Tag Archives: Sangria

Charley’s Eating and Drinking Saloon: Rime of the Ancient Westerner

8 Jul

Scenic Newbury Street. Now that summer has descended upon us, we love settling down in one of the fine outdoor restaurant patios that line Boston’s famous shopping district and basking in the cool breeze of car exhaust. Charley’s has been on our sights for years now, and in preparation for relocation to Somerville, we thought it time to close the book on some of our long-standing nacho holdouts. We were impressed by the chic, yet casual atmosphere at Charley’s, and though the drink list was a little pricy, we had no problem finding an appropriate beverage to keep at bay the subtle heat still lingering at sundown.

  • Appearance: (9) Quite colorful and cheesy, with a lovely dab of guacamole on top and a ramekin of salsa on the side.  We couldn’t wait to dig in!
  • Quality of Ingredients: (6.4) In our first bites, we detected a distinct, puzzling flavor in the cheese.  Slightly off, slightly processed…could it be the dreaded American Cheese Menace?? We nibbled and pondered and conferred with our waitress, who assured us that it was actually monterey jack.  If it indeed was, then it was Industrial Monterey Jack Cheese Product #5 (TM), for it left us with a distinct reminiscence for elementary school cafeterias.  Furthermore, the guacamole was INCREDIBLY salty, so much so that it absolutely had to have been a mistake by the chef. Though we loved the chili, tomatoes, green onions, and salsa, we couldn’t get past the burning aura of salty guac which devastated everything it touched.
  • Distribution of Toppings: (8) Though we weren’t wild about the cheese, there was a lot of it, and if there is one universe rule of Nacho Patrolling, it is that lots of cheese somehow makes even the worst cheese better. There was also a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on how you look at it) glob of chili, and a well-proportioned quantity of the fresh stuff (tomatoes and green onions). We would have, however, liked the cheese to have spent a little more time on the chips and slightly less melting to the plate. And the salsa was good enough that it could have been distributed on top rather than relegated to a too-small-for-dipping ramekin.
  • Price: (8) At $9.75 with chili, these are a solid investment in your fat rolls. May we recommend the sangria as a pleasant refreshment to counteract the salt lick guac.
  • Overall: 31.4/40

Zocalo Cocina Mexicana: Parental Patrol

27 Dec

Of all the many, many reasons we have an epic, undying love for nachos, perhaps most importantly of all, nachos bring people together.  They are the quintessential sharing food, as it is difficult and often inadvisable to eat nachos alone.  Nacho reviewing is the perfect activity to engage in with old friends, new friends, or with one with whom one wishes to become more than friends.  It is especially good to engage in with parents, as it can provide needed conversational respite from all those pesky questions about your “future” and and “job prospects”, in addition to making you seem like you’ve done something with your life since you at least have your own URL.  Yes, a nachos were definitely in the cards when 2/5 of our parents (you do the math) rolled into town for Christmas.  But no ordinary nachopatrol would do: these people are card-carrying members of the extra-virgin-olive-oil, baby-arugula-and-heirloom-tomato, artisanal-goat-cheese-drizzled-with-balsamic-reduction club.  There is no way they would be cool slumming it at the Pour House, no matter how cheesy the nachos.  So, we set out to find some upper-crust, high-fallutin’ nachos to share!

Enter Zocalo Cocina Mexicana.  Conveniently located just a short walk from Nacho Patrol World Headquarters, Zocalo is a bright, colorful restaurant peppered with wacky Oaxacan statues.  On top of their fantastic margaritas, multiple varieties of sangria, and downright delicious food, Zocalo offers tableside preparation of guacamole and ceviche, which is an opportunity not to be missed.  Yes, for a mere $8.50, a burly man will wheel his cart over to your table and make short work of limes, chili, and more avocados than you would like to think you can ingest, then present it to your table in a giant stone crock.  ¡Shazam!  We also went for the Nachos Supremo, with steak:

  • Appearance: ( 8 )A bright kaleidoscope of colors and textures, a little lacking in the green but that could be helped by a little guacamole.  We did notice that some of the cheese did not seem to be completely melted…
  • Quality of Ingredients: (8 ) The chips, the same ones brought out in a complimentary basket with salsa, were just OK…it was hard to tell if they were house made or not.  The beef, on the other hand, was delicious, in little chunks of tender steak.  Black beans and pico de gallo added nice little pops of flavor.  The jalapenos were actually edible for us gringos, and added a nice spicy flavor.
  • Distribution of Toppings: (6) The cheese could definitely have been melted more, which would have added a little extra glue to keep the toppings on the chips.  Overall, because they didn’t have chili, these were a rather dry nacho, but the flavor of the ingredients more than made up for it.  There was no layering, but these were rather flat, and we could use the naked chips underneath to scoop up the extra toppings.
  • Price: (9) At only $8.50 (with steak!), these nachos are a steal, especially for this restaurant.  Not too huge, but they make up for it in taste.
  • Overall: 31.  A pretty darn good nacho, but not as delicious or exciting as many of the other items on the menu.  Still, mission accomplished, parents impressed!

Fajitas and ‘Ritas: Food for Thought

30 Aug

In the desert of overpriced, overtouristed downtown dining destinations, Fajitas and ‘Ritas is a welcome oasis of cheap, purposely tacky goodness. Bright Mexican-themed murals cover the walls, the tables are covered with butcher paper for easy cleanup, and the menu…well, it is unlike anything we have ever seen before. If a sushi menu and Massachusetts RMV form #837-B ran off to Mexico to have a love child, this is what it would resemble. Rather than having a waitress verbally take the order, this fine dining establishment provides each table with a form listing the entire menu, drinks and all; you simply check off the things you want, and the waitress takes it to the kitchen. It is even made of carbon paper, so that one copy is left at the restaurant and another can be taken home with you. In the case of the nachos, the base of chips and cheese is provided, and you choose what toppings you would like to include by circling them on a list. Mad with our newfound power, we went a little crazy…

Nacho plate #1 consisted of chicken, refried beans, guacamole and black olives:


After thoroughly enjoying this plate, (and with the relief of a third reviewer coming to join), we decided to throw our hats into the ring for round #2: Steak and chili.

  • Appearance: (9)Cheesy deliciousness all over the place, with barely a chip or topping poking through. A massive glop of guacamole and the black olives added a nice touch of color to the first plate. Like a cool pool on a hot summer day, we wanted to dive right in.
  • Quality of Ingredients: (9) Almost all of the toppings were very high quality. Both the steak and the chicken were tender, moist and deliciously seasoned. The refried beans and chili could have definitely held their own as the central ingredient of the nacho plate. The cheese stayed melty and inviting until the very end. Even the guac, though clearly not homemade, was fresh and zesty. The chips were the biggest downfall: A bit too dense, and lacking in full-bodied flavor.
  • Distribution of Toppings: (7) The sheer volume of cheese covering both plates of nachos made a low distribution score nigh impossible. Still, there was little effort put into layering: it was just chips under toppings under cheese. Whether through foresight or stinginess, these nachos were relatively flat, making multiple layers welcome but not essential.
  • Price: (8) Chips and cheese started at $3.10, with each topping incurring an additional cost. These, for the most part, were pretty reasonably priced, and while we don’t remember exactly how much each plate cost, the total for two not-insignificant plates of nachos and a liter of sangria came to $30. Amen to that!
  • Overall: 33/40. Aside from being delicious, these nachos got us thinking, about choice, free will, and their effect on both the human condition and on nachos. Never, aside from our own attempts at nacho construction, have we had such free reign over the content of our nachos. It is illuminating to have all of one’s choices presented in bullet points with relative prices attached; it makes one realize just what is important in nachos. While we enjoy tomatoes, we decided to skip them and the corresponding additional $0.95 in lieu of other things. The same went for sour cream, jalapenos, etc. Were these nachos better off for that? It is difficult to say. Non-essential does not imply non-beneficial; while we may not particularly enjoy many of the things on our nachos, sometimes it takes their absence to really appreciate them. These nachos were a wonderful, worthwhile, memorable event; but they did remind us that often, in nachos as in life, it is not reaching the ultimate goal so much as the details of the journey that make it so grand.