1031 Orange Avenue, Coronado
Is this the most beautiful mess of food you ever saw or wot? And maybe the best belly-filling deal too. I've just had a kinda revelatory reminder here at Costa Azul that nachos are suddenly all grown up and pushing to get accepted as a proper, like, meal.
Here on the patio they’ve just served me a rad steaming plate of the stuff, loaded with the crisp triangular chips, beans, cheese, jalapeños, sour cream and guac. That cost $8.95, and then I added ground beef for two more dollars, so $10.95.
But eleven bucks for nachos? You kinda think of them as a little mess you use to help down the brewskis you’re glugging, right? Not as a respectable meal in themselves.
I’m here to tell you, this is a meal. A big one. Full of crispness and gunkiness and heat and sabrosity. The cheese, carne, sour cream and guac, and the bite of the jalapeño are a wicked combo of stickiness and crispness and hair-raising (if you want) heat and flavor. And nachos can include anything from frijoles to chili con carne to elote (grilled — usually — corn, on or off the cob), to shredded lettuce to barbecued pork shoulder. Or, if you’re in Hawaii, kalua pork and pineapple.
And nachos have a history that’s weirdly like the Caesar Salad's origins: American customers cross border, arrive too late for the regular menu, chef throws together whatever he has left, and voilà! A new dish is born. At Caesar’s in Tijuana, in the 1920s, it was a salad with grated cheese. Simple? Sure, but it put this region on the culinary map, worldwide.
So how were nachos born? Turns out “Nacho” is the nickname for “Ignacio,” and one fine day back in 1943, in Piedras Negras (“Black Stones”), the border town across the line from Texas, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya had just closed his eatery down for the day when in marched a bunch of army wives from Fort Duncan, in Eagle Pass, the US town right over the line. They’d come down on a shopping trip and were hungry. So a little quick thinking, and Nacho cut tortillas into triangles, baked or fried them crisp, threw shredded cheddar all over them, melted the cheese, added jalapeños and served the gooey result to the ladies. He called it “Nacho’s Especiales.” Word got back to the soldier husbands, and the dish went, as they say, viral. Fast-forward to the seventies, and Howard Cosell, the sportscaster, falls in love with the gooey combo he spots being munched at Texas games, starts talking nachos up on Monday Night Football, and the fix is in nationwide. Now you can get them pretty-much anyplace, from Fargo to Finland.
Great thing is — and this is why they have become popular at venues like sporting events, I swear — you don’t need knives and forks to eat them with. The baked tortilla chips are your scoops.
This plate of nachos I’m munching right now is totally rico suave. Meat’s rich, plenty of guac, corn chips are crisp. Makes me want to see how different they get in different places, say around the county. Hey. A kind of “Sideways” nacho trip around the County?
Maybe at last they’ll start getting a little respect.