Beware the nachos of Old Chicago

I went to Old Chicago under the assumption that the nachos would suck.

I just felt in being truthful right up front. It had been four or five years, and the last time I had the OC nachos, they hadn’t been good. Not really even close to good. But as a nacho aficionado, I felt I would give them another try. At least 1200 days had passed, plenty of time for the cooks to improve their nachos since my last experience there. Surely someone would have figured out their nachos were subpar and resolve that problem.

Nachos at Old Chicago

Nachos at Old Chicago

We’ll start slow. Let’s talk about the salsa. I couldn’t figure out if I was accidently given pizza sauce, or it was just bad salsa, or some bastardized, unholy combination of the two. I fear the latter, but it didn’t take long to figure out the bowl of red in the middle of the plate was something to be avoided. Flanking the bowl of evil  were two big globs of sour cream. Certainly enough to get me through my meal – much appreciated. Those globs completely covered a pair of chips, but as it turns out, two fewer chips on the plate was a blessing.

After much experimenting, I found that the best combination of ingredients were chips with cheese. That’s it. No beans, no meat, certainly no salsa. Because the cheese was the best part of the who meal. (Well, technically, the two pints of Two-Hearted were the best, but let’s stick with the food.) The cheese has a bit of seasoning that gave it a very mild, spicy flavor, and the chips were crispy. And I can’t fault them for volume – I ended up not finishing them, though only part of that was the amount of food.

Old Chicago charges $2 to put ground beef on their nachos. They should default to putting it on, and charge $2 to take it off. That was some of the blandest ground beef I have tasted. Add that to the equally bland black beans, and you have the making of a truly below average set of nachos. Really, it was disappointing all the way around. There were some vegetables, but they couldn’t make a mark is the badness that was the beef. Somehow, some green peppers snuck onto my plate, continuing the freefall of nacho quality.

So here is my advice: Order nothing with the word “Nacho” in it at Old Chicago. Take the $10 you would have spent on nachos and put it towards something they do well, like pizza. Or beer.

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Nick’s Hometown Bar & Grill, Durand

It was a dark and cold night in Durand. Our hero walked the streets and alleys, looking for a place of safety and warmth. And there were several, but our hero decided to trust his instincts  and try Durand’s #1 rated bar on Yelp, Nick’s.

Nick's Bar & Grill

Nick’s Bar & Grill

He saddled up to the bar on a comfortably padded stool. On the menu, no olive burger could be found, so despite his better judgement, he ordered the nachos. Bar nachos, especially small town bars, are a dangerously unpredictable dish to order, with ingredients as poor as Flint’s water.

His trepidation increased when our hero learned that they were chili nachos. The horror! A soupy beany meaty concoction whose sole purpose was to soak and weaken the poor, defenseless chips. How would this night end! When the bartender eventually returned to take his order from the distant wilds where she had run off to (a journey that took days), he, with hesitation, order the nachos.

The food came and our hero was bolstered a bit. They looked like a strong showing, thick with cheese and meaty chili and a good mix of vegetables. (No black olives, though – those poisonous bits of detritus come on the nachos by default, but our hero was ready for that and deflected them.) But what lurked underneath the rosy exterior?

Nick's Nachos

Nick’s Nachos

Pretty-goodness is what lurked. The ever-so-slightly spicy chili turned out to match really well with the salty, better than average out-of-a-bag bar tortilla chips. Most chips did succumb to the chili rampage, and our hero raised his glass to them, but enough survived to carry the meal forward. All in all, average nachos, but a stronger showing than our hero anticipated.

But there was something terrible afoot at Nick’s. They had only one tap, and it was… Bud Light! Our hero was not prepared for this setback, but he battled on. Surely, this weakness cannot stand forever, and someone at Nick’s will realize that people like to taste the beer they drink.

All in all, our hero left party satisfied. The nachos were filling and had a decent flavor. The draft beer selection was bitterly disappointing. Will our hero return? Not likely, but who knows what lies in the future.

Field House, East Lansing

Field House, East Lansing

Field House, East Lansing

Oh Peppino’s, I hardly knew you.

But things change. Where once Bilbo’s and The Post stood is now East Lansing’s equivalent of a skyscraper. And HopCat’s current neighbor is Field House.

There were two factors that led to my visit to Field House. One, MSU was on Christmas break. Lowering the population by 40,000 raises the chances of me going entering East Lansing. And two, I had a buy one, get one free appetizer coupon. That is a good draw. I like free stuff, especially when it’s edible.

I took a seat at the bar and was faced with plenty of TVs and taps, both of which raised my level of happiness. The lurking bartender (not as creepy as it sounds) knew more about beer than just how to fill a glass. He recommended Arcadia’s Cheap Date, and it was a good suggestion.

Appetizer #1 was the cheesey bread (the spelling is correct). They didn’t skimp on the cheese (or the bread, either, both of which are crucial to having cheesy cheesey bread). On top of the already impressive layer of cheese was more cheese, a dusting of parmesan. It was cooked nicely and even warmed up well the next day.

 

The main event, though, were the nachos. But they were no mere “nachos”, they  were “MONSTER NACHOS”. But had a half-order, so they were just “monster nachos”. They were better than I had expected. Atop the multi-colored chips was a generous helping of cheese and ground beer. The chip to good stuff ratio was perfect, and I didn’t have many chips that were missing the key nacho ingredients. And you can see a nice array of veggies on top. I was overall impressed with my meal at Field House, and particularly the nachos.

Field House may have downtown East Lansing’s best nachos, right up there with Beggar’s Banquet’s chorizo nachos. Definitely worth a try if you’re a nacho fan. If not, perhaps burgers may be your preference, and FH had a nice looking selection of those, too. In any case, I’ll make a return visit. How long until spring break?

The nachos of Logan’s Roadhouse

I don’t know if it was as self-fulfilling prophesy, but I wasn’t confident about my decision to order the nachos at Logan’s Roadhouse.

The best part of the meal were the rolls that were generously supplied to the table by people who ordered things other than nachos. Buttery and soft, a multitude of them were devoured – the rolls didn’t stand a chance. Excluding the rolls, the best part of the meal were the chips. They were crispy and I was gifted with the occasional chip that was dusted with a salty / spicy concoction that brought me happiness. And queso! They had queso sauce that covered them there chips, and that wasn’t a bad thing.

Though I didn’t take a picture, not wanting to be taunted by my coworkers, I instead drew this picture, which, if printed out, is suitable for framing.

Nachos!

Nachos!

It was the chili that didn’t perform well. Not terribly good on the taste buds, it also rendered soggy anything it touched. The thin chips just wouldn’t withstand the brutal assault, and withered under the chili attack. The jalapenos were a nice touch, and did help to bolster the flavor, but not enough to overcome the chili-lanche. And since the meat is the key ingredient for nachos, it brought everything down.

So you probably already knew this, but avoid the nachos as an entrée. Perhaps with a couple of friends and a couple of beers, they would make a decent appetizer, but not a main event.

Nachos from Christmas town – Frankenmuth, MI

In Michigan we have a place known for beer, Christmas, and fried chicken. That magical place is called Frankenmuth, and if you happen to go in December like I did, you will encounter a town that takes it’s Christmas decorations seriously. It almost made me feel bad that I hadn’t gotten my lights up, but not quite. But I didn’t go for the lights, or the decorations, but I did go for beer and chicken.

At the north end of the main drag, just past the hotels, cheese shops, and ninjas dressed in lederhosen is the Frankenmuth Brewery. While my mission to Frankenmuth was top secret, I am willing to share my dinner experience, which involved chicken nachos. You’re welcome.

Nachos!

Nachos!

The nachos were enormous, because they weren’t “chicken nachos”, they were “super chicken nachos.” So enormous, in fact, they were brought on a palanquin, so as you can imagine, there were enough to share. However, as there was no one nearby that I wanted to share my nachos with me, I made a go of it, but didn’t even come close. And I still ate more than I should have. As I write this the next morning, I haven’t fully recovered. Sorry boss, this morning’s work may suffer – I blame the nachos.

They were also possibly the cheesiest nachos I’ve ever encountered. And not that queso  pseudo cheese, real, honest to goodness, all-American cheese. Also generously applied was  tender (un-fried) chicken, pulled apart with loving care by immigrant workers specializing in the almost forgotten skill of tearus chickenus apartus. It made all the difference.

The chicken – cheese explosion was topped with lettuce, jalapenos, and tomatoes, and the occasional onion showed up, too. Over it all was drizzled the Frankenmuth Brewery special sauce, a recipe of 23 spices designed to force upon you an addiction to beer and Mexican food. I wasn’t worried because I was already dependent on both, so I just enjoyed the experience. Don’t quote me, though. Or listen to anything I say, actually, because it was actually sour cream.

The hefeweizen was light and sweet, like my personality. Was it the best choice with my nachos? No idea – it was the only beer I tried. But I thought it went well. The brewery menu recommended “Batch 69 IPA”, so perhaps that was the ideal pairing.

So if you like Christmas, beer, and / or nachos, well, there is no better place than Frankenmuth. So grab those leather pants and head on over.

Nachos at Coach’s Pub and Grill, Lansing

What’s a guy to do? Every year, I try to eat at 25 (or more) new restaurants. Last year I hit 30, which means for a small city like Lansing, I have to keep heading farther out to make my goal. This time, I headed to the prime real estate area of south Lansing, not far from where the ritzy town of Holt begins. I’m moving on up to the south side. My target for this visit: Nachos. The place: Coach’s Pub and Grill.

And what a nice looking set of nachos they were. They’re practically symmetrical, and they sure look like they were made with love, even though they weren’t. And the dual towers of condiments defended the nachos like guard towers. The Mt. Dew flowed freely and my lunch hour was looking good.

Nachos at Coach's

Nachos at Coach’s

Did their taste match their artistry of design? No. The problem was the beans. And the chips. They were firmly in the “blah” range. The cheese attained the lofty height of average. But the tomatoes and lettuce were fine, so they weren’t all bad. And the sour cream didn’t suck.  I would speak more about the chicken, but there really wasn’t enough to talk about. Fifty cents doesn’t get you much these days, though it will get you fifty rides on Sandy, the mechanical horse at Meijer.

As for the building, don’t be deceived by appearances. The building looked dumpy on the outside, but was quite nice on the inside. There was hardly a vertical surface not covered by a TV or dart board and it looked like a great place to watch a game. In fact, I may do that – the chicken strips looked very good, so those will most likely be my next victim. Remember, chickens are trying to take over the word – it’s them or us, so make sure it’s them.

Nachos at Beggar’s Banquet, East Lansing

Beggar’s Banquet has impressed me my past few visits. An excellent Dave’s Way mac & cheese was my previous meal, and this time, the nachos drew me in. I know… Beggar’s for nachos? But they were on the menu, so I had to try them. It’s the law.

Nachos at Beggar's

Nachos at Beggar’s

First off, they were chorizo nachos, not your ordinary chicken or beef, so points for that. And second off, they were outstanding. The chorizo was applied generously because no one likes a chorizo skimper. A little bit spicy, a lot bit tasty. Face it, you need more chorizo in your life.

Also not commonly seen on nachos were black beans and corn. I know – odd, but they worked. I didn’t feel like I was in Michigan anymore, but somewhere south, somewhere exotic. Like Indiana or something. Throw on the regular players of tomatoes and lettuce and you have your recommended daily allowance of vegetables. But I don’t follow that voodoo, anyways. Any list that doesn’t include a daily beer or wine is really a list made by hacks.

Rounding out the nacho ingredients, I’ll also mentioned that the salsa was excellent (there was some chipotle or armadillo or something in there that really flavored-up the salsa), and the chips were worth a mention as well. They were tough, fending off the aggressive assault by the assorted vegetables and staying crispy. I was skeptical of the nachos ability to fill me up, appearing on the small side, but they did their job. I’m sure the two beers I had helped, too.

So what is the final verdict? In the words of Dora the Explorer, “fantastico”. They are definitely top-rate nachos and worthy to be on my “Best of Lansing-ish” nachos.