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.
Map to Location:

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!
Map to Location:

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).
Map to Location: