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: