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The Great Nacho Competition

Okay, it wasn't scientific, and our restaurant choices were random and left a lot of places out, but it was fun for us and will give you a brief guide next time you have a craving.

We arbitrarily chose five spots to compare their nachos. Because one really shouldn't be enjoyed without the other, we also rated margaritas. Extremely precise ratings were based on a point system: 0=bad, 1=meh, 2-yay, with the total points giving final rating. We gave ratings to:

 

  • Chips (did they hold up to the toppings?)
  • Salsa (flavor, texture)
  • Guacamole (flavor, made on site, fresh, if they had tomatoes were they fresh?) We always add a
    side order to whatever comes with the nachos. We're addicts.
  • Ground beef (we thought it best to stick to one protein, but it turned out to be impossible)
  • Beans (whole, refried, did beans seem to be rinsed, i.e., were there aftereffects?)
  • Cheese (quantity, meltability, more than one type?)
  • General (were nachos hot all the way through, other miscellaneous thoughts)
  • Service (did they brings chips and salsa first, did they bring extra plates and napkins?)
  • Margarita (flavor, we like on the rocks, no salt) ElL_
  • Extras (any ingredients beyond the usual)
  • Price (we didn't rate price, we're just noting it down for you)

El Gabacho at El Borracho

Unbeknownst to us, El Borracho has gone 100% plant based on their food. Their Tacoma location opened plant based, and they moved downtown and Ballard to plant based. You can add impossible beef (we did), jackfruit cochinitas, al pastor (smoky-sweet tofu and pineapple made from non-GMO soybeans), ancho chile adobo seitan steak, chipotle potato, tajin-dusted shrymp. This, at least, is what their website says. We didn't see this many options on the menu in Ballard. We felt the texture of the impossible beef was okay but had no real flavor. There was a decent amount on the nachos. Nachos were sort of warm.

Photo courtesy of El Borracho

They use Juanita's Tortilla chips and they held up fairly well. Salsa and chips were not offered before we ordered so we asked for some salsa. It had a bite, but no real flavor. Guacamole was super spicy and was made from organic avocados. They offer a choice of refried or black beans.

They don't use cheese, they put queso on the nachos. It had no flavor.

Some add-ons they do automatically are pico de gallo, pickled jalapeño, black olives. The pico had no real flavor. Sour cream was spread throughout, as opposed to dolloped on top.

We tried "Tom's special margarita" (Hornitos Reposado and Cointreau) and it was done well. Their tamarind margarita had a slight bite, but the cinnamon-sugar rim toned it down; it was good.

Price: $12 for basic nachos. Guacamole 2 ounce $3, 6 ounce $8.

Point total = 9

El Borracho:

Pike Place Market, 1521 1st Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98101, 206-538-0144

Ballard, 5465 Leary Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107, 206-8299-9844

Tacoma, 2717 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98406, 253-314-5286


Laredos

Usually a pretty happening place, Laredo's is even busier during happy hour. In our second nacho outing, we again could not get ground beef (we thought it would be so common!). You can add al pastor, barbacoa, carnitas, chicken tinga, chile con carne, grilled chicken, carne asada. Again, lots of choice on the website; we didn't see this many on the menu. We chose the carne asada which was okay. A little fatty, but it did have flavor and was in small chunks. Nachos stayed warm almost to the end.

Photo courtesy of Laredos

Laredo's chips were crisp almost to the end of our gorging. Chips plus red and green salsa were brought automatically to the table. The salsa had some heat, but not too much, and had a nice thickness due to a slurry of tomatoes. Good flavor. No tomatoes in the guacamole (which we prefer); it had a subtle bite/heat and good flavor. Refried beans formed the base of the nachos; they probably were not rinsed.

White cheese only and it was fine.

They put both crema, sour cream, and pico de gallo on the nachos. We asked for the pico on the side, but it would have been a better plan to let them put it on as they usually do.

We tried "Tom's special margarita" and it was done well. Their house margarita was okay, and a frozen avocado margarita was quite good.

Price: $12.99 for basic nachos. All protein add-ons were $3. A small additional guac was $2, their homemade guac side was quite small and was $8.99.

Point total = 18

Laredos

555 Aloha Street, Seattle, WA 98109, 206-218-1040.


Las Brisas, Edmonds

Las Brisas uses locally-sourced, grass-fed, grain-finished beef (ground beef!); antibiotic-and hormone-free beef and pork, and organically-raised chicken. We didn't see ground beef on the menu, but when we asked for it, they had it. The beef had good flavor. Warmth of nachos was fine.

Photo courtesy of Las Brisas

Chips were stacked, not layered, which was fine and they held up to the toppings for a while. Warm chips and salsa were brought to the table automatically. The salsa was quite good and you could taste fresh cilantro. Had a nice thickness, sticking well to the chips. The guacamole lacked flavor; we added salt and pepper at the table. Beans were refried and had a gray tone to them, which was disconcerting.

White cheese only, good amount, good meltability.

They brought extra plates to the table with the nachos.

Tom's special margarita was very good and quite strong. Their non-alcoholic margarita was a little bland, however they put a chili and salt mixture on the rim that made it pop.

Basic nachos were $14. Ground beef add on was $1. Menu says chicken is $1 also, but we noted that the chicken was more. Extra side of guacamole was $8 and it was a good (normal) amount.

Point total = 14

Las Brisas, Edmonds

201 5th Ave S, Ste 1, Edmonds, WA 98020, 425-672-5050


Cactus, South Lake Union

South Lake Union is another seriously busy place during happy hour (and most other times - it was packed when we went for brunch one day). You can add ancho chicken, house made chorizo, or skirt steak. We went chorizo; it was good and had nice flavor. Chips and salsa do not come automatically, you need to order them and there is a charge. Chips were thin and crispy. The salsa had plenty of body, great flavor. It was very fresh tasting. Guacamole came with pico de gallo on top of a mound of what seemed to be simple avocado. The amount of guac on the nachos was very small. The guac was good and fresh, but not full of flavor. Nothing great, nothing bad. They do not add any beans to their nachos. Ingredients were hot the whole time we were eating. There was cheese on the bottom along with some chorizo, then more layers instead of just stacked.

Photo courtesy of Cactus

One type of cheese and there was not a ton of it, but they have the amount down just right. Tasted good.

They brought extra plates for us. Some non-usual items included black olives, buttermilk crema, roasted corn, pico, and tomato salsa.

Their prickly pair margarita was quite good, the classic was nothing special.

Nachos are $13.50. Chicken and chorizo are another $5, and $8 for skirt steak. Chips and salsa to start are $4. The side of guacamole was $8.50 and it was a good amount.

Point total = 16-1/2

Cactus Restaurants

South Lake Union, 350 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA, 98109, 206-913-2250

Alki Beach, Bellevue Square, Kirkland, Madison Park, Proctor


The Matador, Ballard

The Matador uses all-natural products including carne, pollo, carnitas, and seafood. They are serious about tequila, so be prepared to spend some time on the bar menu. They make food that tastes a little like Mexico and a little like the local area, so don't expect a "typical" Mexican experience. To nachos, you can add shredded chicken, carnitas, chorizo, beef picadillo, carne asada, or Beyond Picadillo. We chose beef picadillo and liked the flavor. Chips were thin, crispy, and stacked high. As we worked our way through, they got a little soggy. Chips and salsa were not brought to the table automatically. We ordered their side of guacamole, green salsa, and pico de gallo. The salsa has a different flavor than most places, and it's good. Nonetheless, we dumped the pico into it and liked it more. No tomatoes in the guac; it's pretty much avocado, cilantro, and a little cotija on top. Black beans, pico de gallo, and cilantro-lime sour cream are part of the deal; there was some layering of ingredients, but most were on top, and it was a big stack of chips.

Photo courtesy of The Matador

Both cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese are used and it was a good amount (considering how many chips there were, maybe some more could have been added, but it was a "normal" amount).

Extra plates and forks and knives were brought with the nachos.

We tried four different margaritas here: Cadillac (with Tom's special requests), Bartender's, Blood Orange, and Top Shelf. All were good, with some reservation on the Blood Orange.

Nachos are $11, with chicken, carnitas, chorizo, and beef picadillo an extra $3. Carne asada and Beyond Picadillo are $4.50. A side of guacamole with green salsa and pico de gallo (and nice presentation) is $10. Chips and salsa are $3. If you're craving nachos, remember that Matador is known for their happy hour nachos - the same huge plate for $6 instead of $11, plus you can add the house chorizo for $2 instead of $3.

Point total = 16-1/2

The Matador

5410 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107, 206-297-2855

Redmond, Tacoma, West Seattle, NW Portland, SE Portland, Meridian & Boise Idaho.


Things to note:

  1. Often websites and menus don't quite match, so you may not know exactly what options you have and what the prices are until you get there.
  2. Our point system brought out something interesting.
  •  The lowest points given was in fact given to the nachos we liked least.
  •  Our second lowest rating went to a place we've always thought has great nachos. Has something changed there? We don't know, but we weren't as impressed as before.
  •  We had a tie with 16-1/2 points to Matador and Cactus, and our high score went to Laredos. Interestingly, the nachos we both agreed were the best were from Cactus, which tied for second. We can only say that in each category, Laredos seemed to be the best, but the overall dish wasn't. We liked Cactus best because they didn't add beans which kept chips crispier. Although thin and crispy, the chips held up to the toppings (again, didn't have to work with those beans). Their salsa was definitely our favorite. They lost ½ point on their Classic margarita, which doesn't have anything to do with nacho flavors. And they have plenty of other margarita options.

Seattle DINING!/April 2022


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