Max’s Opera Cafe, Palo Alto, CA

Oh, Max’s. How I love you.

First of all, the nachos are titled “Giant Nachos” on the menu. I was on board already. The description was short but sweet: “A plateful of crispy chips loaded with black beans and Mexican schtick”. There was a full order and half order available ($9.99 and $7.99,  respectively).

Interestingly, they also had a “Cheese Lovers” version for $1.50 more. The menu said “Loaded with extra cheese sauce”. Wait. Sauce? Uh-oh. I decided to steer clear of this option in the hopes of liquid cheese avoidance. I’m not a fan.

Now I know it is hard to believe, my nacho friends, but on this day my appetite wasn’t as enthusiastic as I would have hoped and I decided to go with the half order. You’ve got that, right? *Half* order. Ok, now check this out:

Max's nachos

Max's nachos, half order

I don’t know if this picture quite does it justice but your first reaction should have been “Whoa!”. I couldn’t believe this was the half order. It was enormous with a capital E.

And it was a mess. And I mean that in the best way. There was no ridiculous attempt at architecture here as I’ve encountered at other restaurants that shall remain nameless. (*cough* Pedros) It was just one, big, wonderful pile of unstructured, delicious nachos.

Now let’s get down to brass tacks – the nacho goodness details. Their menu description didn’t lie. The chips were indeed crispy. Crunchy awesomeness. The cheese was shredded and real and gooey and generously applied. Not a drop of sauce in sight. Phew!

The black beans were re-fried rather than whole. An unusual but delicious choice. I’m used to whole black beans or re-fried pinto beans but re-fried black beans? A risk, if you will, that completely pays off here. Another unusual choice was the use of cherry tomatoes. I wasn’t sure about them initially. Would the ratio of tomato to other ingredients in each bite be too much? But it wasn’t. They were tasty and juicy and just right. And, of course, there were the ever familiar pickled jalapenos. Always there to provide just the right amount of spice.

Max's close-up

Max's nachos, close up

There were three scoops haphazardly (again, compliment) applied to the nacho pile – salsa, sour cream and guacamole. The salsa was somewhat standard but had a nice flavor. The sour cream was also just your basic sour cream, there to apply it’s creamy goodness to selective nacho scoops.

The guacamole was super yummy. But as is typically the case, my only complaint is that there just wasn’t enough of it. Now, two of my all time favorite nacho ingredients, black olives and green onions, were absent from this dish. But it is a testament to Max’s that I barely missed them.

Finally, like the perfect cherry on this nacho sundae, a single sprig of cilantro sat atop of the summit. Precious.

Bravo, Max’s! The nacho force is strong with you. And this nacho lover is sure to return soon. I give them 4 out of 5 smiling nachos.

Max’s Opera Cafe, 711 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, CA, 94304