Nacho Weakness


Gus’s BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos

I believe it is true in the case of anyone who calls him or her self a foodie that they are more often than not a lover of all foods with little exception. Perhaps an allergy keeps them away from hot spices or an early, traumatic bite of mayonnaise from an overeager sandwich-making mother might form a lifelong aversion to the spread; but these are rarities. Part of being a foodie means having an adventurous and ever-curious palate. So we eat all kinds of things considered both high and lowbrow and tend to live by the “one bite rule” of boldly trying everything once before making absolute decisions. We are more prone to continually tasting new things than we are to consistently repeat old things. But there are those special “weakness” dishes that every foodie can account for that they will eat time and again, even hunt through endless cities for, and revisit the same locations on multiple occasions for—demonstrating the kind of behaviors borrowed from addicts and hedonists. My Achilles Heel, without a doubt, remains a towering plate of nachos.

I have come a long way since my high school days when I would come home off the big orange bus and head straight to the kitchen where I would pile a paper plate with Tostito rounds, a pile of grated cheddar, a dash of garlic salt and then nuke it to oblivion. This always produced a kind of nacho Frisbee that I had to pull apart—a chewy here and crispy there disk of salt and fat with no real culinary value. But the initial lust was the same as it is today—a want for a crispy chip, a hankering for gooey cheese, and a desire to dip that all into toppings that when blended create an effortlessly delicious and creamy swath of lust. This is my comfort food of all comfort foods.

What makes a perfect plate of nachos for me? Thick house made tortilla chips with a wicked crunch are essential. I have bypassed ordering my favorite dish at many a restaurant upon hearing they use store bought chips. If they aren’t house made I will make an exception, but it better be a damn good chip befitting my description above. They can’t be flimsy or fragile in order to be able to heft up a good amount of dip and they better not get soggy before I reach the bottom of my pile. Then it is all about layering toppings in a balanced ratio so that it’s possible to get a bit of each in every bite and one ingredient better not run out faster than another. Whether it is a traditional plate of Mexican style nachos with beans, guacamole, sour cream, shredded beef or chicken and a savory chorizo cheese sauce or a gastro pub artisan plate with carne asada, queso cream and diced tomatoes, the ratio is elemental. Other than that, I am not a nacho purist.

Potato nachos

Napa Valley Burger Company Nacho Waffle Fries

Today, I don’t eat nachos much. My hips would be gargantuan and my heartbeat an erratic misfire of cardiac pulsations. But I have become a nacho connoisseur, seeking out the best from a sea of the ordinary rest, and when I find them, it’s just like unwrapping that exact thing we want on Christmas morning. So instead of a top ten nacho list, I keep mine at a manageable top three.

  1. TLT Pork Belly Nachos in Westwood, Los Angeles, California – This perfect one basket meal for the UCLA college students consists of braised chunks of tender yet crusted pork belly, pico de gallo, and a signature pinkish cheese sauce over fresh chips.
  1. Gus’s BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos in South Pasadena, California – I will sidle up to this bar again and again for a lazy Sunday afternoon cocktail and a plate of these exquisite nachos to share with the Cute Gardener. The best homemade tortilla chips hands down come topped with pulled BBQ pork, four cheese sauce, BAKED BEANS (!), smoked mozzarella, jack cheese, tomato, red onion, guacamole, pickled jalapeno and a drizzle of BBQ sauce.
  1. Nacho Waffle Fries at Napa Valley Burger Company in Sausalito, California – Perfect puffy waffle fries with airy centers and crispy nooks and crannies are piled high with shredded cheese, chopped bacon, guacamole, sour ream and house pickled, tangy jalapenos. It is like a potato skin that has gone to finishing school and returned home knowing how to salsa.

I have visions for my nacho future, too. I am always dreaming up combinations. Lately, I have been visualizing and looking out for a good plate of Peking duck nachos. I have never seen nor heard of this but imagine it as something dark and smoky, sweet chunks of hoisin-coated duck with tiny slices of green onion, a cooling white cream sauce, and those crispy Chinese noodles fried to powdery smithereens on top. Maybe this college football season while the CG and I resume our seasonal Saturday spots on the couch I will do some nacho experimentation and create a top three for the home.