Friday, August 1, 2014

BONUS POST: So Far, So Awesome!

I've been writing this blog for a long time now.  It hasn't ever gotten wildly popular, but it's a labor of love for me and I've had a great time doing it.  Eating nachos with friends in different cities, being surprised at how good or bad a certain plate of nachos can taste, eating 'til it hurts because even though I have no room in my stomach the nachos are just too good to waste, and as those of you who read this blog know, writing some pretty questionable prose!  I want to personally thank everyone who reads my blog and I hope you'll stay on this journey of delicious food with me as I soldier on!

Here are some fun facts about my Quest for the best nachos that I think you'll enjoy:

Months since I started this Blog: 29

Total unique venues where I've eaten nachos: 84
Total visits to venues to eat nachos: 110 This means I've averaged .65 visits per week to eat nachos, or about 2.8 visits per month
Total number of posts including "Bonus" and "Fun-Facts": 122

Total plates of nachos receiving a perfect score (5 out of 5): 0
Highest score ever achieved by a plate of nachos: 4¾ out of 5 (Rio Adobe)
My Top 5 favorite nachos: (See This Post)

Total hits to my blog since I started it: 11,285
Number of countries from which people have viewed my blog: 10
Number of people following my blog (THANK YOU!): 10

Top 5 Most Popular Posts:
1. La Cueva (Saratoga, CA): Nachos with Carnitas
I'm not sure why this is...
2. Del Taco (Campbell, CA): Macho Nachos with Chicken
Apparently a lot of Del Taco fans out there.  Incidentally these were among the absolute worst nachos I've had.
3. Angel's Rock House (Finley, CA): Nachos with Chicken
Notable because this obscure venue is located in Finley, one of the smallest towns in California.  A friend of mine from the area helped this post get slightly viral with the locals ;-)
4. Tacos Al Pastor 2 (San Jose, CA): Nachos with Carnitas
In the top 3 best carnitas I've ever had.
5. Taco Bell (Everywhere): Nachos Supreme
My first post ever.

Total Nacho Calories Consumed: I don't even want to know!
My weight when I started this blog: 215lb
My weight now: 180lb See? Nachos are good for you!

Now, where will I go next?...

REPEAT VISIT: Freebird's World Burrito (San Jose, CA): Nachos with Carnitas

Ugly, but oh so good...

Been here before so going to keep it simple:
- Best cheese-sauce anywhere that makes me not miss genuine melted cheese one bit
- Don't argue with me - you want the barbecue sauce on your nachos, period.
- Carnitas is still the way to go
- You'll clear your plate.  I did and that almost never happens for me anymore...
- Still kicks ass all over Mondo Burrito and Chipotle
Want a longer review?  Go to the original visit post.

Rating: 4¼ out of 5
Rating Notes: These nachos haven't lost their allure by any means, but teh presentation left something to be desired this time, so a minor ¼ point has been subtracted from the original score.
Map to Location:

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)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Smoke 'N Wings (San Jose, CA): Pulled Pork Nachos

I don't ordinarily seek out nachos at barbecue joints, but an engineer at work tipped me off to these and since Smoke 'N Wings is but 10 minutes from the office, I had to do it.  Good decision!  Mostly...
Barbecue pulled pork doesn't come to mind as the perfect meat for a plate of nachos, but here it works.  Sweet, savory barbecue sauce over tender, generous quantities of pulled pork shoulder.  And well played S-'N-W for using plastic cheese sauce instead of real melted cheese.  Not sure whether it was a cost decision or a purposeful stroke of genius, but the way that the barbecue sauce and cheese sauce mixed together to form a cheesy barbecue infusion (almost a BB/Cheese Aoli?) was almost magical.  Now, if they could have made a better choice on the chips (the giant Costco bag variety which I've fortunately only encountered on one other location at the mediocre Fiesta Taqueria)we'd have had something amazing.

Side note:  A coworker who came along ordered some of their exceptional wings.  The crisp texture of the skin and tenderness of the meat made for some of the best wings I've ever had - highly recommended!

Rating: 4 out of 5
Rating Notes:  Generous helping for just $6.95.  Jalapeños blended beautifully with overall flavor.  Scored bonus points for originality and generosity or would've been a 3 or 3½ at most.
Map to Location:

Señor Taco (San Jose, CA): Super Nachos with Carnitas

Working further south in San Jose nowadays, I have the chance to visit some taquerias that weren't on my radar before.  Senor Taco is a new one for me and is pretty close to work.  I'd actually found this one before, but skipped over it in the Yelp results because I thought it was a fast food joint!  Wasn't there a 'Senor Taco' fast food chain at one time?  Like so many taquerias, it's shoved into an anonymous strip mall next to nail salons, liquor stores, fitness clubs, etc...

The Super Nachos were good.  Nothing special, but they did certain key things right:
  • Pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, all present and accounted for
  • Generous helping of carnitas
  • Not too much cheese
  • Deep-fried, home-made tortilla chips

The meat was so-so.  They should have seasoned them more because there was just a hint of that "plain pork" taste that grosses me out a little because it reminds me of a petting zoo.  This hurt what could have otherwise been a higher score.

One standout item:  The salsa bar is epic!!

Such variety and unique salsas.  I absolutely loved their creamy chipotle salsa and ate a bunch of it with my nachos, burning the you-know-what out of my tongue because it was a tad too spicy, but loving every minute of it!

Rating: 4 out of 5
Rating Notes: Would have been a 3½ but that salsa bar was good for ½​ a point bonus.  Carnitas were some of the weaker ones I've ever tasted.
Map to Location:​

Monday, April 21, 2014

Iguana's (South San Jose): Nacho Fries with Carnitas

This must be what they serve at baseball stadiums in Mexico!  Wait, do they have baseball stadiums in Mexico?  I don't know for sure but what I do know is that this was one tasty pile of calorie-ridden goodness that would go great with a $14 (182.51 pesos at the time of this writing) cup of beer!  Fries instead of chips, a pile of tender Carnitas, plenty of warm, gooey "plastic cheese sauce", way more sour cream and anyone should ingest at one sitting, and an entire container of Iguana's famous orange sauce on top!  I still prefer home-made tortilla chips as the "bed" but this is a great change of pace for the nacho-phile who may be getting a little jaded.  Make sure you bring a healthy appetite, though (or your teenage son) because these are super filling - I shamefully didn't get all the way through the serving...

Bonus:  Check out the goofy (and kinda creepy?) iguana artwork they had up on the walls!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Rating Notes: Can't rate these as highly as "Real" nachos, but the good carnitas and tasty orange sauce gave them a boost!

Map to Location: