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It’s a beautiful sunny day and we’re off to Mt. Baker for a weekend of snowboarding! What better way to kick things off than some delicious downtown nachos?

So to Salsa and Agave we go on Pacific at Davie. It’s a tiny place with a big, authentic Mexican menu and warm, friendly service.

The nachos were in the appys section of the menu - $8 for small, $11 for large. Based on the pricing, I went for large - with guacamole on the side. I also ordered a Jamaica, an hibiscus drink I first tried in Togo, where it’s called bissap. Delicious - but that’s a story for another day.

When the nachos arrived, I was overjoyed to see the dips were all on top of the nachos, with the exception of the salsa verde and my side order of guacamole - a true first in my quest to find the best nachos in Vancouver.

And that perfectly proportioned plate of chips went down a treat. Red, yellow and blue chips were layered generously with refried beans, jalapeños, homemade sour cream and pico de gallo. Copious helpings of Cheddar bound it all together and a sprinkling of feta set it apart from more typical presentations.

The guacamole was the best I’ve ever had in Vancouver - fresh, zesty and so chunky, I actually needed to use some of my tortilla chips to cut up the ripe avocado hidden in the mix. The serving of salsa verde was small but fruity and powerful, just the way I like it.

If I had one criticism of these delicious nachos, it would be that the toppings just weren’t spicy enough. That could have been remedied by serving the salsa verde on top and throwing some banana peppers in there too.

Overall though, this was one tasty, satisfying plate of chips. So satisfying in fact, that I ended up throwing everything together and scraping the plate clean. Now those are damn good nachos.

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Salsa and Agave Mexican Grill
1205 Pacific Boulevard
Vancouver
V6Z 2R6 
http://salsaandagave.com


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I love snowboarding and I love nachos. What more could I want than a day up at Cypress Mountain followed by a huge pile of nachos at the Crazy Raven Bar & Grill in the ski lodge?

(Well, some notes on what I thought about the nachos would be a good start. Unfortunately, somehow I lost them, so this is going to be a potted review, more sprinkled parmesan than chunky cheddar.)

The Raven is one of my favourite places in Vancouver. Usually. This season, what with the lack of snow and presumably custom, the service in there has been pretty lazy and they;ve even reduced the menu.

That said, they have kept the nachos. No half portion is available, so I attempted to share them with a friend. We added guacamole (obviously) and grilled chicken breast (why not?).

The serving was huge. A platter of tortilla chips, draped in Monterey Jack cheese, dappled with olives, jalapeños, scallions, tomatoes and chicken and drizzled with chipotle mayo.

I use the term “draped” for the cheese, because unfortunately it really only covered the outside. Once you broke through that top layer, the cheese disappeared and so did a lot of the toppings. The tiny cubes of chicken were pretty disappointing too, being pretty bland and unidentifiable.

The olives, tomatoes and scallions all tasted fresh and there were plenty of jalapeños going around, but it was not enough to make up for the lack of cheese and chicken. That chicken was really not worth the extra money we paid for it.

The salsa, sour cream and guacamole were served on the side as usual - the other two dips in the picture belong to another friend’s (delicious but deadly) Hurricane Fries order.

Here things get a little hazy in my memory. From what I recall, the salsa was somewhat watery, the sour cream was not rich enough and the guacamole was a little mushy. Overall, a disappointment of dips, albeit one that was almost entirely unmemorable.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on The Crazy Raven - it was my third nacho session in a week. And this was an enormous portion, which would suit a big group of ski buddies ravished for a snack.

But an exemplary plate of nachos? Sadly not. And my friends agreed. Not enough cheese. Plain and simple.

Oh well, in the meantime, at least there’s the snowboarding to keep me occupied. And the Hurricane Fries. And the Poutine. And the Hot Apple Pie cider…

The Crazy Raven Bar & Grill
6000 Cypress Bowl Road
West Vancouver
BC V0N 1G0
http://cypressmountain.com/crazy-raven-bar-grill


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A quick and dirty review this one, after three pints of Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears and an unidentifiable shot, very late on Friday night.

