fiasco (see previous post).
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Monday, April 30, 2012

Wahoo's (San Jose, CA): Shrimp Nachos

So, I know the question on everyone's mind is, did I say "WAHOO!" after tasting these promising Shrimp Nachos?  Sadly, no.  I didn't even say it backwards ("OOHAW!") which sounds only slightly less festive.  As you can see in the picture, everything came separately with this order, which to me means one of two things to me:
1. They weren't confident enough to assemble their plate of nachos so they separated all of the ingredients and left it up to me
2. They wanted to show off the Shrimp included with this order of nachos and decided that the best way to do that was to not put anything on top of them.  But why the heck would they do this if there were only 6 (count 'em) shrimp visible in the sloppy sea of melted cheese that dominates the plate?

Shrimp nachos should be good like the excellent ones I've eaten at Tu Mero Mole.  These were simply disappointing.  No more to say.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Rating Notes: Yes, there was as much cheese as it looks like, and no, the shrimp weren't as tasty as they look.
Map to Location: