Nachos Veritas on a quest for the Twin Cities' best chips and cheese

After a recent experience with lackluster nachos and a realization that the state of nachos in this country was in serious decline, two Twin Cities nacho lovers, a.k.a. El Hefe and Nacho Suave, set off on a quest to "expose the apathy and recognize the true nacho artists of our time" in the form of a website Nachos Veritas Hot Dish asked El Hefe to field a few questions about nacho "no-nos" and more...

1. Do you guys have backgrounds in nacho science? What makes you nacho experts? I just got tired of getting the same old crap all the time. They always seem like such a great idea when you're looking at the menu--and while the first the few bites are usually ok, you're inevitably left with a three-quarter plate of chips, cold cheese and a mess of toppings. They're never like they are in cartoons. Well one night (see the About Us page on our blog) we had enough. We decided then and there to start writing about these craptacular nachos, so naturally we had to develop some standards. So yeah, we're students of the nacho game, definitely, but no formal training per se.

2. Your criteria page says you score nachos by considering the ingredients, with a preference those that are unique, fresh, and house-made, as well as the heat level and construction. Do some of these criteria bear more weight than others? For me, it's all about the cheese and the peppers--and the ease of eating. The other stuff can all go to hell.

3. You say construction is key to a good plate of nachos. Please elaborate on the concept of "layering." How do you feel when you encounter a poorly constructed plate of nachos that leaves you with only a mound of plain chips after you eat the top layer? About the same as you'd feel if you got a case of slightly-dented Barbasol shaving cream cans for Christmas. I get pissed. I feel like they delivered about 20 percent of what I ordered, yet charged me for the whole thing. Sucks!

4. What are the most common nacho mistakes? Piling too much cold stuff on top of the cheese. The cheese is supposed to be hot and melty and savory and smoky, and wonderful. It might stay that way if you don't throw a blob of refrigerated sour cream, salsa, lettuce and other cold stuff on top. It makes those ingredients warm, the cheese cold, and nobody wins.

5. What are the worst nachos you've had at a Twin Cities restaurant and what made them awful? Great Waters Brewing Company, probably. That's what started this whole thing off. They were dreadful. Plum's bar on Snelling is pretty awful too. They just slap them together, nuke 'em for 30 seconds and serve them. No love, no care taken, and no ingredients worth a damn. Inferior in every sense.

6. What Twin Cities' establishments serve "Pure Nacho Gold" and what do you like about those nachos? La Cucharacha is the best we've tried. Remember my rant about not putting cold stuff on top? Yeah, they don't do that. They stick to a simple gameplan and serve most of the ingredients on the side. They also have two different varieties of nachos--something for everyone!

7. What's the wackiest ingredient you've seen on nachos? Are there any outside-the-box ingredients you'd like to see a restaurant incorporate? Sauteed onions and peppers and mushrooms are about the oddest things I've seen - and they don't really work IMO. Too mushy. I'd like to see different varieties of peppers - cayenne, maybe? Tabasco? Scotch Bonnet? How about flavoring the chips? Or doing something with them? And while we're on the subject--serving a simple wedge of lime can really gussy up almost any plate. I'd like to see chunks of pineapple or mango or maybe mandarin oranges--that might be good. Also, chunks of avocado (not mashed into guac) are delicious too. I'll also mention (because I put it on everything else anyway) that strategically placed dollops of peanut butter might just be the breakthrough that the nacho world has sorely needed for so long.

8. If a restaurant were to name its nachos in your honor, what would go on the El Hefe Nachos? The El Hefe nachos would come with a warning label, cause they'd be packing some serious heat. Huge homemade chips and refried beans layered in a blend of authentic Latin cheeses so the cheese consistency is soft and gooey, and a medley of different fresh peppers. Slow bake those suckers. Drop a few chunks of pineapple and avocado on top. On the side serve a mango/habenero salsa, some rockin' pico del gallo and the best damn guac on the planet!

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