The Back Forty is a favourite haunt of mine and I’ve had nachos a few times there. And they always disappoint.

Don’t get me wrong, the service is friendly, the atmosphere is fun and their other menu items - and beers on tap - are delicious.

But there is never enough cheese on these damn nachos. At $13, there’s supposed to be half a pound of cheddar on these rather too delicate chips, but it’s hardly anywhere to be seen.

Also, serving the sour cream and the salsa in the same bowl is impractical. The salsa isn’t spicy, the sour cream is too light and it quickly becomes a weird chopped tomato-whipped dairy mélange, especially if you’re sharing. 

If you order guacamole, they tell you they only have “avocado mousse”. Tastes exactly as you’d expect - fluffy, light version of avocado. Nothing like guacamole. No chunks.

So as much as I love The Back Forty, I have to give them a thumbs down for their nachos. I recommend you order the Cobb Salad instead - now that is a tasty beast of a dish!

The Back Forty
118 Robson Street
Vancouver
V6B 2M1
http://www.backfortysaloon.com/


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OK I know they’re not in Vancouver but nachos are always worth trying wherever you are!

Sitting in The Griz Bar at Fernie alpine resort during a snowboarding weekend, I had already heard all about these particular nachos. My friends had ordered a full, behemoth portion the day before, and sorely regretted attempting to eat the whole pile.

Duly warned but jealous nonetheless, I ordered a half portion with guacamole, to go with my Caesar cocktail. The bar was busy, but the service was fab and everything quickly arrived with a smile.

Even the half portion turned out to be huge and I confess I could not finish it alone, but as usual, I dove straight in to the humungous pile of chips, olives, jalapeños, pinto beans, tomatoes and scallions.

They were absolutely delicious. The chips were perfectly toasted and the other ingredients tasted fresh. Binding it all together were two different kinds of cheese, spread plentifully throughout the never decreasing pile of nachos.

Each time I thought I’d reached a non-cheese layer, more cheese seemed to appear. This also went for the olives, much to the chagrin of a friend who hates them but was nevertheless unable to resist the lure of the nacho.

As usual, toppings were on the side - and surprisingly delicious. The chunky guacamole was zesty, the spicy salsa was chunky and the sour cream….finally, a superior sour cream - rich, thick and plentiful.

Maybe it was just being away for a snowboarding weekend in British Columbia’s deepest, snowiest Kootenays that made them so tasty - but these nachos were exactly what I needed. Highly recommended!

The Griz Bar
Fernie Alpine Resort
5339 Ski Hill Rd
Fernie
V0B 1M6

http://www.skifernie.com/things-to-do/dining-nightlife.aspx


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Budgie’s Burritos, on Kingsway and 8th, has a special place in my heart, due to their huge selection of delicious, vegetarian burritos.

It’s also a funky place to hang out, plastered in colourful works of art that keep me occupied while I wait. That and the liquor license of course.

I usually go for the Jame Dog or the Johnny O burrito, but on a recent visit, they were offering a nacho special. Predictably, I couldn’t resist.

The nachos are pretty cheap at CAD $6, with guacamole adding another CAD $1.25. And unusually, all prices include tax.

As a bonus, the nacho special also came with vegetarian chilli mince and black beans, and I opted for salsa verde, instead of the regular salsa roja, just to mix it up a bit.

After ordering at the kitchen window inside the tiny entrance area, and grabbing a Mexican cola, we headed downstairs to wait in one of several worn, red booths that always seem to be available, no matter the time of day.

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A few minutes later, my heaped plate of crisp nachos arrived, flanked as ever by three large cartons of salsa verde, guacamole and sour cream. 

As usual, I was disappointed not to see the trio of toppings layered over my golden plate of nachos, but I’ve come to expect that in this town.

My disappointment quickly vanished, as I dug in to find the cheese was delicious and plentiful, the vegetarian chilli had a kick to it and the chips were perfectly crisped.

The thin salsa verde was tangy, but the guacamole was substandard, being more of a pureed avocado than the chunky green stuff I so adore.

