I suppose now’s the time to tell you what I look for in a nacho, before I get too far into my reviews and feelings get hurt. So the below are the qualifications that separate the good from great, and the so-so from the “on second thought, I’ll just fill up on beer instead.”
Do not ever try to pass those round, yellow, Meijer brand chips on me (Dominick, I’m glaring straight at you). I like a chip that’s hearty, a chip that’s crunchy, a chip that will bail me out of jail, a chip that will not get soggy under the ingredients after a few minutes. At home I really only eat Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory chips, and have lengthy discussions about those being used for nachos in the (Ann Arbor restaurant scene) wild. Each time, the mutual conclusion has been that the plates would cost $25, due to material costs alone. I do enjoy other chips, but only if they fulfill my above requirements.
Meat: some people like it, other people hate it, but everyone should be aware of the fact that 95% of the time, it is rubbish on nachos. Do restaurants ever put good meat on nachos? Their best selection? Or do they slap on some dog-food and dry chicken? I think you know the answer. To address the nuh-uh exceptional 5%, twice have I had nachos that used good meat toppings. Once was at home using left-over fillet mignon from a steakhouse, the other was at Brighton’s Leaf Barley & Vine restaurant, where I shared an appetizer portion of duck confit nachos* (that they have since took off the menu - let’s picket ‘til they bring it back). For most people and places, gourmet nachos are just not available, so to make it easy, I’m only reviewing the vegetarian nacho variety.
Cheeeeese, Gromit! None of that stadium cheese-liquid. That stuff’s an abomination. Different shredded cheeses are fine, as long as they’re properly portioned over the chips and melted well. I am not a huge fan of black olives so I usually order nachos without them, but I’m okay with all the other veggies. I prefer fresh ingredients to cooked or jarred. And sour cream. Guacamole is okay too. Also a bonus if everything is equally portioned - the toppings to chips ratio. It’s a drag to end up with either a bunch of naked chips or a pile of toppings at the end.
Secondary to the taste, but good to be aware of. Am I getting ten pounds of nachos, or a teacup saucer of them. Good to know if you just want an appetizer, or if you’re stumbling around town at midnight and have The Hunger.
When was the last time you had nachos that were presented well, and not dumped on your plate looking like something that was pulled out of the trash. I’d like to eat my carb pile with a little dignity, please. Those duck confit nachos were the only ones I’ve ever had that were artfully presented. Definitely not as important to the rating as everything else, just a little something to think about.
*Leaf Barley & Vine
Duck Confit Nachos - This won’t be a true review since they’re not in Ann Arbor and I had to have them with the duck. Just as a reference, and since I mention them a lot in this post. (It’s also been over a year.) It was a very small portion, but since they were working on a small scale, they actually arranged the chips and toppings as a presentation. Harvarti cheese was a great compliment to the duck and made it very savory overall. They lasted about two minutes so the chips didn’t have time to deteriorate, and were good from what I can remember. They were pretty pricey for being so small, however, but due to ingredient costs it was understandable. Very very very good. I won’t give a star review, that’s an Ann Arbor establishment privilege.
I hope this was informative. Remember, I’m mostly judging nachos by what I like. Maybe you like soggy chips covered in black olives, hey that’s cool, just keep in mind that’s not my style. I’ll try to include pictures from here on out as well. I’m always open to questions, comments, and suggestions for places to go next as well.
I’d like to thank Damn Arbor for the write-up. I’ll do my best to work on my chip description adjectives from here on out.