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: http://mapq.st/Xd452p

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: http://mapq.st/Sqs4XP

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: http://mapq.st/VCmSX5

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: http://mapq.st/T9O47I

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: http://mapq.st/ShtAgS