Nothing tastes better after a crushing bar trivia defeat than a steaming plate of nachos. This week, we’re stuffing our faces at Clarke’s in Faneuil Hall.
Before we begin the review, we need to make a brief statement regarding the Clarke’s Boston website. Presenting possibly the most awkward and/or brilliant marketing move we’ve seen in awhile, the website proudly proclaims itself “the” bar in Boston to meet people. And how does a Faneuil Hall bar achieve a favorable balance between the genders? By proclaiming via prominent website banner they have the largest and cleanest ladies rooms in Boston! Clarke’s, you have our attention…We did a hasty Google search and discovered that no one has formally reviewed this statement, so you’ve read it here first:
According to one Nacho Patroller, the ladies room wasn’t anything to write home about, though the stalls were large enough that you didn’t have crawl over the toilet to close the door (ladies, you know what we mean). One of our guest patrollers also commented that the bathrooms appeared clean, but thanks to the dark colored tile, could be secretly filthy. We would post a picture, but we didn’t want to be “those girls” taking photos in the ladies room. So, we suppose a guarded “well done” is deserved. But this isn’t Bathroom Patrol (add that to the list of blogs to write after we’ve eaten all the nachos in Boston). On to the ‘chos.
- Appearance: (8) It was generally agreed at our table that these nachos were some variation of “b-e-a-utiful” or “ha-uuuuge.” While the presentation was on the sloppy side, the mouthwatering display of cheddar cheese, grilled chicken, jalepenos, fresh tomatoes and green onions, and multicolor chips left us ready to dig in.
- Distribution: (9) At first glance, we thought distribution would be a problem. Typically when we see that much cheese atop a plate of nachos, it means that there won’t be much left in the under-layers. This was absolutely not a problem here: the cheese was layered all the way to the bottom, with just enough crispy chips left unsoaked to use for dipping. These nachos had both chicken and cheese. Our one complaint is that the scant quantity of chili was hidden in the middle, requiring a bit of excavation.
- Quality: (6.1) Good flavors on the whole, but nothing to get us excited. The chicken was moist, but not especially flavorful. Chili was generic, but tasted homemade. Salsa was great!
- Price: (7.1) We toyed with the idea of getting the $25 nacho platter, but we’re glad we stuck with the well portioned $12 plate. The smaller size was enough for an appetizer for four people. $10 would have been a more reasonable price, so we assume that extra $2 went to the Faneuil Hall Atmosphere Fund.
- Overall: 30.2/40
A strong showing from a bar we all but discounted because it happened to be down the street from Hong Kong Faneuil Hall. Just when we’d all but written off Faneuil Hall…
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?
Zuma Tex-Mex Grill is an easy place to forget. We consider ourselves fairly adept when it comes to the Tex-Mex joints in the Boston area, so we were shocked to discover that Zuma’s had slipped under our radar for so long. Call us idiots, but we’re willing to bet you didn’t know about this place either. Located in the basement of one of the long retail buildings abutting Quincy Market, we were inclined to forgive Zuma’s the musty smell, the dank atmosphere, and the decorative can of Manwich, when we saw the sign for $15 pitchers of margaritas. In the abyss of Faneuil Hall tourist traps, we thought we might have found a little slice of Nacho Patrol heaven. And while these nachos did present some very creative distribution, we can’t say we’ll be going back for seconds any time soon.
- Appearance: (4) We were generally underwhelmed by the muted tones of this plate. Even the tomatoes and lettuce seemed sad. The chicken, cheese, chips, and pinto beans bended together in a wash of beige and orange. Quick–somebody grab the Cholula! (Don’t worry…They keep it on the table! Take that Border Cafe!)
- Distribution: (9) We’re clearing out a new page in the Nacho Patrol Book of Distribution (in between the Book of Hot Sauce and the Book of Dive Bars) and saving it specially for Zuma’s. Instead of using chips, the ingredients were sandwiched between two large, flat tortilla shells, which were then doused in a heavy coating of cheese and beans and then baked till melty. The whole mess was then cut into triangular portions, perfect for team consumption. We might liken it to Taco Bell‘s infamous Mexican Pizza. The slices were finally arranged around a nest of pico, lettuce, and sour cream to create a successful and unique presentation. Not one chip was sparse, though we did take off a point since we would have liked the salsa on top rather than on the side.
- Quality: (3) There’s not much in terms of quality that we liked. The chicken was flavorless and the beans came straight from a can. The tomatoes were overly ripe and there is almost never an occasion to put lettuce on nachos. On the upside, we did enjoy the globs of cheese.
- Price: (6) $7.99 is a fairly reasonable price, but quality and serving size seemed to suffer as a result. In this case, it is certainly true that you get what you pay for.
- Overall: 22/40
Next time we’re at Zuma’s just give us the can of Manwich.