Thursday, December 5, 2013

Carl's Jr. / The Green Burrito (San Jose, CA): Super Nachos w/Charbroiled Chicken

Back in the early 90's during my time at UCLA, there was a 'Green Burrito' tacqueria on the way from school back to my apartment off of Wilshire Blvd.  I used to stop there and get chicken nachos from time to time and they were great, with their big portion, lots of chicken and plenty of cheese and sour cream, especially for a hungry college student.  It was also the first place I ever tasted green tomatillo salsa.  However, The Green Burrito is quite a different place now, most likely due to its getting purchased by Carl's Junior...

This time, I was actually on my way to La Victoria, where I'd been before, but wanted to try a different meat selection on my nachos (I was also thinking about that delicious "orange sauce").  Sitting at a stop light on Almaden, I noticed a 'Carl's junior/Green Burrito' restaurant and decided that it was time to see if The Green Burrito's current cuisine could bring me some college-days nostalgia.
Kind of strange to be standing into a restaurant that has food that's blatantly American on one side of the menu and food that's reminiscent of Taco Bell on the other...  I ordered the "Super Nachos" with "Charbroiled Chicken" and grabbed a table.  When the nachos arrived, 2 thoughts went through my head.  The first?  When did they switch to plastic cheese sauce?Second?  When will I ever learn that you shouldn't, under any circumstances, order chicken on your nachos at a fast food restaurant?  I could tell just by looking at the chicken that this was going to be Del Taco all over again.  Sure enough, the chicken was chewy, soft, and too salty.  My first bite with a bit of everything (Chip, chicken, "cheese", guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo) told me that this was going to be a disappointing lunch.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the salsa bar, and not a moment too soon.  With the ingredients from there (red salsa, more pico de gallo, minced onions, sliced jalapeños, and minced cilantro)...

...I was able to make my plate of nachos look like this...

...and the taste improved a lot!  But  there's an expression, "You can never go back".  So true this time.  Green burrito, I'll try to forget this experience and remember you from my college days instead.

Rating: 2½ out of 5
Rating Notes: Would've been a 1½ if not for the items from the salsa bar that I piled on top of these disappointing nachos.

Map to Location:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fiesta Del Mar (Mountain View, CA): Nachos with Chicken

Wait, I had nachos for lunch?  Where did that picture come from?  Yes, that's how bland these were. 

Gonna keep this short since these nachos don't deserve a lot of creative writing energy.  In a nutshell, they looked nice and filled my stomach, but were far overshadowed by the fun conversation with old friends about pheromones, using dirty sweat socks as a handkerchief, Halloween in 'Vegas, and explaining to my un-hip ass what "bottle service" is (here's a link to the wikipedia article on it in case you're as un-hip as I am!)

So glad to have seen you all - you know who you are!  Maybe next time we can go after work and sample some of their extensive tequila selection?  I'd like to try some different food, too since everyone else's looked much tastier.

Conclusion?  Great lunch with great people, not so great nachos.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Rating notes: Would've been a 2½ if not for the extra ½ point I awarded for how perfectly cooked and moist the chicken was.  Now if they just could've given it or at least the refried beans some flavor...
Map to Location:

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chili's (San Jose, CA): Classic Nachos with Chicken

Alright.  How many nachos do you see in the picture above (my picture)?  I see 7...

How many do you see in the picture below (Chili's official menu picture)?  I see what must be at least a dozen!

Maybe they shouldn't have served these as the lovely, individually-built style of nacho if they were going to gyp me out of at least 5 nachos (the pile-o-chips variety would've hidden a quantity deficit better)?  "But wait," you may say:  "mine came with guacamole!"  But I say "Nay!  The guacamole is an extra cost add-on!"

Aside from the dubious serving practices, this plate of nachos was pretty darn tasty.  I do love a restaurant-style plate of individually constructed nachos, after all, especially when they broil them instead of microwaving.  The combination of authentic chips, beans, tenderly grilled chicken, and a lovingly placed jalapeño slice in every bite made for a delectable flavor explosion, especially after I applied an equal dollop of sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo to each one.

By the way, that beer glass and bottle are empty because it took forever to get the food out to our party of 16 who invaded the local Chili's for "Bosses' Day".  We all had plenty of time to guzzle our drinks while we were waiting.

Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes:  I have a feeling that someday, that magical 5 out of 5 rating that I haven't bestowed upon a plate of nachos yet will be given to a plate of individually-built nachos, but it wasn't these.  Grilled chicken will never be number one (I vastly prefer the shredded, marinated variety because it has so much more/better flavor) and I'm still on the fence about whether beans belong on nachos.  Extra ½ point awarded for these being individually prepared nachos.
Map to Location:

BONUS POST: "Pega-Nacho-Corn!"

We'll, there you go.  In every man's life, there comes a time when it happens: he turns 40.  On October 12, 2013, it happened to me, and my lovely wife, who forever entertains and surprises me, chose to throw a party with a magical Unicorn theme.

As you may have suspected, this precipitated a flood of wacky gift giving, including stuffed unicorns, unicorn stickers, an inflatable, wearable unicorn horn, a 'My Little Pony' Unicorn lunch box, and this shirt, which at first I thought that my friend had custom made for me.  Not true.  You can actually buy this online!  It's up for debate, but I'm convinced that some person, whom I don't know, but must have been watching me over the last couple years, knows 2 of the signature interests in my life (the other one is nachos, of course).  Not only did they take their obsession to the next level by creating a shirt, but instead of putting a unicorn on it, they put that even more mystical creature on it, the Pegacorn!

Bask in its majesty... BASK, I SAY!

P.S.  You may want to know how I became so exceedingly associated with unicorns?  Let's just say it involved an evening of hanging out with friends and drinking, plus a private screening of 'Despicable Me'.  We'll leave it at that...

Rating: How do you rate something this magical?
Rating notes:  Hey!  I don't see you basking yet!
Map to location:  Fly towards the rainbow, turn right at the fairy princess's castle, then straight on 'til morning...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Buffalo Wild Wings (San Jose, CA): Screamin' Nacho Burger

Wow - it's been over a month since my last post!  I have no other excuse than that I've been on kind of a heath kick lately.  And how do I reward your patience?  With a post about a nacho BURGER??

Well, Before you open a can of queso and fling it all over your screen in anger, let me tell you, this burger actually has the minimum requisite ingredients to be a bona-fide plate of nachos.

Check it:
Chips?  Check! (see them peeking out from under the pattie?)
Cheese?  Check! (gooey queso slathered all over the burger)
Meat?  Check! (hey, no one said the meat on the nachos couldn't be one-piece, right?)
Bonus?  Jalapeños and Salsa!

I have to admit that all of this together didn't actually create the virtual flavor of a plate of nachos, but it sure was good in all of its 1400 calorie glory!

Rating: 2½ out of 5
Rating Notes:  Would have had another point if it were actually a plate of nachos, but hey, not a bad score for something that's not actually nachos!
Map to Location:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Itasca Grill (Minneapolis Airport, MN): Nachos with Chicken

Yep, you read that right: airport nachos!  I've done bowling alley nachos (twice, actually), so why not Airport nachos?  Can you think of anything better to do on a layover in Minesota than eat nachos?  I didn't think so.  The reason that I ended up in Minnesota at the beginning of August was because my dear maternal Grandfather passed away on July 22nd.  He was a wonderful man, and I'm sure he would've wanted us all to enjoy ourselves while travelling to his funeral.  Nachos is one of the ways that I enjoy life, so this was perfect, especially because everything else having to do with air travel totally blows.

The nachos were surprisingly decent, with scallions, olives and jalapeños generously sprinkled on top and plenty of crispy chips and good cheese.  The guacamole ($1.69 extra) was obviously of the "Wholly Guacamole" variety from Costco which tastes a little weird but was probably the only choice, given the dearth of avocados in Minnesota.  Overall, I enjoyed this plate and it beat the hell out of the Burger King Sausage Croissandwich I had for breakfast on the return trip after being stranded in Minneapolis overnight (a whole other story that sucks so bad that I refuse to soil my nacho blog with it).

Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes:  Microwaved, but chips stayed crispy.  Real cheddar cheese (I was expecting platic cheese sauce). Chicken was of the pre-cooked variety with fake grill marks that the chef most likely just microwaved and cut into cubes.  Bonus ½ point for brightening my bereavement trip a little ;-)

Map to Location:

Side Note:
Besides being a nacho freak, I'm also a souvenir shot glass freak.  The Minneapolis Airport gift shop in concourse 'C' has the best selection of single-location souvenir shot glasses that I've ever seen!  They must've had 20-30 different types, including one style made out of wood.  Check it!:

There was even 1 more shelf above the ones you see that didn't fit into the frame in the tight quarters of the gift shop.  Wow!

Taqueria Lorenas (San Jose, CA): Chicken Nachos

Isn't it funny when you're trying to clear space off of your smartphone and you come across a photo that makes you say, "oh yeah, I forgot about that!"  This was one of those times.  In this case it was, "Oh yeah, geez, how long ago was it that I went to that place?  Long enough ago that I don't remember..."

Accompanying short story:
Ah, what a cute little plate of nachos. Worth the 15 minute drive from my work?  Only for the sake of nostalgia.  Well, almost.  My nostalgia in this case was misdirected because it turns out that the place I thought I was going to, which was actually down the street from Lorenas (and where a buddy of mine and I used to get tasty Mexican food) had had a truck drive through the side of it some years back and is now repaired but has some other business in the building.

The Review:
Like I said - kinda small plate of nachos.  And look closely:  see anything that looks odd?  Yes, another "authentic" taqueria that doesn't put any goddamn cheese on their "nachos"!  I should start printing out my "Origin of Nachos" post and  taping it to the front door of every place I've gone that doesn't put cheese on their "nachos".  The only saving graces were good chicken and decent chips.  Altogether not worth the drive.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Rating Notes: No cheese = no chance of a high score, no matter how good the meat and chips are.
Map to Location:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


When people hear that I'm a nacho freak and that I have a nacho blog with over 100 posts, they almost always ask me who has the best nachos, and sometimes they ask me what were the worst nachos I've ever had.  Well, here you go:  My top 5 and bottom 5 nacho experiences!

Hall of Fame (The top 5!)
An exceptional group of nachos that I'd go back for again and again!

Fifth Place: Angel's Rock House (Finley, CA): Nachos with Chicken

If you're ever in the Clear Lake area, be sure to stop in Finley for a plate of chicken nachos at Angel's Rock house.  Don't blink as you're driving by or you'll miss the whole town and won't get to try some great shredded chicken!
Rating: 4½ out of 5

Fourth Place: Taqueria Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA): Super Nachos with Chicken

Lots of sour cream and guacamole, homemade chips, and THE best tasting shredded Chicken that I've had anywhere!  If you're in Santa Cruz and looking for great nachos - these are an excellent choice!
Rating: 4½ out of 5

Third Place: Freebird's World Burrito (San Jose, CA): Small Nachos with Carnitas

This excellent go-to-the-counter-and-tell-them-what-you-want-on-your-plate not only blows Chipotle (overrated in my opinion) out of the water, but they also have the fixin's for an excellent plate of nachos.  Get both regular cheese as well as their homemade cheese sauce AND have them sprinkle a generous helping of their excellent barbecue sauce on top - trust me!
Rating: 4½ out of 5

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

Don't let the styrofoam container fool you.  Although a little pricey, these nachos, in addition to excellent carnitas, are packing a unique blend of ingredients, including cheddar, pepper jack, and feta cheeses, giving them a rich, amazing flavor.  Great selection of salsas, too!
Rating: 4½ out of 5

First Place:  Rio Adobe (Cupertino, CA): Adobe Nachos with Adobado Pork

The best nachos I've had.  Tender, flavorful pork, a mix of cheddar and jack cheese, just the right amount of guacamole, salsa, and sour cream over a bed of crispy, chips.  And they're broiled, the only authentic way to cook nachos (99% of all places serving nachos microwave them - a travesty!)
Rating: 4¾ out of 5

Hall of Shame (The bottom 5...)
These are the nachos that never should've seen the light of day, or the darkness of my stomach...

Bad: La Playa (Fort Bragg, CA): Nachos with Carnitas

Don't you love it when you're vacationing and you stumble across great food?  This wasn't one of those times.  Don't let the decent presentation fool you: bland "barnyard"-tasting carnitas, overpriced, lame.
Rating: 2½ out of 5

Worse: Two Pesos Taqueria (Los Gatos, CA): Chicken Nachos

Look great, right?  Wrong!  Should literally have only cost two pesos.  Grilled, charred-tasting chicken that wasn't at all offset by the other assortment of ingredients.  Ugh.  These nachos ruined lunch on my birthday!
Rating: 2½ out of 5

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

Blaaaaaaannnndd, just like the black-and-white photo says.  Poor service at this place, too.
Rating: 2 out of 5

Just as bad as you'd expect: Taco Bell (Everywhere): Nachos Supreme

Don't get me wrong - I love plastic cheese (Taco Bravo nachos are one of my favorite low-line lunch feasts), but Taco Bell takes a glorious snack and turns it into processed junk.  I have to admit, though, that it's processed junk that I've eaten many many times ;-)
Rating: 2 out of 5

Oh, the humanity!!:  Del Taco (Campbell, CA): Macho Nachos with Chicken

For fast food nachos, these actually LOOK ok.  But what a horrible surprise the Del Taco patron is in for if they order this awful mess.  The chicken is salty, slimy, and disgusting.  If you must have nachos here, stick to the ground beef version, trust me.
Generous Rating: 2 out of 5

El Mejor Mexican Deli (San Jose, CA): Nachos with Carnitas

I came across El Mejor Mexican Deli on a bike ride down Capitol Expressway during one of my lunch hours.  I checked it out on Yelp and saw 4½ stars, making me look forward to my "Nacho Tuesdays" visit the next week.  Alas, this is one case where Yelp didn't provide reviews that corroborated with the quality of food or service.

I walked into the deli to find deserted tables and no one working the cash register.  I woman walked out from the back eventually and started putting together a to go order or something while ignoring me standing at the counter, obviously ready to order.  Eventually she yelled something in Spanish toward the kitchen, which, after 5 minutes or so, caused a friendly-looking, chubby-faced dude to emerge.  I ordered nachos with carnitas, a request that was met with a funny look from the guy, followed by him asking the indifferent lady something in Spanish, to which she answered something else in Spanish.  I got the vibe for a moment that they weren't able to serve me nachos or something, but the man eventually took my $9.52 ($6.50 for the nachos and $2.25 (ouch!) for the soft drink + tax) and I sat down.

After a relatively long wait - especially since there was NO ONE else in the place - my order was delivered to the table...

Just look at these.  Sloppy mess, I say!  The only saving grace in the presentation is the extra sprinkle of cheese on top and the shredded lettuce.  But even the lettuce, which is quite a rarety in the world of nachos (and that I really like, incidentally) didn't add enough charm to these mediocre cheese-covered chips.

Bland, dry, carnitas were the nail in the coffin for this sorry interpretation of my favorite food.

Rating:  3 out of 5

Rating Notes: Nothing more to say, other than the chips were decent and I was only able to get an okay level of overall flavor by dumping my entire bowl of salsa over the plate.

Map to Location:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Taco Bell (Everywhere): Cool Ranch Doritos Locos... Taco??

Ok - I know.  This is a taco.

