A few years ago, I met up with Pachuco3000 and Gustavo Arellano at a Mexican restaurant in Northridge before Gustavo’s talk at CSUN. P3000 picked a hole in the wall since that’s the type of place Gustavo frequently reviews for the OC Weekly. I was a bit surprised when P3000 ordered nachos. I remember his reasoning more than the actual food. Basically, nachos are one of the best indicators of whether or not a Mexican restaurant is any good. Since nachos — the loaded kind, not the processed orange cheese and stale, overly salted corn chip variety you get a ballparks — are made up of several basic ingredients, you can get a sense of whether or not those ingredients are any good.
Do they fry their own corn chips or do they use store bought kind? What kind of beans do they use? Are they perfectly salted, any manteca (lard)? Are the toppings fresh, house made and the proper amount? And what type of cheese do they use? Is the meat bland and overcooked or juicy and tender?
P3000 has a point, but he doesn’t need to convince me that ordering nachos is a good idea. I’m already a fan. These day, I don’t eat them too much. I have to keep my pansa in check. Plus, after eating the best nachos ever in Cozumel nothing compares (2U).
It’s been 4+ years since we had these nachos and my family and I still talk about how amazing they tasted. I’m not ashamed to admit that I frequently check out the photo my sister took (above) and think about going back to Cozumel. The best nachos ever came from a small Cozumel seaside café. While my family took turns exploring the ocean floor with our scuba diving instructor, my mom chilled on a beach chair under the palapas. She also ordered some nachos. As soon as the first group of novice divers (me, Lori, Dad and Mike) came up from our lesson and took off our gear, we attacked the nachos. We were hungry from swimming, but they were also perfect. Everything tasted fresh, especially the guacamole and black bean layer. We ordered a second plate and those went pretty quickly. After all, there were 8 of us digging in to the nachos. Anyone else think food in Mexico often tastes better than food stateside? Is that just me?
As for stateside nachos, I can’t pick a favorite. I typically get nachos in bars, not at Mexican restaurants. I liked the nachos at Simone’s (Pilsen, Chicago), but they had too much sour cream and no guacamole. Some chain restaurants like Rubio’s Baja Brill and Baja Fresh have decent versions. I used to frequent the Rubio’s in the UCLA student union. I probably should have shared those chicken nachos.