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Miller’s Ale House (Boston): Mediocrity®

27 Feb

This week’s nacho review comes to you from Bugaboo Creek Miller’s Ale House, conveniently located next to the Arsenal Mall in scenic Watertown.  In an area that truly lacks tacky sports bars, Miller’s is a welcome change from the moose restaurant . The menu may be reminiscent of Friday’s, but the waitstaff is friendly, the drinks are fell-off-the-back-of-the-truck cheap, and the dining room is still shiny and new. We look forward to returning soon for our 1st Annual Classy –> Divey Western Ave Pub Crawl, starting at Miller’s Ale House, moving to the Boyne, and ending at the Bus Stop.

To punish ourselves for not eating nachos recently, we decided to indulge in two nachos: The Fiesta Nachos and the Zinger® Potato Chip Nachos (because nachos with a registered trademark are not weird at all). Just so you know, they also have something called the Chicken Enormous Nachos, but adding that to our tab would likely have killed us.

Fiesta Nachos: Crispy Tortilla chips Layered with Fresh Ground Beef Simmered in Ancho Chili Seasoning, Pico de Gallo and Jalapeños. Smothered in Jack & Cheddar Cheeses, then Melted until Bubbling. Topped with Sour Cream and a dash of taco seasoning.

  • Appearance: (4) The overall theme of this review is “meh,” starting with appearance, which was–unsurprisingly–meh. We got chili on the side in deference to our vegetarian friend, but we suspect leaving it on would have done little to make these nachos exciting. Average corn chips, scant cheese melted and congealed until nearly solid, and typical pico and jalapenos. The only mark of distinction was the taco season sprinkled on the ball of sour cream. Nice choice–almost made sour cream bearable.
  • Quality of Ingredients: (6) The only thing worth mentioning on this plate was the beef, which despite being ugly, was delicious. It nicely complimented the taco seasoning on the sour cream. Is it sad that’s the highlight? Cheese, chips, pico, and jalepenos were otherwise unremarkable.
  • Distribution of Toppings: (5) We suspect someone in the kitchen was saving all the cheese for the Potato Chip and Chicken Enormous nachos, favoring the big brothers over the scrawny runt, the Fiesta. The sprinkling of cheese we did receive chilled too quickly, leaving us with a pile of naked chips and cheese we had to tear apart with our fingers. Chili-on might have helped, but there is no way to get around the fact that there wasn’t enough cheese.
  • Price: (7) $8.99–an average plate for an average price.
  • Overall: 22/40
Zinger® Potato Chip Nachos: Zingers® Tossed in Medium Garlic Sauce, Cut into Bite Size Pieces and Served over Homemade Potato Chips. Topped with Jack & Cheddar Cheeses, Diced Tomatoes, Green Onions and Sour Cream. We’re gonna call these specialty nachos.
We should start this by saying we still have no idea what a Zinger® is. We thought they were boneless chicken wings, but either they forgot our sauce or it somehow soaked into the breading during the walk from the kitchen to the table. As best we can tell a Zinger® is a chicken finger with some stuff on it–in the menu photos, said “stuff” glistens. In real life it doesn’t exist.

  • Appearance: (7) Quite mouthwatering when compared with the Fiesta ‘chos, but rather monotonous on its own. We appreciated the lava-flow of cheese cascading into the chips, and the splash of color provided by the tomatoes and onions helped to ameliorate our concerns over the glistening grease of the chips.
  • Quality: (4) A lot of problems and only a few compliments. We appreciated the attempt at thick-cut homemade chips. The ones un-soggied by cheese grease were delicious, but once they were even slightly moistened they ended up grainy and unpleasant. The Zingers® were equally unimpressive–maybe we should have chosen a more flavorful sauce (we elected to mix “medium” and “garlic”), but they just tasted like breaded chicken fingers. Overall, the plate was greasy and probably life-shortening.
  • Distribution: (6) When it comes to potato chips, there’s a fine line between too little cheese and too much. In Miller’s case, they went a little overboard and we ended up with a greasy mess of off-textured chips and an iceberg of solidified cheese.  Again, the cheese  congealed too quickly and was sliding off the chips. We could have used more Zinger® as well.
  • Price: (6) At ~$10, these weren’t outlandish.
  • Overall: 23/40.  We’ve had much better potato chip nachos closer to home at John Harvard’s and Orleans (and even as far away as Denver), without having to figure out how to incorporate a pesky ® symbol into a blog post.


