La Paloma Restaurante, Santa Clara, CA

You can’t miss the brightly colored lemon-lime exterior of La Paloma restaurant as you drive down El Camino in Santa Clara. It looked festive enough, I thought, and maybe a restaurant with a Mountain Dew exterior would serve me up a winning plate of nachos. There’s no logic there. I know. But I went in with my usual nacho optimism in high gear.

la paloma nachos

La Paloma nachos, full order

They offer both a small order and full order of nachos at La Paloma. If you think I considered the small order for even a second, you don’t know me very well yet.

The chips were fresh and awesome. Definitely seemed as if they were made in house. I was thrilled to be served up some black olives (yay!) on this nacho pile, but if only there had been more. Black olives are perhaps my favorite topping and unfortunately I’m only treated to them on less than half of my nacho endeavors. (C’mon, people! Black olives is where it’s at).

There was no salsa on the nachos, but the salsa they brought with the previously served chips & salsa was good and I dipped into that as required. I missed having salsa on the nacho pile itself but to their credit, the salsa was thin and would haven’t worked well. Well played, La Paloma.

The beans were refried and let me just say I’m starting to think my preference may be for whole beans, either black or pinto. These refried beans had an ok taste, but I wasn’t crazy about them. There was something in the taste I couldn’t quite place, but it wasn’t good. The closest I can describe is that they were cooking on the bottom of the pan for too long. A little burned, and a little dry = this nacho reviewer is a little disappointed.

The nachos were topped with a small scoop of great guacamole – my only complaint with it was the “small” part. I wanted more. The sour cream was good too and I liked it being a single scoop on top. Don’t try to get too fancy people, simplicity is best when it comes to toppings. (Consider this a foreshadowing for my next review when the sour cream display tactic goes horribly awry in another Santa Clara restaurant).

Overall, these nachos were pretty tasty and I would order them again. I give them 3 out of 5 smiling nachos. Your question for today, my faithful nacho-loving audience: what is your favorite nacho topping?

La Paloma Restaurante, 2280 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050

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Como Esta Taqueria, Palo Alto, CA

Whenever I ask a dining companion what they feel like eating and the response is something along the lines of “a burrito”, I feel my nacho review juices start flowing. This particular evening brought us to Como Esta, a small taqueria in mid-town Palo Alto. I ordered the vegetarian nachos and waited with the tempered patience of someone about to receive a surprise gift. Now, I’ve discovered there are two phases to my nacho assessment: 1) the moment when I first lay eyes on the nachos and 2) the moment when I first taste them. I would be quick to say that phase 2 holds more weight in my reviews, if I weren’t acutely aware of the fact that I’m often swayed by phase 1. At Como Esta, this first visual phase held both positives and negatives for me.

Como Esta nachos

Como Esta Vegetarian Nachos

My first thought was positive – yay! lettuce! Then I noticed the sour cream applied from a squeeze bottle. Definitely negative. I don’t even know why so please don’t ask. It’s just a negative. I get it for the convenience factor. I just don’t like it.

Similarly, the second tasting phase also held highs and lows, ups and downs, good and bad. The chips were stale (boo!) but the guacamole was tasty. There was some good fresh salsa, but not nearly enough of it. I strongly dislike being forced to play favorites with some bites and not others. Will I give this bite a scoop of salsa? If I do, I know it will be at the expense of the next bite because there clearly isn’t enough to go around. The refried beans were good and were appropriately mixed with melted cheese throughout the lower layers. However, topping the entire pile was shredded cheese. Not melted. Not even warm. Just sprinkled shredded cheese. Odd. It mostly just fell off when I tried to scoop it up but what I did get on a chip I assessed to be on the hard side and cold. An ineffective strategy on their part. Just trust me when I say this was all kinds of nacho wrong.

I should mention that my companion, blissfully unaware of my nacho blogging tendencies, uttered “these nachos are amazing”. And the two of us did manage to almost clean the plate. So cheers there Como Esta. But – I now consider myself to be somewhat of a nacho-assessing expert, a connoisseur if you will, and I require just a little bit more. Overall, I give them 2 out of 5 smiling nachos and advise you look elsewhere for your nacho fix in my beloved Palo Alto. (Suggestions anyone??)

Como Esta Taqueria, 2605 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303

Faultine Brewing Company, Sunnyvale, CA

Happily back home in the San Francisco bay area, my nacho quest continues. A visit to Faultline Brewing Company in Sunnyvale was the next stop for this nacho train. Based on past history, I always operate with an implicit belief that nachos at a pub-type establishment will leave me disappointed. I see these places as more of a generalist, a kitchen that serves up many, many different types of appetizers, rather than someplace that will create a specialty-level combination of nacho-ey good ingredients. I’m happy to say that Faultline proved me wrong.

faultline nachos

Faultline Brewing Company nachos

Faultline nachos are vegetarian by default which alleviated my usual “no meat” special instructions. It’s amazing how much instant happiness little things like this can bring me.

I’m not going to save the best for last… I’m going to let you in on the highlight of this nacho experience right now: Faultline knows how to do salsa! This was some of the tastiest restaurant salsa I have had in the recent past. Just amazing – the combination of ripe tomatoes, tangy onions, cilantro and black ground pepper was pure awesomeness.

Some other details: Chips were tri-colored. My tastebud jury is still out on tri-colored chips but I liked them enough in this case. There was plenty of melted shredded cheese wrapping the jalepenos and hidden black beans in cheesy goodness for every bite. I’m a huge fan of green onions on anything so their presence alone instantly raised my opinion of these nachos a notch. Now, one thing I have to mention that was less than ideal – in addition to the shredded melted cheese, there was some (gasp!) liquid cheese. It was spicy and I’m partially ashamed to admit that I liked the flavor it added. but the texture I could have done without. My only other complaint would be not enough chips. My nacho assessing wingman and I were done with all the chips long before we had consumed all of the wonderful toppings. But here’s a tip: You can ask for extra chips and they will happily bring them to you.

Wait. did I mention the amazing homemade salsa?? Here’s a close-up.

Faultline salsa

Faultline Brewing Company salsa

Lastly, I will say that there is a debate going onĀ  in my own head around whether I prefer things like salsa, guacamole and sour cream separated on the side or proudly topping the nacho pile itself. Stay tuned for additional thoughts on this in future posts.

Overall, I give Faultline 4 out of 5 smiling nachos. Keep it up, Faultline. Something tells me I’ll see you again soon.

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Bay area peeps: Can you recommend a favorite nacho place for me to try?

Faultline Brewing Company: 1235 Oakmead Parkway, Sunnyvale, CA 94085