Nachos have been slightly ignored because of their cousin, the taco, stealing the limelight. But nachos, like tacos, burgers, pizza, and sushi, deserve the same recognition as these other high-profile, meme-worthy meals. Nachos are equally as diverse, and while we do not name all the nacho styles – like the Irish nachos or other fry-nacho interpretations – here are a few staples and where to find them around town.
Bar nachosBar nachos are likely to be found on every American-style Durango bar’s appetizer menu. Bar nachos are pretty standard. They usually have the same generic chips (the downside of bar nachos), some mild cheese, seasoned meat, sour cream, guac, salsa, and subtle variations, such as black olives or jalapenos.
But Carver Brewing Co. (1022 Main Ave.) elevates the standard. Carver’s nachos, with a price tag of $11, are made with corn tortilla chips, steak, Hatch green chilies, chipotle sauce, pico de gallo, cilantro lime sour cream sauce, and a side of house-made salsa. But the reason we love Carver’s nachos so much is their superior take on the most important nacho ingredient: the cheese. It’s a melty sauce, which means not a single chip is safe from the molten gold. (A bare chip is the first sign that there is something wrong with your nachos.)
“I call it our cheese sauce,” said chef Dave Cuntz, who makes the cheese from scratch. “(It’s made with) a good white cheddar melting cheese, garlic, heavy cream, and some love.”
Cuntz says it is served best with either a Big Bike Double IPA to balance with the chipotle and the heat, or the Illuminator Doppelbock, which pairs well with the savory steak and cheese.
Taqueria nachosThese are the Mexican-style nachos that usually come with black or pinto beans, meat such as carne asada or carnitas, fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, and crema. Operations manager for Zia Taqueria, Carly Van Hof Thomson, said what makes the perfect nachos is a solid foundation: the chips.
Freshly-made salty chips are what make taqueria nachos stand out in a nacho lineup. They are typically far better quality than the red and blue chips you will find in bastardized versions of nachos.
Zia Taqueria’s (3101 Main Ave. and 400 S. Camino Del Rio) chips are made with Ute Mountain white corn, Colorado sunflower oil, and Utah sea salt, and are topped with a blend of Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses. Customers can customize their nachos with meat, veggies, beans, rice, salsas, sauces, and other accoutrements. Prices range from $6 to $9.
“A couple of scoops of guacamole always makes everything better,” Van Hof Thomson said.
You can also find customizable taqueria nachos at Nini’s (552 Main Ave.). Prices start at $9.
Barbecue nachosThe barbecue nacho is the equivalent of white sauce pizza. It’s not traditional, but it has its place. Plus, it’s good to mix it up once in a while. This Southern interpretation of the nacho usually comes with meat, such as pulled pork or steak, on top of traditional bar-style chips with cheese.
T’s Smokehouse (3 Depot Place) nachos come with fresh-cooked chips, cheddar cheese, pulled pork, sour cream, and jalapenos. It seems unnatural to dip a tortilla chip into barbecue sauce, but the meat is what makes this unorthodox act OK. Chef and owner of T’s, Chris Martin, said the key to barbecue nachos is the meat. Try a plate at T’s for $8, or $6 during happy hour, from 3-5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and all day Sunday.
Gas Station nachosThe gas station nacho, stadium nacho, and movie theater nacho are essentially all the same. The perks to gas station nachos are the cheese sauce and the ability to dip – although smothering gas station nachos is completely valid. This is unlike the strange act of smothering-versus-dipping fries in ketchup, thus cooling the hot spuds and turning the plate into a starchy crime scene. Unlike the fry-ketchup scenario, one could argue that un-smothered nachos are not even nachos at all, but for convenience purposes, it is nice to be able to dip.
The downsides to gas station nachos are the inevitable heartburn and the potential for foodborne illnesses. But for $1.99 at the Exxon on 1517 Co Road (the only Exxon in Durango that serves nachos) it’s hard to complain.
— Jessie O’BrienDGO Staff Writer