Young and Hungry

Nachos Libre: Wrestling With a Passable Plate of Tortilla Chips


A plate of nachos reminds me of a gaggle of girls gussied up for a Friday night after too many shots—a hot mess. Corn tortilla chips heaped with globs of refried beans and oily (or worse, processed) melted cheese. Salsa and guacamole in heaps like wet confetti.

The flavors certainly complement each other, but something consistently gets lost in the construction. The biggest assembly offense is a mountainous stack of chips.  The bottom of these plates always ends in one of two disappointing scenarios: Either a layer of dry, boring chips that failed to receive glory from above, or an inundated mess more suitable for a soup spoon than finger food.

Other plates disappoint me with ingredients that shouldn’t be toppings for nachos or maybe anything. Greasy chili and barbecued pork commonly overwhelm a plate while slices of bland chicken breast dry out in the oven and end up like wood.

Los Tios Grill in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood has a decent nacho rendition, but I have to order them with a caveat.  The thick and sturdy semi-circle chips can stand up to an onslaught of lettuce and sour cream but only when I request the kitchen use a light hand when applying cheese. Still their careful chip-by-chip construction is worth the effort and results in a balanced plate. Either way the small metal cup of an acidic and bright homemade hot sauce makes up for any shortcomings. I’d eat it by the spoonful.

Metrocurean pointed out a few fancy nacho plates I’d like to try before the football season is over but I’m pensive. Are train wrecks are less likely with elevated ingredients, or are all nacho plates doomed to resemble a bad weekend night out in Adams Morgan?

  • Le Crusette

    The best nachos I've come across have actually been at a non-Mexican joint--H Street Country Club. Seriously, I will make a trip back to that place just for that, as opposed to mini-golf. They melt the cheese on instead of using nacho sauce (a must for authentic Tex-Mex nachos) and come with a heaping pile of sour cream and jalepenos.

  • Hiro

    I love nachos but whenever I order them, I am in fear of the mountain of chips with melted cheese and toppings that will make it's way to my table. Nachos should be individually built and I've found that the best ones in the DC area can be found at Uncle Julio's Rio Grande locations. They're great, little round nachos with a bit of re-fried beans, cheese and your choice of chicken or steak. And then you get the usual pico de gallo, sour cream and guac on the side!

  • Shayan

    Surprisingly Lauriol Plaza's nachos are good. It's not a big basket of chips smothered in stuff. It is 6 or 8 large chips individually assembled with some good toppings.

  • saf

    Have you tried the nachos at Mixtec? I find them tasty.

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