Playa Azul in San Francisco, CA: Wish They All Could Be California Cho’s…

28 May

Big news in Nacho Patrol land!

  1. Founding Patroller SmAsh recently got hitched to a lovely gentleman, who among many other wonderful qualities, was fully behind them serving a Mexican buffet at their wedding. This led to:
  2. The first reunion of the entire founding Nacho Patrollers in several years, in:
  3. California, our 11th state to nacho review in!

Seeing as we were in one of the most famous seafood cities in the world, San Francisco, we went in search of something that has long intrigued us: seafood nachos.  We found them at Playa Azul, a lovely, inexpensive Mexican joint on Mission Street.  We highly recommend this place if you are looking for fresh Mexican seafood, but must warn anyone with a fear of mariachi bands to stay far away. The “Nachos Playa Azul”, which you can order by the half-dozen or dozen (a first), come with beans, cheese, crab ceviche, shrimp, sour cream and avocado.

  • Appearance: (9) Now those are some loaded chips!  Each one resembled a miniature pizza slice, with a layer of melted cheese and the toppings piled high. The pink shrimp, gooey melted cheese, and verdant salad/avocado center presented a stunning sight.
  • Quality of Ingredients: (10) The seafood was the main feature here, and it was excellent.  The shrimp were well cooked and the crab ceviche was delicious. We, who hate lettuce on nachos, even loved the greens in the middle, which were a combination of arugula and spinach and very lightly dressed.
  • Distribution of Toppings:  (9) While one could not complain about naked chips here, we did wish that the avocado had already been stacked on the chips, instead of in the center where we had to apply it ourselves.
  • Price: (8) At $17.49 for a dozen (that’s $1.46 per chip for those of you playing along at home), these are a  worthwhile splurge.
  • Overall: 36/40.  These are some of the best, most interesting specialty nachos we’ve ever had.  Between this and the amazing nachos at Peso’s Kitchen in Seattle, we have to wonder– are we on the wrong coast??

Regina Pizzeria: The Great Cheese Flood of 2012

10 Apr

Despite the fact that nachos are about as far from Italian cuisine as you can get, the Boston Italian Restaurant Industrial Complex continues to test the barriers of Tex Mex, with Nacho Patrol ready and willing to serve (or as usually is the case, be served). In our last post we chronicled our myriad attempts to find good Italian nachos, culminating in a delicious trip to Ducali Pizza. This time, we’re at Regina Pizzeria in Allston (formerly The Sports Depot), where if the cheese doesn’t kill you, the terror of the commuter rail flying by your head just might.

Regina Nachos: Corn tortilla chips piled high with melted Pepper Jack and Mozzarella cheese, Regina sausage, tomatoes, chopped red onions, black olives and sliced hot cherry peppers.  Garnished with sour cream and guacamole.

  • Appearance: (7) In our three and a half years of eating nachos, we have never seen this much cheese. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but there is actually an ocean of cheese on that plate. A Mexiterranean Ocean of cheese. In theory, a glut of cheese should be delicious, but in practice it’s not exactly aesthetically pleasing. It consumed the tomatoes, olives, and onions, drenching the chips and obscuring the lovely painted plate. Luckily, the guac and sour cream were on the side, else we’d have a downright mess on our hands!
  • Distribution: (7) We thought we’d never say this, but there was too much cheese. Side effects of Too Much Cheese include soupiness, chip drenching, cheese sweats, soggy chips, and watching years of your life disappear. We appreciated that the cheese completely ensnared the other toppings creating perfectly proportioned bites.
  • Quality: (8) In deference to our vegetarian allies, these nachos were sans sausage or chicken, but our friend who ordered a side of sausages said they were delicious. For the most part, the other toppings were average–the guac, tomatoes, olives, and chives were nothing special. The peppers were a nice touch, not too spicy, but a pleasant kick of flavor. The real delight was the mix of Pepper Jack and Mozzarella, combining to make the whole plate taste like pizza (See…these are Italian nachos!), and as we all know, pizza is what Regina does best.
  • Price: (7) You can get the basic nachos (as listed above) for $10. For an additional $5 you can add buffalo chicken. $10 is average for the area, matching the cost of the former Sport’s Depot nachos, but we find the concept of $5 chicken so offensive that we’re knocking them down another point.
  • Overall: 29/40. We loved the flavors and passion with which the cook layered on the cheese, but ultimately these nachos suffered from too much of a yummy thing.

Do we risk getting whacked if we keep writing average-to-negative nacho reviews of North End hot spots?

Ducali Pizza: Nachos for the Pizza Inclined, or Vice Versa

28 Mar

This week, we dip our toe once more into the deceptively turbulent waters of Italian Nachos.  We’ve had mediocre ones at Anchovies in the South End, a delicious-if-not-quite-strictly-Italian version at Vito’s Tavern, and a rather disastrous attempt at making our own (and we’d prefer to just never again discuss what happened when we actually ate nachos in Italy).  When we heard that Ducali Pizza in the North End had a their own version, the “Nachos Italiano”, we had to give it a try as well.

Despite its proximity to the bromageddon that is the North Station area, we found Ducali to be pleasantly empty the evening we popped in (be sure to check the Garden schedule in advance before making a trip). Along with beers from their small but varied list, we made a beeline for the aforementioned nachos, described as “Pizza dough chips baked with mozzarella cheese, hot pepper and salami, served with a spicy tomato sauce.”

  • Appearance: (8) Yet another in our occasional series, “These don’t look very much like nachos at all.”  But boy did they look tempting…
  • Quality of Ingredients: (8) The crisp flatbread “chips”, dusted with parmesan, were quite tasty. We equally enjoyed the house-pickled peppers and the salami slices.  There was disagreement over whether the tomato sauce was accurately billed as “spicy”, as half of us found it rather bland.  In the end, all of the ingredients were on par with what you would find on a well-made pizza…just in different forms.
  • Distribution of Toppings: (7) While the presentation was visually appealing, it led to the cheese running to the end of all the chips. There was also a layer of a few chips underneath it all that had no cheese whatsoever.  The chips were so tasty on their own though, that we didn’t mind all that much, and they were perfect for scooping up the marinara sauce. Overall, the moderate cheese coating and sauce on the side led to an overall drier nacho experience than we typically prefer.
  • Price: (9) At $8 these were very reasonably priced for their quality, and split between two people, a good half of a meal.
  • Overall: 32/40.  These nachos are the best “authentic” Italian nachos we have encountered in Boston (so, better than Anchovies).  We recommend making a trip, but if you are going to partake bring some friends and make sure you leave room for their excellent pizza!