BUT, it's a taco made in a shell that's technically a chip - a Cool Ranch Dorito chip to be exact - just one that's round a folded into a 'U' shape.  If you threw a dozen of these on a plate, you'd have a bunch of chips with stuff on them - isn't that what a plate of nachos is?

Alright - so maybe this is a big stretch, but who cares?  This shit is good - and cheap!

BTW - you'd think that the Nacho Cheese version of this would be better and more nacho-y tasting.  Wrong!  The Cool Ranch version wins!

Side note:  This has inspired me to make a plate of nachos using Cool Ranch Doritos instead of regular corn chips!  Stand by for a future post...

Rating: One of the best $1.69 worth of junk food I've ever eaten!

Rating Notes:  Can't put this on the same scale as nachos - tacos aren't nearly as awesome!

Map to Location:

Taqueria El Coral (San Jose, CA): Nachos with Spicy Pork

Those of you who have been reading my blog for at least the past 6 months or so know that this is a repeat visit, but I have a good excuse!  Last time, the nachos here scored a 4½ out of 5.  Great presentation, great taste, and decent price.  And this great little taqueria is only 5 minutes from my new office!

This time, instead of carnitas (see last El Coral post) I ordered my nachos with Spicy Pork, which is, from what I can surmise, what El Coral calls al pastor.  Once again, a great plate of nachos and the al pastor was really flavorful and tender, especially for a grilled meat.  The only drawbacks?  A little too much fat (had to spit out a couple pieces of meat) and chips that were hard and crunchy enough (stale?) to make me fearful of chipping a tooth or stabbing the roof of my mouth.  Thankfully, neither happened.  The only side effect was a really full stomach!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Rating Notes: ½ point lower rating this time because of the fatty meat and dangerous chips!

Map to Location:

Taqueria La Mordida (San Jose, CA): Super Nachos with Chicken

Uh oh!  This could be dangerous.  A taqueria literally within 100 yards of my new job?  I'm really going to have to control myself - especially after the rave reviews that my coworkers have given the place.

Aide note: Starting a new job is always a big adjustment, but there are bright sides beyond the obvious ones of a steady paycheck and health insurance, one of them being that a change of location equals a whole new slew of taquerias at which to sample my favorite cuisine!  Admittedly, my new job is only 5 miles from my old one, but this puts me closer to places that I was too lazy to drive to when I worked in Campbell.

Walking into Taqueria La Mordida, I was really optimistic and hopeful.  The last time I lived or worked this close to a place that served real nachos was... never!

For the order, I chose to go with my old standby,  Super Nachos with shredded chicken.   They look good, don't they?  Well, let's just say that this time I really think I chose the wrong meat selection.  While the meat tasted fine, there was very little of it and it wasn't really shredded (I got one piece that was the size and shape of a silver dollar, albeit thicker - weird).  Up sides?  Real, deep-fried tortilla chips which are a must for a great plate of nachos, and a nice portion of pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole.

Next time (and there WILL be a next time in the near future, considering the serendipitous location of this taqueria) I'm going to go with a different meat selection.  A coworker of mine was eating a torta from this place with al pastor pork in the office the other day and it looked and smelled amazing.

Update (9/17/2014):  As you may have assumed, I've returned to La Mordida many times in the past 1+ year that I've worked at DeVero and of course, I've tried different stuff.  Here's a picture of my favorite nachos that they have to offer:
"Super Nachos con Al Pastor!"

These are easily your best bet nachos and raise the score for this taqueria by a full point!

Revised Rating (Al Pastor): 4 out of 5 (was 3 out of 5)

Revised Rating Notes: Get the Al Pastor!  The chicken at La Mordida isn't very good.  Great chips, didn't overdo it on the cheese, and all required ingredients present and accounted for.

Map to Location:

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bonus Post: Let's Taco 'Bout It!

My awesome friend, Steve R, showed me this hilarious video and it's a perfect nacho blog bonus post.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ruby's Tamales y Más (Saratoga, CA): Nachos with Chicken

Alas, my nacho wing-woman declined to accompany me to lunch today of all days when I ended up returning to a taqueria, formerly know as Cazuela's, now as 'Ruby's Tamales y Más".  Our previous visit to this location had been bittersweet - bitter because they were closing this taqueria that my wing-woman used to frequent with her family, and sweet because the chicken mole that covered my nachos was awesome.

This time, I went with my standby, shredded chicken nachos (they offer both grilled or shredded chicken).  I should have gone with the grilled chicken.  How do I know this, having ordered shredded chicken?  For some reason, hidden beneath the sparse layer of shredded chicken atop the nachos was a moderate portion of grilled chicken that was far superior in flavor.  I'm not sure why they did this, but once I tried the grilled chicken I didn't complain.  It was much more tender and juicy than most grilled chicken I've tasted and had a smooth, savory seasoning applied.  A happy mistake or a sneaky cook?  I don't know and I don't care...

Rating: 3½ out of 5

Rating notes:  Quite a run of 3½ out of 5's I'm having here, eh?  Despite the tasty grilled chicken, there was no guacamole and the chips, while crispy, got soggy very quickly.  That, combined with having so little cheese that I almost didn't notice it made for a less than stellar plate.  Excellent salsa bar, though.  Their tomatillo salsa was some of the best I've ever had.

Map to Location:

Dia de Pesca (San Jose, CA): Nachos with Prawns

There are a few things to remember, should you visit Dia de Pesca and partake of their "Si Food" (I didn't make that up - it's on their sign - awesome pun!).  First, their fish tacos are the best I've had, anywhere, and you can choose from numerous different types of meat, ranging from salmon, to halibut, to shrimp, to chicken or beef on any of their menu items.  Second, watch out when you park.  Their lot is ludicrously small for how many people show up at lunch time and you can get a stiff ticket if you park on the wrong side street (I know from experience - $90 ticket the first time I went here - that's one expensive-assed lunch outing).  Lastly, don't waste your time and order "Si Food" nachos.  It just wasn't meant to be...

Yes, I thought I'd be all gourmet and order their tasty prawns atop my nachos.  Note to self: shrimp and cheese do not go together.  I should have learned that when I ate some very disappointing shrimp nachos at Wahoo's.  These were definitely better than Wahoo's, simply because the prawns were mouthwatering -  probably sauteed in garlic butter or something - and the nachos were topped with an orange sauce reminiscent of La Victoria's famous concoction.  I was disappointed, though, to find half-melted cheese, indicating a short stint in a microwave oven rather than a proper broiling or baking.  Obviously, nachos are not Dia de Pesca's specialty, but I'll definitely be back for fish tacos someday...

Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes: My fault for not ordering a complimentary meat for my nachos, but these still would have been pretty average.  Go there for their Fish tacos, not their nachos.
Map to Location:

***100th Post! *** Boardwalk Bowl (Santa Cruz, CA): Nachos Supreme

Welcome to the 100th POST on my Nacho Blog!  It's been so much fun to eat, write, and publish, and I really appreciate you taking the time to read my ramblings on about my favorite food.  Don't worry - I'm not stopping yet!

Yep, that's right!  Bowling alley nachos!  Only the second time I've ever posted a plate of chippy, cheesy, salsa-y sour creamy, guacamole-y goodness on this blog, and these ones blew the enormous-yet-mediocre nachos from '300' away!

The family and I were out bowling by the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz with some friends, having a great time, but I wanted more greatness.  So what better way to increase the greatness of any experience?  Add a healthy helping of nachos, of course!

When I ordered these I was expecting plastic cheese-slathered lameness (they ARE partially affiliated with a nearby amusement park, after all), but what a pleasant surprise to find a homemade-style, oven-cooked (not microwaved!) batch of my favorite Mexican food in such an unlikely place!  All ingredients (except for meat) present, accounted for, and well-made.  Decent chips, melted cheeddar, olives, fresh salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and jalapeños brought a smile to my face and grease to my fingers that almost made me drop my bowling ball a couple times.

Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes: Homemade flavor is both a good and bad thing.  On the one hand, you know someone put some love into making them.  On the other hand, you don't really feel like your out treating yourself to something special.  No meat available knocks the score down a little, too.
Map to Location: 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Taco Bell (Campbell, CA): Volcano Nachos

Say what you will about Taco Bell, but you have to admit that some of their stuff is just plain tasty.  Witness the 970 calorie "Volcano Nachos"!  The menu description on their web site goes like this:

"Crunchy, freshly prepared daily tortilla chips covered with hearty beans, seasoned beef, warm nacho cheese sauce, red tortilla strips, cheesy molten hot lava sauce, jalapenos, and topped with reduced-fat sour cream."

I totally love how they end this shamelessly marketing-driven description of this caloric monstrosity with "reduced-fat sour cream".  Classic!  I feel like I've had such a healthy lunch now!  All I know is that a "Nachos Supreme", roughly the same visual size as a Volcano Nachos, packs only 430 calories.  How are the Volcano Nachos 540 calories more??  Either the "molten hot lava sauce" is basically orange hollandaise sauce or those little red chip strips are really spicy pork rinds!  Of course, a calorie is technically a unit of heat, so maybe they're just being serious when they call it "molten hot lava sauce"?  I do still have my tongue after polishing off this gnarly tray of fast-food goodness, though, so I doubt it!

Rating: 3 out of 5
Rating Notes:  Very tasty, believe it or not, and that "molten hot lava sauce", while no La Victoria Orange Sauce, is killer.  The seasoned beef and everything else is on par with other stuff I've had from Taco bell.  These get a one-point bump above the Nachos Supreme not because of wacky ingredients and descriptions, but because they are really that much better.

PSA from my nacho wing-woman: Beware the Camden Avenue Taco Bell parking lot (at least today).  As we were getting out of the car AND on our way back to the car, we noticed a Silver Mazda 6 sitting unattended with it's capacious trunk wide open and empty.  A kidnapping in progress, maybe?  Someone getting ready to move a body?  Creepy!
Map to Location:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Taqueria El Coral (San Jose, CA): Nachos with Carnitas

It's amazing to me that I can still go to, type in 'Mexican' and still get a bunch of places I haven't been to or heard about, let alone ones that are really good.  Mexican really must be the most popular type of food in the Bay area.  Can anyone think of a more popular style of cuisine? (if you can, please post a comment below!)

A random search of Mexican food within 5 miles of my office on Yelp led me to "Taqueria el Coral" on Capitol Expressway in San Jose.  I headed to this "strip mall hole-in-the-wall" by myself much later in the afternoon than usual due to a bunch of meetings I had throughout the morning and early afternoon.  I hate it when work interferes with the noble pursuit of finding the greatest nachos.  There should be a law!

What luck!  Just look at that beautiful plate of nachos!  No one I asked had ever heard of this place, yet the  nachos with carnitas were some of the best I've had anywhere.  Just the right amount of cheese, tender and flavorful carnitas, not too many beans, and plenty of sour cream and guacamole to add richness.  Nothing I've never seen before, but done well with excellent presentation quality.  What made them good enough to get a 4½ out of 5 then?  Hiding underneath all that visually appetizing layer of sour cream and guacamole were freshly diced tomatoes, onions, scallions and cilantro that took the flavor to a level that you don't often find at a run-of-the-mill taqueria.  This was a huge plate of food (probably 1000 calories, and despite my best self controll efforts, the perfect flavor combination made it impossible to stop eating.  I almost polished off the whole plate, leaving just a few chips and a smattering of cheese in an attempt to make myself think I was still looking out for my health.

Rating: 4½ out of 5

Rating notes:  Would have been my first 5 out of 5 if not for theslightly stale chips, which were not of the requisite deep-fried tortilla variety.
Map to Location: