Tag Archives: New Zealand

2009 Nacho Round-up

10 Jan

Well folks, it’s been quite a year, especially in the world of nachos.  After 12 months, 62 reviews, and approximately 7,428,391 calories, we’re reflecting on our year, and this is what we have found:

Fenway News: After a year and half of dedicated reviewing, we can safely say that there simply aren’t good nachos in the Fenway area. Trust us, we have done the leg work. After our disastrous 2008 review at Beer Works (23), we didn’t have much luck at Lower Depths (27), Cask & Flagon (28), or at Fenway (18) itself. The closest we came was Uno’s (30), and since it’s a chain, we tend to not count it as an independent “Fenway area” bar. In short, stick to hot wings, Bud Light, and street vendors. It’s what Fenway does best.

Boylston News: Avid readers will know that we’ve tackled many of the most famous restaurants on Boylston Street in something we’ve called the five-part Official Boylston Epic. This doesn’t include anything in on Newbury or the surrounding area…not that there’s much going on to mention. To be honest, everything is overshadowed by Pour House (number 1 with 36!), but if we had to recommend others, we’d probably have to go with Whiskey’s (29) and their extra spicy chili and Cactus Club’s (29) super cheesy nachos.

Best “Foreign”: Over the year, our crack team of Foreign Correspondents has circled the globe in hope of finding good nachos. So far…well, take a look for yourself. Apparently, the farther you get from Mexico, the worse they get. The two bright spots have to be Jordan’s (31) Irish Specialty Nachos just outside of Denver University and the Big Four Nachos at Bryant Lake Bowl (30) in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Best Specialty: sometimes, getting away from the typical bar nacho can be an enlightening experience, and after all the great specialty nachos we’ve had this year, we feel practically blissful!

  1. Big City Mediterranean Nachos (34): pita chips covered with spinach and artichoke dip, jack and feta cheese, chopped balsamic tomatoes, kalamata olives, roasted peppers, and hummus on the side. Greek and unique!
  2. Christopher’s Yuppie Nachos (31): sour cream, guacamole, jack and cheddar cheeses, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes. It makes our mouths water just thinking about it!
  3. Jordan’s Irish Nachos (32): kettle-fried potato chips topped with corned beef, swiss cheese, horseradish dijon, tomatoes and scallions. If your nachos aren’t fattening enough, get them with potato chips.

Best bar nachos: Let’s start off first with a definition–bar nachos are any plate with tortilla chips, cheddar cheese (or equivalent), chili or chicken (or similar protein), salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. Maybe some jalapenos and black olives for good measure. That said, we can say unequivocally that Sunset Cantina and Sunset Grill & Tap (35) have the best, most reliably good bar nachos around. With a variety of interesting proteins and an eye for brilliant distribution, we have never been disappointed with Sunset nachos. Our only complaint is the shredded lettuce on top. However, the keenest readers among you will notice that we’ve given Harry’s Bar and Grill (35.5) a higher total score. All we can say is that this score is up for reevaluation after a particularly unpleasant nacho experience we had at the aforementioned bar…Nonetheless, we will leave it up for the time being.

Excellence in Mexicana: no, nachos aren’t Mexican. We’ll admit it…begrudgingly. Nonetheless, 2009 saw some great nachos at Boston’s “Mexican” restaurants. Cantina La Mexicana (32) in Union Square and Cafe Sol Azteca (32) on the edge of Boston University campus may have had tied scores, but we’ve got to give Cantina the number one spot simply for their amazing waitstaff. Still, both restaurants had great foods, great drinks, and a great atmosphere. Viva Mexico!

Best Nachos on a Mediocre Internet Date: Cambridge Common (31). Self explanatory.

Best Nachos with Cheese Sauce: Nachopatrol is divided on the issue of cheese sauce.  Some like it, some hate it, but all came together to hail the Rattlesnake Bar & Grill (28) for their legitimately cheesy, obviously homemade sauce.  Although their sauce tasted from a can, the friendliness and persistence in following our blog that the fine people of JJ Foley’s (also 28) have demonstrated gives them an honorable mention.

Biggest Disappointments/Hall of Shame: Coolidge Corner Clubhouse (21).  After bragging about their nachos, and hearing about them from many others, we were disgusted to find a towering inferno of burned, greasy chips and lackluster toppings. Sometimes we can be accused to bias, but in the case of the CCC, the coffin has been shut, nailed closed, burned, and the ashes buried under six feet of earth. We will never return.

Nacho Patrol of the Year: Every now and then we get on our knees and thank the stars that Border Cafe (32) in Harvard Square exists, so maybe it’s not surprising that most fun we’ve ever had while Nacho Patrolling was at this upbeat, friendly, and always-packed Tex-Mex restaurant. And that’s not just the margs talking! After order $15 worth of dips and sides, we created our own nacho plate, and even got a manager to discuss with us why a Tex-Mex joint doesn’t have nachos. As she explained it, Border only deals in “original” Tex-Mex. We’re still not sure what that means–it must be ego that allows them to call enchiladas and fajitas original. But whatever. It was worth the doubting looks. Bring back Cholula and we’ll be there every day.

Review of the Year: It goes without saying that our favorite review had to be of Nachopalooza ’09. What will become a yearly tradition (and by yearly, we mean weekly), Nachopalooza allowed us to express our nacho love with our 20 closest friends, while drinking jello shots (SPRING BREAK) and taking pictures with our homemade Carson Daly. So, if you’re thinking of hosting your own very classy, very tasty nacho party, read our syllabus.

2009’s Most Controversial Nacho: The review hasn’t been posted yet, but trust us. It will get violent.

Best Comment: This year’s comment award was a tie between Mama S, who hated our blog so much it made her puke and the good people of J.J. Foley’s, who gave us hope that perhaps our reviews will one day change the world of nachos. Unfortunately, Andi was the tie-breaker, and because of a possible conflict of interest (Mama S=her mom), she had to bow out of the race.

Worst: That’s right, these are our worst nachos of the year. Avoid like SARS (or maybe Swine Flu)…

  1. Other Side (17): Technically, The Other Side had a higher score than El Paso and Casa Bonita, but we hate it so much that we gave it the honorable position of #1 Worst Nacho Anywhere in the World. Congrats, you over-rated piece of shit, hipster hell hole.
  2. Casa Bonita (10): The lowest nacho score to date, but no one was expecting much.
  3. El Paso (15): Only slightly better than a poke in the eye.
  4. White Horse (21):  We’re ashamed to admit we even considered this American-cheese monstrosity.
  5. Coolidge Corner Clubhouse (21): A low-down, dirty punch to the aorta.

Top Ten Nachos of 2009:

  1. Harry’s
  2. Sunset
  3. Big City Mediterranean Nachos
  4. Fajita’s and ‘Ritas
  5. Cantina La Mexicana
  6. Sol Azteca
  7. Crossroads
  8. Cambridge Common
  9. Christopher’s Yuppie Nachos
  10. Bryant Lake Bowl
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Metro Cafe and Bar (Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand): Nachos at the Bottom of the World

29 Nov

For today’s adventure, Nacho Patrol headed south. And after heading south, we boarded another plane and headed even more south, and then after that, we drove even farther. While we’re holding out hopes for nachos in Antarctica, this may be as geographically far as one can go to find our favorite dish. For those of you who skipped your New Zealand geography class, the beautifully hilly town of Dunedin can be found here. They’ve got castles and albatross and penguins and the steepest hill in the world and, apparently, a decent plate of nachos…Decent by South Pacific/Commonwealth of Britain standards at least.

  • Appearance: (7.5) for a place that bills itself as a pizza joint (a word to the wise, avoid New Zealand pizza), Dunedin’s Metro Cafe and Bar–located conveniently in the Octagon–sports quite a tasty looking plate of nachos. With a pile of toppings in the middle surrounded by a sea of round chips, these weren’t what we’re used to, but pleasant nonetheless.
  • Distribution: (6.5) Just when we think we’ve seen every method of distribution out there, Metro gave us something a little different–a ring of crispy chips filled with a creamy center of chili, sour cream, and salsa. Acting much more like a dip than a unified arrangement, it worked for us, though there wasn’t nearly enough cheese.
  • Quality: (6) Here’s what interesting/slightly horrifying about New Zealand nachos–instead of using straight corn chips, they use nacho flavored Doritos. Weird, we know. That in itself isn’t too terrible, but after awhile they become overwhelmingly salty, especially when combined with the subtly sweet chili. It wasn’t bad, but it had us grasping blindly for the water glass. FYI, if you’re a dirty, tree-hugging herbivore, they have a vegetarian nacho.
  • Price: (5.5) These nachos came in at about NZD $19 (USD $13.60). Big, filling, and absolutely too much for two people. But still pretty pricey if you want to get drinks and a pizza as well.
  • Overall: 25.5/40

Oh Dunedin, in comparison to some of our other New Zealand/England nacho reviews, you’ve done us proud, even if you are about a ten minute walk from the antarctic.