As ever, the sour cream stood resolute, ready to relieve me of chilli burn. But for the first time, I began to ponder…what would a truly superior sour cream taste like? Is such a thing even possible? Only time will tell. 

That aside, we ended up scooping up every last scrap of nacho and topping with our bare hands, the amount of chilli far exceeding the number of chips.

Budgie’s nachos may not be quite as good as their burritos, but they gave me a damn fine start for my return to nacho reviewing. Happily recommended.

Budgies Burritos
44 Kingsway
Vancouver
V5T 3H9
http://www.budgiesburritos.com/


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After a year of radio silence, I’m back. But first, an apology for my epic failure to commit to the chip.

The reasons are twofold.

Firstly, I got distracted by a new role at work and my first real snowboarding season. Many a nacho was eaten après-wipeout, but crucially, the reviews were not forthcoming. For this, I apologise.

Secondly, I recently suffered two family bereavements, both distracting and disruptive. Everything in my life was put on the back-burner and it’s taken me a long while to get back on track. For this, I blame the universe.

Now, despite the cosmos’ best efforts, I am back on track. So without further ado….normal service is resumed. Nachos — prepare to get eaten!

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My 31st birthday, a gang of mates and an authentic Mexican joint…perfect conditions for nacho tasting. 

Doña Cata, on Victoria Drive at 34th over Collingwood way, is a bit of a trek but its reputation as one of the best Mexicans in Vancouver made it worth checking out.

More a cafe than a restaurant, the interior is every bit as vibrant as you would expect - fuchsia pink walls surround a few comfortable tables, while a taco chef works her magic behind an extensive free salsa bar.

An ice cold can of Corona in hand, I ordered the nachos borrachos for CAD $9 plus tax with a big serving of guacamole for an extra CAD $6 plus tax.

My friends all having ordered the house speciality, tacos of all varieties, I sat working my way through Corona and sangria, wondering whether I had accidentally chosen something substandard.

As the glistening heap of nachos and a hefty bowl of guacamole arrived, I wondered no more. Here was a true contender for best nachos in Vancouver.

With the exception of the guacamole, all the sauces, which included Mexican crema, chunky chopped tomatoes and refried beans, came already drenched over the chips.

Everything tasted absolutely homemade and fresh, including the guacamole, which was chunky, refreshing and as moreish as hell.

Satisfyingly, the warm tortilla chips were almost inseparable from the wedges of melted cheese binding together this birthday nachofest.

The only thing missing was chillies, so I followed the lead of my taco-eating friends and spooned on some tasty salsa verde from the salsa bar.

It wasn’t until I came to write up this review that I decided to consult the staff at Doña Cata to query the odd lack of jalapeños. It turns out I have fellow customers to blame. Their nachos used to include chillies but so many people preferred them without, the restaurant took them out permanently.

I have to admit then that these were top notch nachos and guacamole, lacking hot chillies only because of the mild tastes of Vancouverites. In the end, a great birthday present and some of the best nachos I’ve had in Vancouver so far.

Doña Cata
5076 Victoria Drive
Vancouver
V5P 3V8
http://www.donacata.com/


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It was a stormy night when we took shelter in Pepitas, hidden almost out of sight above the YVS Vitamin Store on 4th and Burrard in Kitsilano.

There seemed to be only two other customers sat in the tiny Mexican restaurant when we arrived - a couple engrossed in a game of dominoes. This turned out to be the owners.

Mexican pop music blared out of speakers near our rainy window seats and Frida Kahlo prints surrounded our tiled table.

Our server was brusque and seemed annoyed at being interrupted on a quiet night. After a quick browse of the myriad of menu choices, I went for the only nachos available.

Surprisingly these came with the guacamole included for CAD $10.95 plus tax. Adding chicken or beef brought the cost up to CAD $13.95 plus tax.

That is about everything positive I can say about these nachos.

The tortilla chips were burned, giving the whole dish a dried out, overdone flavour. Chillies and spice were nowhere to be seen either sprinkled in the nacho chips themselves or in the mediocre salsa.

At best, everything else - cheese, guacamole, beans - can only be described as ok and were so bland they merit no explanation.

