Super Bowl means snacking, and there is no better snack (or, let’s be honest, occasional dinner) than a mess of warm, cheesy nachos. They are the multi-layered kings of the snack jungle. And while the template is oh-so-perfect, some are toying the the formula and introducing ingredients such as caviar, mole, and tater tots to the mix. Allow us to introduce Alternachos.
We searched the country to find delicious spins on the genre, from Korean to Indian to just plain strange. All feature the textural and flavorful abundance of your standard nacho plate—gooey, crispy, salty, and earthy—but there’s nary a tortilla chip in sight.
1. Caviar Nachos at MAX’s Wine Dive
Multiple locations, Texas
The Texas chain MAX’s Wine Dive prides itself on its upscale versions of classic comfort foods, so it’s no surprise that MAX’s nachos come blinged out. I mean, isn’t the worst thing about your nightly caviar-and-blini snack the sad fact that the blini don’t have that salty snap? This version starts with a pound of potato chips (made in-house, natch) drizzled with a quarter pound of creme fraiche, a smattering of chives, and a luxurious full ounce of sturgeon caviar. At $62, it ain’t cheap. But where else do gourmet tastes meet lower-chakra snack-cravings so beautifully?
(Credit: Bunk Bar)
2. Mole Tots at Bunk Bar
Tommy Habetz builds nachos the same way he builds sandwiches—taking a few choice components to create layers of flavors. Here he takes a sweet/spicy/rich mole sauce (omitting the lard, so that vegetarians can also share the gluttony), avocado, red onion, crema, cotija cheese and cilantro, all piled atop some classic deep-fried tots. Okay, maybe tot nachos (or, if you will, totchos) aren’t the most traditional. But, as Habetz notes, the fried potato is indeed universal.
(Credit: Rebecca O’Keeffe)
3. Korean Nachos at Ahn Joo Korean Snack Bar
The Korean nachos at Ahn Joo started off as something of a staff meal joke, and are now a top seller at this LA food truck. Chef Debbie Lee begins by riffing on tteokboki, the spicy rice cake dish, but fries the cakes for a bit more nacho-like crunch. And instead of fish cake, she uses a ginger-soy braised pork, then tops everything with a punchy kimchi salsa, unabashedly Anglo smoky chile cheese queso, and a handful of sesame seeds and scallions.
4. Papdi Chaat at Vik’s Chaat Corner
Although we’re most familiar with saucy curries, the snacking world of Indian chaats is full of crunchy, salty, deep-fried goodness. Papdi chaat (also known as papri chaat) takes a few forms, but most follow the nacho-like template at the Bay Area institution of Vik’s: a layer of cumin-and-chile-scented mashed potatoes and garbanzos, a cooling layer of yogurt, then some punchy chutneys—usually a spicy green mint chutney, and a sweet-and-sour tamarind sauce. Add a sprinkling of cilantro, and scoop up the salty/tangy/spicy/piquant mixture with some deep-fried wheat wafers (Vik’s fries theirs in-house, but there’s no shame in joining the legions of Indians who pick up a premade bag at the store).
5. Brussels Sprouts Nachos at Aviary
Sure, we’re all trying to get our daily dose of healthy brassica. And it’s even easier when the little sprouts are separated into leaves, deep fried, and topped with a rich mole sauce, herbed creme fraiche, and sprinkling of cotija cheese. What? That wasn’t the point? Chef Sarah Pliner at Portland’s Aviary started the dish as a lark (after her sous chef talked about opening a modern Mexican restaurant), and now it’s taken up permanent status on the happy hour menu. Any hint of removing it would be met with a small revolt.