If you're a nacho purist, we suggest you look away
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of nachos is “a tortilla chip topped with melted cheese and often additional savory toppings” like beef, chicken, jalapeños, sour cream, refried beans and so forth. Regardless of our personal definitions, we can all agree on one thing—that nachos are one of the most satisfying foods to snack on until you feel a little ill.
Because today, November 6, is National Nachos Day, we’ve dedicated our attention to the beloved, salty creation. Taking it a step further, we’ve tapped five chefs and restaurants around the country serving regional versions of our favorite comfort food. Think lobster, pulled pork, poke and more untraditional toppings added into the equation for delicious twists.
Grubbing on nachos poolside on Kauai sounds awesome in theory, but in reality, eating hot, cheesy, meaty nachos is a little aggressive for island time—which is the sole reason Jason Sessions, the resort’s director of food and beverage director, created Ahi Poke Nachos for the menu. “The pool deck team continued to request to have nachos on the menu and we decided to create a dish infusing poke into a nacho plate,” he says. “It's a great way for our guest to enjoy nachos and island inspired cuisine simultaneously.” Fresh ahi poke, edamame guacamole, citrus ponzu and wasabi aioli are served on top of wonton chips for the perfect seaside bite.
Chauhan Ale and Masala House: Lamb Keema Papadi Nachos
Nashville chef Maneet Chauhan’s lamb keema papadi nachos are a marriage of Indian street food and Chauhan’s love of nachos, in one vibrant dish. “From the first time I had nachos in college, I was hooked,” she says. “Papadi chaat is an Indian street food and we use papadi chips as the base, which really sets these apart from a corn tortilla chip nacho. The papadi chip has a rich flavor and is covered with an Indian spiced lamb keema, then we use a combination of amul (an Indian cheese) and mozzarella cheese.” Topped off with spiced yogurt sauce, kachumbari (a sort of Indian pico de gallo), a slightly sweet tamarind chutney and a bit of cilantro, it’s a nachos dish that will not soon be forgotten. “The combination of flavors and spices really work together to create a delicious dish meant to be shared, preferably with a good beer.”
Home Team BBQ: BBQ Nachos
A visit to Charleston means a stop at Home Team BBQ for BBQ Nachos. Chef/operating partners Aaron Siegel and Taylor Garrigan are the masterminds behind the creation and believe nachos are a “perfect vehicle to showcase the elevated elements of their cooking techniques in an approachable and fun way that offers bites from ten dishes at once.” It’s a dish made for sharing and entails chips crafted with Home Team’s signature spice rub, three housemade salsas, a combination of sharp cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses, pickled jalapeños, guacamole, crema and chimichurri—plus a generous portion of your meat of choice: pulled pork, smoked chicken chili, pulled chicken or chopped brisket.
El Atoradero: Chilaquiles with Cecina
OK, so this isn't so much an interpretation of nachos, but a well-established dish in its own right. However, we couldn't not include one of our favorite nacho-esque chilaquiles in the country (and it does fit the legal definition of "nachos!"). Hungry diners flock to El Atoradero in Brooklyn for chef Denisse Lina Chavez’s wildly popular chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican breakfast dish. “We nixtamalize blue field corn for fresh tortillas every day,” she says. “The leftover tortillas are fried to make chips, and then the leftover chips are simmered in a tomatillo-based salsa verde to make chilaquiles. Because it comes from mostly leftovers, it is a traditional dish for poorer people to eat.” Chavez prefers to top hers off with fried eggs and cecina, a salted and dried beef.
In Chicago, executive chef Sean Murray took inspiration from his time spent at Yew restaurant, inside Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, where chef Ned Bell served a signature Dungeness crab taco, when coming up with his mouthwatering lobster nachos dish. “We played a little with lobster nachos and I decided to put them on my menu when I moved to Chicago to showcase my love of coastal cooking,” he adds. “The lobster nacho is simple in execution but relies on quality of ingredients and preparation. I love the texture with the crisp fried corn tortilla along with the freshness of the Atlantic lobster, the richness of the avocado and the spicy sour pickled jalapenos—it hits a lot of notes on the palette.”