Somewhat ironically, the Brothers Schonberger hold dual citizenship with the United Kingdom, a place where good nachos have failed to thrive alongside cultural treasures like Stephen Fry, chicken tikka, and football hooliganism. As noted in the preface to our great hunt, we actually ate the worst nachos of our entire search to date in Harrods, and as a general rule English establishments rarely deliver much more than a glorified plate of Doritos with salsa.
Whenever we’re gearing up for a trip to see the fam on the other side of the pond, I think a biological mechanism kicks in to temper our normally insatiable taste for nachos. “Prepare for a disgustingly greasy English Breakfast at grandma’s,” the stomach seems to grumble. “And perhaps a plate of sausages and mash if you’re lucky.”
So you can imagine our surprise when, before even leaving US soil on our trip from Philly, we not only confronted nachos of interest, but we also found them in the airport—another place where you’d be hard-pressed to find much beyond a plate of tried and true Fridays nachos.
With some time to spare before our evening flight, we wanted to eat a heavy meal that would knock us out for the overnight journey (f you, airline magazine advice!). Chickie and Pete’s beckoned with its promise of cheesesteaks and Yeungling, but what’s more, a quick look at the menu delivered a swift blow of excitement and unease—“Philly Cheesesteak Nachos.” Wow! Seems pretty exciting, right?
Honestly—and it pains me to say this—I had no desire to eat nachos. My last few meals had been chicken teriyaki, pizza, and lo mein, and I was beginning to fear how turbulence was going to go over on my stomach. But what am I in life if not someone who will never turn down a plate of nachos because he’s on a self-prescribed mission with his brother and can’t turn back on it now? Exactly.
So, to the review:
“Philly Cheesesteak Nachos” are like so many other imaginative American foodstuffs—fried Twinkies, cheeseburger pizza, Chili’s southwestern eggrolls, etc.—that sound both amazing and revolting at the same time. But in spite of receiving full marks for creativity, Chickie’s dish falls quite firmly in the revolting category. Well, that’s a bit strong. They’re certainly not good. Let’s say that.
One major issue is just basic—quality of ingredients. The tri-color chips, often a peacock-like foil for confidence issues, were almost completely tasteless. The guacamole, sour cream, and salsa were all served in sealed plastic containers, quite clearly fresh out the fridge (the view from my chair of the airport bathrooms didn’t help to erase the feeling that I was not in a haven of freshness). And hot cherry peppers, while excellent on a cheesesteak, are basically just not a good nacho topping. Now we know.
Of course, the hunt is not just about the plate in front of you, but also ideas for the future. Pieces of the nacho puzzle and things that make you go “mmmm…delicious.” From this perspective, the thinly sliced, almost souvalki-style meat from a chicken cheesesteak was actually delicious and might be worth experimenting with at home. (Note: the chicken variety is available but not on the menu.)
The cheese posed a bit of a logistical problem, though. Piping hot in a Philly-style sesame hoagie, it’s pretty amazing (as we discovered afterwards). But it cools far too rapidly when spread out thinly on the chips. My brother and I eat nachos mad quickly, but within a few bites we were already beginning to get that gross congealing of liquid cheese across the plate. By the end there was only chips and stone cold, hardened cheese left on the plate. Really quite terrible. We didn’t even finish.
So if there’s a lesson learned, it’s this: f you find yourself at Chickie and Pete’s, go straight for the sandwiches. They’re quite excellent.
Now, enough writing already—time to get in the kitchen and try to resurrect the rather ingenious idea of Philly Cheesesteak Nachos!