Last night I stopped by the Red Bull Snowscrapers big air event. Unfortunately it was somewhat miserable. I stood in man-made snow for an hour and felt like I was on the verge of getting frostbite, perhaps because my footwear would have been more appropriate for a game of indoor soccer than gallivanting in an ice field. On the plus side, the faux-mountain vibe and extreme cold got me in the mood to eat some nachos. So, every cloud…
Driven by the desire to A) get inside as quickly as possible and B) watch the Lakers-Celtics game, we ended next to my friend’s apartment at the Sixth Ward on Orchard and Houston. I sort of assumed the name referred to the neighborhood in New Orleans, and I wondered to myself, “Does New Orleans have good nachos? Moreover, has anyone ever made jambalaya nachos?” I have no idea, but I trust that Nacho Hunters will find out eventually.
Anyways, it turns out the bar takes its name from an Irish district in old Manhattan, which sort of explains everything that happened next. Irish bars and mediocre nachos have long been bedfellows, but once in a while the fare falls on the wrong side of that relatively low standard. Such was the case last night.
When we walked in, a friend saw someone else nibbling on a plate of nachos and said, “Those look good. We should try them.” Now, there was never any doubt that I would be game to try the nachos, but his assertion brought up another query: “Can you tell how good nachos are just by looking at them?” Honestly, I don’t think there’s a definitive answer to that one. On the one hand, you can definitely judge the generally quality of ingredients and the presentation as it relates to construction. An insipid pico de gallo and poorly covered, stale chips can be spotted a mile off. But beyond obvious indicators, you can’t really get a full sense for the flavor of the meat, the quality of the interior stacking, and so on and so forth. On our recent NYC nacho tour (details forthcoming), one of the best looking plates of the day (Virgil’s BBQ) was by far the worst tasting.
Perhaps this is a subject rife for further inquiry, but for the time being let’s get to the review. In honor of the historic Manahattan where the Sixth Ward was located, I will provide “Five Points” about why these nachos were awful.
1) Store bought ingredients. It was painfully obvious that all of the ingredients in the nachos were bought from a store…and not a very good store, either. Certainly not the nearby Whole Foods. The corn chips (corn chips!?) might have been Garden of Eatin’ or something, and they were none too fresh. Disconcertingly smooth guac and salsa came straight from condiment shelf, and canned pinto beans were given no makeover, served instead in their bland nakedness. Basically, these were a poor version of the nachos you could make at home if you were really lazy.
2) Cubed chicken. Another of the night’s interesting questions: “Does cubed chicken always denote sub-par nachos?” I will keep you posted on further investigations, but I’m quite sure the answer is yes.
3) Sriracha sauce. When our waitress prefaced the nachos by bringing over some Sriraracha sauce, I got mildly excited. Was I in for a bit of experimentation? A little Asian twist perhaps, or pita bread chips? (Not sure why I thought the second part.) But alas, it turns out she brought it over for the same reason the people at the 5-dumplings-for-a-dollar spots provide Sriraracha: to mask the blandness of the product.
4) Cheese covering. One of the most ominous sights in the world is plate of nachos that is completely covered by what looks like a sheet of cheese. It usually suggests that no effort was put into layering and that cheese on the top is all you’re going to get. Such was the case at Sixth Ward. No browing whatsoever, either. Complete faux pas.
5) Sharability. This is really a byproduct of point #4. Because of the way the cheese was melted (i.e., in one blob that you could peel off the top of the nachos if you wanted), it was basically impossible to grab a chip and scoop up a mouthful of ingredients. You literally had to tear a section of cheese from the top. Awful stuff.
So there you have it. Don’t eat nachos at Sixth Ward!
PS Sorry for the lack of photo. Map ganked from this interesting site.