Nachos at John P. Field’s in Clayton, Mo.

A guest post by Ms. Cary Randolph Fuller

In the words of the poet Murphy Lee, “the Lou is more than the Rams, Cards, and little Arch.” It’s also a city full of great American bars. No frills, just baseball on the flat-screen, girls in jeans, and extensive, exhaustive menus. As a rule, if Mike Shannon can fry it, you can eat it, and you’ll pair it with a big cold pint of Bud Select.

John P. Fields is one such bar. Tucked away in the yuppie enclave of Clayton, it prides itself on an atmosphere “accented by close ties to NHL hockey.” And the atmosphere is ideal…if your name is Dave or Norm and your palate comfortably unsophisticated. These nachos looked terrific: bright colors and a perfect distribution of cheese, chili, and jalapeno peppers. Great nachos to eat on a date: pick up a chip and nothing falls off. They are neat, tidy, aesthetically pleasing. But something was amiss. They lacked any kind of kick. Flavor? Stale chips? A second trip is unlikely so I may never find out. But one thing is certain: when three grown women split an order of nachos and don’t even touch half the plate…something ain’t right.
Because like Nelly I am “representin’ Saint Louis every time I breathe,” these nachos get a 5/10 rating. Without my loyalty, they really merit just a 2 – for presentation and portion size.

Coyote Flaco

A chain with some rather dubious locations… not least of which Mansfield, CT, where I ate these nachos… Coyote Flaco has an old school vibe. The food is typical 1980s/early 1990s Eastern Tex Mex, heavy on cheese and sour cream, light on nuanced flavor. Still, there’s something comforting about essentials. These are the nachos we grew up with. Cheese meets chips, topped with grilled chicken, beans, and the three amigos of sour cream, salsa, and guac. Wildly filling. Wildly damaging to ones gastrointestinal system.

Over all a 5 on 10. True to our motto – “Any nacho is better than no nacho.” But, also true to one of our regular faults – if fajitas had been ordered, the meal would likely have been better.

Something to keep in mind though, Coyote Flaco serves the second best nachos within striking distance of UCONN’s Gampel Pavilion. The best will be reviewed in the very near future.

Nachos at a Museum

Our first attempts at making nachos involved round chips, a bag of shredded cheese, and the family microwave. At ages 9 and 6, respectively, Christopher and I spent several months perfecting a rudimentary nacho recipe. Cooked for 1 minute, we had creamy melty (to steal from Taco Bell) cheese. Blast for 2 minutes, we had a type of nachos we referred to as “crispy” – the cheese loosing all moisture and hardening.

A Pittsburgh’s contemporary art mecca, the Mattress Factory, nachos are made using the first of the Nacho Hunter’s two microwave cooking method. Round chips are topped with ample cheese and finished with a healthy portion of veggie chili. The microwave, in this case, can be forgiven for two reasons. The first, simple enough, is that the Cafe doesn’t have an oven. The second, a bit more complicated, is that the overwhelming surprise of having nachos available at a museum cancels out complete lack of building technique.

These nachos are adequate. Delightfully basic, the nachos fill a single man’s hunger and prepare him to look at art.

Ultimately, while just a 5 on 10, nachos at the Mattress Factory do succeed in ranking highly among least likely places to eat nachos.

A visit is recommended (for the art, primarily).

Duck Nachos

Given our previous misadventures anytime nachos and English people are combined, it is something of a marvel that these unique nachos are prepared at a restaurant, Perro Salado, owned by Brits. It is an even greater marvel that they are produced in the WASP bastion of Newport, RI.

Perro Salado’s Duck Nachos are heavy. Some of the heaviest nachos encountered in the many years we’ve engaged in nacho hunting. Thickly sliced duck breast joins duck confit to form a robust topping. Such topping requires firm chips… achieved here through use of blue corn tortillas. However, the nachos are served in a bowl makes for one immediate problem… a soggy base. The juice of the confit and the duck breast combined pools significantly in the chosen dish. These are, for better or worse, knife and fork nachos. Another deficiency comes in the mingling of ingredients. The cheese doesn’t quite melt into the duck. These leaves coverage of chips mixed… and if you know us, you know we crave fully loaded bites, each and every bite.

In idea, Perro Salado’s Duck Nachos are an 8/10. They bring a regional bird to the dish, and a touch of gourmet flavor. In execution, they fall to a 4/10. Balance of ingredients fails, as does the composition of the plate.  Don’t discount for technique though, the Duck Nachos have terrific flavor. Our final thought – one which may again appear – are these truly nachos, or a very special taco salad?

Visit Perro Salado for yourself to join the discussion. We hear they now offer an ambitious brunch nacho as well.

NOTE: SOMETIMES, WHEN HUNTING, ONLY A BLACKBERRY PHOTO IS POSSIBLE. APOLOGIES FOR THAT.

Thanksgiving Nachos

What do Nacho Hunters do with thanksgiving leftovers? Make fucking nachos, that’s what.

Christopher kindly supplied the family with more than enough expertly roasted turkey from Torrisi (famed for having the best turkey sandwich in NYC), which we cubed for the purposes of the nachos. Rather than add beans or any other heavy accompaniment, we simply carmelized a few onions. For cheese we used cheddar, pepperjack, and Habenero jack. Store bought chips served as base. We baked all at 350 for 30 minutes.

We finished the nachos with a drizzle of warmed “Harvest” salsa from Brooklyn Salsa Company. The sweet pumpkin and squash mix hit perfectly with the turkey and carmelized onions.

Images follow.

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Larb Nachos

These nachos are inspired by Christopher’s trip to Cambodia. There he ate nachos with gloriously spiced ground chicken. Here, we took a rather simple larb recipe… with ample lemongrass and hot chili… stolen from Foodnetwork and paired the meat with a very thin cheese sauce prepared with Habanero jack. Our initial desire was to use freshly fried wantons. However, a sample batch proved the wanton too weak to handle the heft of our topping. As such, we reverted to our preferred chip – freshly fried corn tortilla wedges.

The pictures after the jump tell the full story.

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