Thursday, July 24, 2014

REPEAT VISIT: Taqueria El Ranchito (San Jose, CA): Super Nachos with Carnitas

I'd previously come to this taqueria back in 2011 and had their chicken nachos.  I'd admired the nice presentation (which, for this jaded nacho fiend actually doesn't look that impressive anymore) and criticized the bland chicken.  In most cases, I'm all about giving taquerias a second chance if​ I wasn't wowed the first time.  Things weren't terrible the first time, and El Ranchito is located in a strip mall halfway between my old and new offices, so I was inclined to return and go another round.

This time I ordered carnitas since that's been my pattern lately.  What a difference!  Flavorful, great texture, and melted in with the monterey jack cheese, the meat complimented the thin crispy chips beautifully.  Generous helpings of Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, and Sour Cream rounded out the flavor and I really appreciated the lack of beans, which most taquerias add to nachos and are basically filler that distract from the flavor of the meat.  Kudos to El Ranchito for going against the norm!

​Oh - and they added a salsa bar since the last time I went there - way to get with the times!

Rating: 4 out of 5
Rating Notes: Great Carnitas, chips were good, but could have been better (ALL taquerias should use the deep-fried tortilla type!)
Map to Location:

Monday, July 21, 2014

BONUS POST: My Favorite Nachos So Far, Brought to You in Haiku!

A friend of mine has written a lot of these fun little poems lately, inspiring me to put this bonus post together.  Funny how a lot of Taquerias' names have 5 syllables or at least they do when you add the word 'nachos' after...

Broiled - If only they all did!
Seasoned Spicy Pork!

The Secret?  Pepper Jack Cheese
Pricey but worth it

Carnitas - the way to go
Good luck with parking!

Cool guitars on the ceiling
Barbecue sauce?  Yes!

Try the goat - it's really good
No - seriously!​

REPEAT VISIT: Andale (Los Gatos, CA): Nachos with Carnitas

A beautiful Friday Afternoon, a new friend, a great plate of nachos.  It doesn't get much better than that.  I'd been to Andale before, but it had been awhile and I'm glad I came back!  The previous time, my boss, who I'd come here with insisted that we should not only get chicken nachos, but order some of their famous, mouth-watering roasted chicken to throw on top.  Tasted great, but we had a lot of leftovers, and nachos make terrible, soggy-chipped leftovers.

This time, I stuck to my current groove and went with carnitas.  Great choice!  I can honestly say that Andale's Carnitas are in my top 3 of all time, right along side Los Pericos in Santa Cruz (review coming soon) and Tacos Al Pastor 2 in San Jose's Willow Glen area.  It's amazing how well-prepared meat can make you (or me, at least) eat WAY too many nachos.  I left with a stuffed belly, but went for a nice little walk on the Los Gatos Creek Trail afterward to get the digestion going!  The rest of the ingredients were simply ok, but well-proportioned and well-chosen.  If the chips had been of the homemade, deep-fried tortilla type, we'd have been looking at a contender for the best nachos I've had.

Rating: 4½ out of 5
Rating Notes: Carnitas that would stand on their own as a great meal, good overall mix of ingredients, light on the cheese.
Map to Location:​

El Pollo Loco (Multiple Locations): Chicken Nachos

I have my aging memory (or lack thereof) for landing at El Pollo Loco for my latest nacho review.  Visiting a bike shop in the same strip mall, I thought I'd suddenly found a new, charming little taqueria off of Meridian about a mile from my work called Neighborhood Taqueria.  But: (1) they were closed on the day that I went there and (2) I'd already blogged their nachos a couple years ago (click here for that post).  During my shameful, famished​ drive back to the office, I happened upon an El Pollo Loco and it occurred to me that they might have nachos.  If nothing else, maybe I could get some tasty chicken?

Upon examining the menu abo​ve their counter and double-checking on my iPhone, I didn't see nachos listed anywhere,  but I decided to just ask if they had them.  Turns out they do!  However, I wish the dining experience had been as exciting as discovering a "hidden" menu item, feeling like I did the first time I ordered an 'Animal Style' cheeseburger at In 'N Out.  Nope.

Although the El Pollo Loco gang are supposed experts with chicken, the meat was simply OK and the matched the mediocre presentation you may see in the photo above.  Up sides?  The chips were light and crispy and the 4 types of salsa were pretty decent.  I do like that they went light on the cheese, but it was unevenly applied like the rest of the ingredients, making it a difficult task to put together a bite with all of the ingredients working together to tempt my tastebuds.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Rating Notes:  Decent chicken for being grilled, good guacamole.  Thin on overall flavor and poor presentation made them difficult to fully enjoy.
Map to Location:

Friday, July 18, 2014

La Victoria Taqueria (San Jose, CA): Nacho Cheese Fries (with Al Pastor)

I've previously reviewed nachos from "La Vic" before and go there at least once a week for a taco or two, but the other day I noticed a sign on the wall for "Nacho Cheese Fries".  To use a nerdy analogy, nacho fries, with their use of french fries in place of chips, are to regular nachos what the original Star Wars movies are to the prequels: if you take them all in, the nacho fries, like the original movies, will stick inside you and make you remember them, for better or for worse, for a lot longer time.  Of course I had to try 'em and see how they stack up to Iguanas' Nacho Fries!

To mix things up a bit, my meat of choice was Al Pastor (marinated pork).  The first thing I noticed when eagerly grabbing my order from the counter was the heft of this carbo-blasted basket of goodness.  Literally the weight of a brick - no joke!  Intimidating, yes, but I was really hungry, so I poured on some of La Vic's famous "Orange Sauce" and went to town.

The al pastor was a good choice of meat from a texture, if not flavor standpoint: about 5 minutes in, when everything started to mix together, the suacy meat and the fries assumed the perfect texture to be eaten in gluttonous bites with a fork (I don't recommend eating these with your fingers unless you want to look like a sloppy, ravenous heathen).  The flavor of the Al Pastor, which I love in La Vic's super tacos just didn't mesh with everything else well.  In the end, the sheer density of the concoction forced me to throw in the towel with half of the food still in the basket.

Rating: 3½​ out of 5
Rating Notes: Nacho Fries are awesome, but will never score as high as real nachos.  Good meat, just not right for nacho fries.  Guacamole with low avocado content, but tasted great paired with the sour cream, orange sauce, and pico de gallo.
Map to Location: (Multiple Locations)