These were the worst nachos I’ve had on my Vancouver ventures. Time will tell whether Pepitas can survive the opening of Chronic Tacos next door.

Pepitas
2015 Burrard Street

Vancouver
V6J 3H3
http://www.pepitasonburrard.com/


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OK, OK - I have to confess - it’s been a while since my last nacho review. A busy family Christmas of salmon, snow and sniffles somewhat got in the way of nacho eating and review writing.

But let’s start the New Year as we mean to go on - at a Mexican restaurant with a plate full of nachos!

Las Margaritas in Kitsilano is always busy and the day of my latest nachofest was no exception. It was lunchtime on a gloomy weekday but still the spacious cantina was packed with happy customers, whose level of chatter was only challenged by the Mexican folk music filling the air.

Faced with three different kinds of nachos to choose from on an extensive menu, I opted for a half order of Nachos Rancheros for CAD $6.50 plus tax.

If you fancy something meatier, you can add roasted or ground beef or shredded chicken for CAD $2.75 plus tax. Impressively, guacamole is already included - this is how nachos should be and a bargain too.

No sooner had I ordered, than my excellent server brought over a dish of free tortilla chips and salsa while I waited. As I sat admiring posters of Frida Kahlo artwork - some of my favourite paintings in the world - I couldn’t help but have a good feeling about the nacho feast to come.

When my modest nacho heap arrived, I was happy to see all the sauces were already piled high on the plate - the first time this has ever happened during my nacho adventures in Vancouver.

Indeed, the homemade guacamole was chunky and refreshing and the salsa was rich and spicy. But my romantic thoughts of finding the perfect neo-mexican nachos ended there.

A complete lack of chillies sprinkled among the cheese made the sour cream pretty redundant and the whole dish seemed to be drowning in a sea of lettuce.

Even the tortilla chips were in short supply, leaving me to try to mop up the sauces with lettuce - perhaps I should have saved some of those free ones?

Overall a fairly mediocre start to the nacho year - here’s hoping 2012 brings us more chillies, more chips and lots, lots more cheese!

Las Margaritas 1999
West 4th Avenue

Vancouver
V6J 1M7
http://www.lasmargaritas.com/


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Russian rugby, American football and Aussie Rules - what more do you need for a night of sports at the Speakeasy on Davie? Answer - great nachos of course!

The Speakeasy, full of dark red booths and big screen TVs, offers Nachos with the Works, for CAD $14.95 plus tax. Unusually, you can order a half size at CAD $9.95 plus tax but after waiting and failing to get a table at The Score, directly opposite, my hunger had gone beyond.

I opted for the full size plate plus spicy refried beans for an extra CAD $1.50 plus tax and small guacamole for CAD $2.75 more plus tax.

There is an impressive list of extras available at the Speakeasy, including spicy beef or chicken for CAD $4.00, double chicken for CAD $7.00, double cheese for CAD $3.50, large guacamole for CAD $3.75 and extra house made salsa for CAD $1.50, all plus tax of course.

With all these extras, you really can make these nachos into a mammoth serving if you’ve got the cashola to blow, but the feast that arrived in front of me needed no super sizing.

The warm, crisp chips were coated in waves of marbled cheddar and while the bottom layer did miss out on cheese, some naked nachos were much needed to scoop up all the delicious leftover toppings.

Heaps of olives, onions and tomatoes joined a generous helping of delicious refried beans, whose spiciness was only beaten by the myriad of unusual chillies lurking beneath a cheesy camouflage, most notably the deceptively named banana pepper.

The dips, while sitting sadly on the side, proved the best I’ve had so far on my quest and for once the sour cream was a crucial counterbalance to the hot kick of the banana peppers.

The homemade salsa was sweet and spicy, while the guacamole was slightly chunky, very tasty and to my delight, had added chopped tomato, something I always include when making my own.

Far from disappointing, Speakeasy’s feisty nachos were the best I’ve had so far - big and brash with one hell of a kick.

Speakeasy
1239 Davie Street
Vancouver
V6E 1N4

http://www.thespeakeasy.ca/


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