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Spoon in Lenox, MA: ‘Chos After Doze

19 Jul

Second only to (duh) nachos, breakfast/brunch is one of our most favorite food groups (as you may have guessed, we aren’t exactly strict adherents to the US FDA nutrition guidelines…).  We have long aspired to combine these two great loves into one mythical dish, the breakfast nachos (also possibly known as breakchos, brachos, nachfast, and/or fastchos). The Friendly Toast has something resembling breakfast nachos on their menu, which we have been eyeing for some time, but are always tempted away by other items on their delicious menu.

On vacation in Lenox, MA (Official Motto: Are you a rich middle aged woman? Then you’ll love it here!), we had practically given up hope on finding nachos amongst the bevy of overpriced Italian restaurants and wine bars.  Then serendipity struck at Spoon, a cute little breakfast/lunch/ice cream cafe in the heart of town.  Our bleary eyes widened in surprise and delight at the description of Chilaquiles on their menu: “Basically, nachos with eggs. Salsa verde, queso fresco, crema, jalapeno.” Nachos AND breakfast? Sign us up!

Aren’t those egg yolks just begging to be popped??

  • Appearance: (7) We found these to be much less colorful than the description. But it turned out that the salsa verde and crema had been combine into one.  +1 for excellent use of garnish.
  • Quality of Ingredients: (10) The chips were thick and hearty, almost like pita chips, and definitely homemade.  The crema/salsa verde combination was at once spicy, tangy, smooth and creamy– and the queso fresco added a nice salty kick.  The poached eggs were a little on the runny side (perhaps their only fault, and it can be a personal preference).  We loved the clearly house-made pickled jalapenos and carrots on the side– definitely a nacho patrol first!
  • Distribution of Toppings: (8) We could have used a little more of the chili/crema concoction, as it was sad to get a chip without.  Other than that, the distribution is up to the user: how early do you break the eggs?  A warning, once you do break the yolks you need to eat fast– runny egg soaks into a chip far faster than most nacho ingredients.
  • Price: (9) At $9, these were a hearty and original breakfast dish, something that is often hard to come by, especially in tourist traps such as this!
  • Overall: 34/40.  Other breakfast nachos, if you’re out there, take notice and get your game face on.  These were simple, fresh, authentic tasting, memorable nachos that we would re-eat in a heartbeat.  We wonder, will they ever be topped?

Telegraph Hill: Good Nachos. Stop. Too Expensive. Stop.

15 Jun

Just around the corner from our first Southie review, the little gem named Telegraph Hill is the perfect microcosm of the gentrification of South Boston. A year ago, it was a grubby townie dive where, according to the current owner, no matter which tap your beer was poured from, it originated from one of a row of kegs of Natty Light in the basement.  Now, it has done a complete 180 with a semi-creative draft list and upscale and updated comfort food. The first thing that struck this Nacho Patroller upon entering is how… clean the place looks, all bright lights, big windows and shiny wood. How often can you say that about a bar?

Our waitress was new and wasn’t sure which would be better on these nachos, chili or buffalo chicken, so she kindly suggested a half and half.

  • Appearance: (7) A hill of nachos indeed, but a lot of warm tones.  They might have been better had we ordered guacamole (see below: Price).
  • Quality of Ingredients: (7.6) We loved the homemade chips, which were thin, crispy and delicious.  We enjoyed the chili as well, and we were VERY pleasantly surprised that the buffalo chicken was spicy, well-cooked, and…actually good!
  • Distribution of Toppings:  (7) It’s hard to speak on distribution because of our unconventional order; however, even with only half of the chili there was plenty to go around (we do predict that the nachos with strictly chicken might be a little dry).  The homemade chips held up fairly well to the chili.  There was some weird melting action going on with the cheese– there were pockets of completely unmelted cheese right next to burned chips, which made little sense.
  • Price: (3) Here is where things fall apart.  The basic nachos are $10; if you want chili or chicken it’s an extra $4, guacamole is an extra $2.  We were floored at the idea of $16 nachos– what is this, Game On!? Actually, Game On! was $1 cheaper an five of us nearly killed ourselves trying to finish them.  These were easily demolished by three, with room left over for entrees.  Sure, the quality was good, but we’ve had better and for less.
  • Overall: 24.6/40.  Drop the price a little bit, and these are some high ranking nachos.  Perhaps as this place grows into itself there can be some menu tinkering.  In particular, we would love to see them attempt a real buffalo chicken nacho (with blue cheese, et al.) as we think they might actually be able to pull it off.

Mija Cantina: Not Worth Their Salt

13 Jun

The Boston Nacho News Network (BNNN) is all atwitter today with the news that Jalepenos is closing (the curse of Our House West rears its ugly head…). But with its passing comes another crappy Mexican restaurant–this time in the doldrums of Quincy Market. On first glance, Mija Cantina & Tequila Bar  seemed to be a lovely oasis with a design concept best described by our friend Zach as “pro-tourist salvage-yard neo-mexigoth.” We would have been wise, however, to heed the advice of the many Yelp reviewers who cautioned us to keep clear.

According to our server, Mija opened two weeks ago, but if we didn’t know better, we would assume someone had hauled in a wait staff off the street, forgot to train them, and then opened doors three months early. We didn’t even know where to begin in describing the problems with the service, so we condensed it down into a list:

  • Upon arriving, a nervous looking hostess told us it would be an hour wait for a table of seven. This was Wednesday early evening, and once we pointed to a whole slew of empty tables and told her we would just sit separately, she told us they could push two tables together.
  • While waiting for our table, we noticed numerous waitresses demonstrate an absolute inability to hold a tray.
  • Our waitress could only find one drink menu, and then brought out the wrong beer three times. We asked for a Long Trail IPA–first they served us Bud Light. Twice they brought out Harpoon IPA. We gave up after that.
  • It took five bartenders 22 minutes to serve us two margaritas so bad that we had to send them back.
  • In deference to our vegetarian table-mate, we asked for carnitas to be served on the side of our ‘chos. When the runner put the plate on the table, we saw a distinct pile of meat. Asking him if these had “carnitas on the side,” he quickly said yes and left before we could argue. We would have been grumpy about this until we noticed that the beans had meat built in. Which brings us to the issue of the nachos…
Based on the description on the menu, these nachos had promise: tortilla chips, charro beans (pinto beans with bacon and chorizo) , Monterey jack cheese, chile con queso, pico, crema, guacamole, and carnitas.
  • Appearance: (7.5) Attractive, with an artful drizzle of crema.  Points off for the “on the side” carnitas…
  • Quality: (7) We enjoyed the carnitas and beans; however, the chips were both unevenly cooked and unevenly salted, so much so that there were bites that left us choking and teary-eyed with sodium overdose (and Nacho Patrol LOVES their salt).  The guacamole and salsa were nothing special.
  • Distribution: (7.3) There were a lot of toppings, but overall the dish was heavy, rather than complementary. The unevenly cooked chips only added to the problem as some became incredibly soggy under the weight of all the toppings.
  • Price: (3) The management might think that $13 nachos (and $11 margaritas) are appropriate for the space and location, but we say they simply aren’t worth the trouble of dealing with this establishment.
  • Overall: 24.8/40.  These nachos aren’t bad, but please, don’t go.  This place hasn’t yet earned the right to be in business and we don’t want to encourage them!
We were lucky to share this meal with a small army of food industry professionals, and as they pointed out, a new restaurant needs a competent wait-staff to support it while it builds a reputation. Sadly, Mija’s under-qualified staff and overpriced menu handicapped what could have been a pleasant dining experience. We will be eagerly anticipating the next Mexican restaurant to sweep in on the Tex-Mex tides.