When you want something delicious and warm to share with a group, there’s one appetizer that just about everyone will agree about: nachos. You can find this dish on the menu at all kinds of places, from Tex-Mex eateries to more modern and American places. You can even find them gracing the menus of pizza places and fast or casual Italian places.
There’s a reason that nachos appear at so many places. Made from tortilla chips with cheese or a cheese sauce, nachos are often a great way to turn leftover veggies and proteins from other dishes into a new, popular appetizer for customers. While classic versions often include chips topped with cheese, tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, ground beef, shredded chicken or even olives, some restaurants make up very creative versions of the dish.
While you might not call modern nachos the most authentic Latin food, they are unquestionably delicious. The dish actually does originate from Northern Mexico. However, depending on how unique the toppings are, you may experience the flavors of a completely different culture. Thankfully, you have plenty of great options around town for basic and even ultra creative nachos.
Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop
Location: 1810 W Washington Street (map)
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop has increased in popularity to a point where they now have three locations. In addition to this location in Mission Hills, they have a shop in North Park and one in Carlsbad as well.
They know that their nachos can overwhelm people tackling them on their own, so you have the option of ordering either a large or small order. Additionally, you can enjoy the same toppings on fries instead of corn chips if you prefer. The toppings on their Champion Nachos are the standards we’ve all come to love: Jack cheese, beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream and your choice of chicken, pork adobada or steak.
One of the best things about Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop is that they have later hours on Friday and Saturday nights. That means you can stop in to share a plate of incredible nachos with your friend or your date after a raucous night out.
Don’t worry, there are plenty of other dishes on the menu as well. They serve many creative and fun burritos, including their Alambre California, which is stuffed with marinated steak, mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, bacon, jack cheese, fresh fries, avocado and a cheesy jalapeno cream sauce. Plenty of other options including burritos, quesadillas and tacos.
Location: Special events and festivals
Hours: Varied, catering available
Do you love the idea of unique and massive plates of nachos, made with exactly your favorite toppings? Do you also enjoy the fun and excitement that comes from hunting down a mobile food vendor? If so, add The Gnarly Nachos to your list of must-eat local treats. They typically cater special events, but you can find them doing pop-up vending as well.
Unlike some places, which only make one kind of nacho, Gnarly Nacho is the destination for chips and cheese connoisseurs. Their offerings include five kinds of chips and more than twenty options for toppings. Chips include classic corn tortilla chops, nacho cheese or cool ranch Doritos, chili cheese Fritos, Fritos scoops or even hot Cheetos. They can make dishes that appeal to anyone, from vegans to those who can’t get enough hot sauce.
Their homemade cheese blend, called the Gnarly Cheddar sauce, is mouthwatering. For those who don’t go animal products, you can order healthy nachos where the cheese sauce has been replaced with guacamole. A perfect solution for vegans and those trying to reduce their dairy or fat intake. Other toppings include corn, cilantro, white onion, red bell pepper, black olives, artichoke hearts, blue cheese, chili, bacon, BBQ chicken, vegetarian refried beans, carne asada and ground beef.
Location: 527 5th Avenue (map)
Hours: Sunday and Monday: 11 a.m. to midnight, Tuesday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Wednesday: 11 a.m. to midnight, Thursday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
If you want to enjoy, modern, trendy takes on classic Mexican flavors and dishes, you need look no farther than Volcano Rabbit in Gaslamp. This establishment features a top-shelf tequila bar, as well as a menu filled with varieties of craft tacos.
Their short rib nachos are listed as an appetizer to share, but you can also enjoy this dish as a main course. They start with chips made in house, which they then top with braised short rib meat, a puree of black beans, roasted yellow tomatoes, guacamole sauce and a chili de arbol crema. If nachos aren’t quite what you’re craving, never fear. Their tacos could rock your world.
You can order tacos al la carte or in a plate with two tacos served with black beans and white rice. For those looking for seafood tacos, options abound. They have chili rubbed octopus, topped with spicy mayo, red onion and pineapple.
They also serve up fried fish tacos in a beer batter with lime white sauce, pico de gallo shredded cabbage and avocado. Their blacked lime shrimp taco includes cotija cheese and chipotle yogurt, while the seared ahi tuna taco features pickled ginger aioli and an ancho mago sauce. Other protein options include carne asada, smoked portabella mushrooms, beef short rib, tongue and fried pork.
Location: 2196 Logan Avenue (map)
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
If you want something full of flavor and healthy toppings while in Barrio Logan, check out Salud!. This modern taco joint has incredible decor and an even more impressive menu. Their tacos have previously won awards, and many of their other dishes offer takes on excellent Mexican street food. They also serve craft cocktails and craft beers.
Their nachos call up classic flavors. They make house chips, which they then top with crumbly cotija cheese, pico de gallo and guacamole, as well as your choice of meat or veggie filling. Choosing your toppings here isn’t easy, as they have so many flavorful options to select from.
Some of their meat options include chorizo, marinated steak, carne guisado, carne asada, pollo asada, fried pork carnitas, grilled and fried pork al pastor, shredded pork in mole sauce, and even beer battered catfish. They offer potato filling, soyrizo, portabella mushrooms, grilled nopales, fried chili rellenos and more.
On weekdays, if you show up between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. you can enjoy free chips and a select beer for only $4 during Happy Hour. Just be sure to save some of your appetite for desserts, which range from tamarind topped apples to Mexican Banana split made with fried bananas.