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Vito’s Tavern: Leave the Gun, Take the Nachos

13 Oct

We normally avoid the North End like overpriced, overtouristed area should be avoided, but also because even if we did manage to find Italian nachos, they would probably be terrible. After a mediocre experience at Anchovies and a downright disastrous attempt at making our own pizza-inspired ‘chos, we had little hope.  But hunger goes hand in hand with poor judgement, so we found ourselves at the semi-new Vito’s Tavern in the North End, to try their ‘Bruzzese Sausage nachos, with “the usual.”

  • Appearance: (8) Ooze is the name of the game here, as we immediately spot the double-team of cheese AND cheese sauce.  Red-white-green toppings were very appropriate, considering the neighborhood.
  • Quality of Ingredients: (7) Even without our most cheese-sauce-friendly correspondent in tow, we had good things to say about the cheese sauce. It was right on the border of homemade-or-not, enough so that we still aren’t sure if it was from a can or the kitchen.  The chips were also debatably made in-house.  Guacamole was fresh, heavy on the red onion, and the salsa was more of a pico of fresh veggies.  We enjoyed the Italian sausage, though larger pieces might have made a bigger impact on the palate.
  • Distribution of Toppings: (8) Vito’s employed a distribution tactic we had never seen before– a layer of black beans on the bottom of the plate, but nowhere else.  We found this a little odd until we considered that the beans elevated the chips enough to keep them from getting totally sodden in cheese sauce. Was this intentional?  Unknown, but it did work. As could be expected, the combination of cheese and queso sauce left practically no chip untouched.
  • Price:  (8) At $11, these provided an ample amount of heart-stopping goodness for two people.
  • Overall: 31/40.  These were more Italian-inspired than a direct translation, earning them a place in the Best of Boston rather than the Specialty Nacho category.  But who cares? They were pretty darn tasty.  We are curious to come back and try the vegetarian nachos, with roasted and sauteed veggies.

Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC: The Nacho Speaks of Rivers of Cheese Sauce

9 Aug

Next up in our summer series, “Nachos From Exotic Locales To Make Up For Rarely Posting,” is the lovely Washington DC!  We’ve reviewed here before way back in 2009, and arrived for this visit hungry for more museums, monuments, nachos, and above all, functioning air conditioning.  We found the latter two at Busboys & Poets, a bar/restaurant/bookstore/meeting place/social justice center (?) named in honor of Langston Hughes.  The “social justice center” part had us slightly concerned about the tempeh-to-cheese ratio, but what we found caught us completely by surprise:

  • Appearance:  (5) A toupee of shredded romaine alongside a vat of orange cheese=NOT what we were expecting!  With their green-and-gold color scheme, these could easily be the official nachos of the Green Bay Packers. Congealed cheese and a hint of tomato were the only signs of life from beneath.
  • Quality of Ingredients: (7) In deference to our vegetarian host Natalie we skipped the beef chili and got these with only the the roasted corn and black beans, which we very much enjoyed.  The chips were homemade but slightly stale and not salty enough.  The guacamole was fresh and citrusy and we appreciated the fresh jalapenos, which have proven to be exceedingly rare on nachos. And while we never like lettuce on nachos, we must acknowledge that it was fresh and romaine.  The real cheese was slightly burnt, and we were divided on the cheese sauce (surprise!)– some found it too cheap and generic-tasting for these nachos, while others found it a pleasant addition.
  • Distribution of Toppings: (5) There was not nearly enough salsa and cheese, so the cheese sauce did come in handy for some extra oomph.  We would be interested to try these with chili…though with all the other toppings, it was not too badly missed.
  • Price: (9) At $8, these were not at all the tourist trap we were expecting!  Finished handily by three.
  • Overall: 26/40.  You’d never guess that these nachos came from “a haven for writers, thinkers and performers from America’s progressive social and political movements”.  They seemed so…normal. That couldn’t be!  Perhaps the juxtaposition of the two cheese forms represented the immigrant struggle between assimilation and traditional culture? Was the oppressive lid of romaine a symbol of white male patriarchal domination?  And what does the heat of the jalapenos have to say about pacifism? We pondered until our ponderers were tired, or until it was time to catch our flight. Perhaps there is no subtext, no meaning, just a plate of mid-level nachos.