Auckland’s Mexican Cafe: Where Tex-Mex Meets Hazy Cultural Insensitivity

9 Aug

MexicancafeWhen the Mexican Cafe in Auckland claims to offer the “experience [of] real Mexican food,” we suspect that they in fact mean the “experience of only half-way acceptable Tex-Mex and overpriced drinks served in a kitschy and utterly stereotyped atmosphere.” The designers of Epcot Center’s Mexico exhibit–complete with Mayan temple and a river ride–would be jealous of this place. With vibrant colors highlighting the walls, overflowing crepe paper, Christmas lights, a large tile mosaic, and the extensive collection of Mexican airport souvenirs, this place looks to have fallen out of a mariachi band’s closet. Yes, the atmosphere wins the Mexican Cafe points, and we’ve been told by at least two drunk people that the 11pm Friday salsa dancing is choice, but unfortunately we can’t say the same about the nachos.

Note: Mexican Cafe offers four (4!!!) types of nachos, ranging in price from $11.50 to $20 (all prices in NZD). In Nacho Patrol style, we went for the upper echelon, the Extra Special Nachos:

  • Appearance: (6) we’ve heard that New Zealand is a very green country, and these nachos were no exception. Riddled with lettuce (alas the day!), guacamole, and cilantro, Mexican Cafe nachos were like a taco salad with extra chips. The sea of sour cream certainly didn’t help the cause, though we did appreciate the sprinkle of color offered by the tomatoes.
  • Quality of toppings: (7) the quality just barely ekes by as the strong suit in this review. Good, if a little underwhelming, guac, accented by the freshness of the tomatoes and the cilantro. We also felt some affinity for the “mild tomato based sauce” (a salsa stand-in?), and if you like your beef to taste like it came from a 99 cent Shaws taco mix (and we do), then you’re in luck. Think ground Taco Bell meat, but only slightly higher quality. The chips, on the negative side, were generally unpleasant–greasy and not properly salted–nor can remember much about the beans, onions, or cheese. Probably for the following reason…
  • Distribution: (5) we wanted to give distribution a higher rating, but unfortunately we were too busy scouring the plate for some small speck of cheese. The lettuce, guac, and sour cream played their parts well, blending together to coat the plate in a viscous, pale green mess. How appetizing. Yet there we found perhaps one measly strand of clear cheese. While not nearly so MIA, but still sadly lacking, we also had trouble finding these mythical beans the menu touted. There might have been three. Four would be pushing it. Not like it mattered–they didn’t taste like anything anyway.
  • Price: (2) we actually wanted to take points off for price, but since we’re feeling generous and giddy from a day of hiking, we decided to settle for the second lowest price score Nacho Patrol has ever awarded (it’s hard to beat El Paso’s woeful score of 1). Mexican Cafe charges an even $20 (USD $13.40) for chicken or beef “Extra Special Nachos,” which are handily finished by one person. Factor in credit card fees and the suddenly rising exchange rate, and this particular plate left a sizable dent in our New Zealand nacho budget (which we can assure you is ample).
  • Overall: 20/40. We really wanted these nachos to be successful. After all, this is THE place to go in Auckland for Mexican food. Yet in the end, all our prayers at the alter Our Lady of Guadeloupe proved to be naught, leaving us to conclude that one should come to the Mexican Cafe for the salsa dance and leave shortly thereafter.

MexiCafeMargOn side note, and one of interest to Smasharita, don’t waste your money on the margaritas. In fact, don’t waste your money at any bar in the Auckland area because they more than likely are giving you half-shots and watering down the liquor. NSD $13 for the Sunshine Margarita which, while refreshing, was just about as weak as dishwater and tasted vaguely like fresh cut grass. Border Cafe, oh HOW WE MISS YOU!