From classic toppings like chicken and lobster to more unique options, eateries throughout Laguna Beach present an array of nacho plates filled with texture and flavor.
By Ashley Ryan
A classic dish like nachos has plenty of versatility: Order a small plate as a snack, a large plate as a meal or simply for everyone at the table to enjoy. “I always believe that it’s more fun to order … multiple things off the menu and share,” says Mario Melendez, owner of Rasta Taco. Better yet, grab them to go and enjoy them while social distancing at a local park or beach. With crispy chips, melty cheese and customizable toppings, it’s easy to please anyone in your group with these local options.
Mosaic Bar & Grille
While nachos aren’t often considered the most gourmet of dishes, poolside Mosaic Bar & Grille is looking to change that with its lobster nachos. “Nachos are known as … easy-to-make snacks, but adding lobster makes this common dish so much more elevated,” says David Serus, Montage Laguna Beach’s executive chef. Available on the lunch menu, the main ingredient is first grilled, then seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika. The lobster meat is then chopped up into smaller pieces and added to crispy tortilla chips, along with melted pepper jack cheese, pinto beans, olives, scallions, avocado, pico de gallo, sour cream, micro cilantro and spicy jalapenos for a little kick. “The idea is to take a basic dish and create a more gourmet version by adding one noble ingredient that the dish wouldn’t traditionally contain,” Serus notes. Whether ordered as a snack, a meal or to share, you’re sure to enhance your experience with this lobster option. (949-715-6132; montagehotels.com)
Asada Tacos & Beer
One of the most flavorful dishes in town can be found at Asada Tacos & Beer. Although carnitas, chicken or steak can be subbed in on the short rib nachos, there’s a reason that the braised protein is what’s been listed on the menu since the eatery opened in 2016. According to owner Scott McIntosh, who also operates Reunion Kitchen & Drink, the boneless short rib is seared “a la plancha” (on a grill), then braised in a house-made liquid (composed of vegetables, veal demi-glace and a secret ingredient) for six hours. “The short rib is super rich and tender and adds a deep flavor to the dish,” McIntosh explains. Thin corn tortillas are cut into strips and fried, then seasoned while still hot. To finish, the chef tops the chips with the rib meat, jack cheese, refried black beans, pico de gallo, sliced jalapenos, sour cream and fresh guacamole. McIntosh adds, of course,
that cheese is the key to great nachos. “You really need the jack cheese on every bite to get the full impact.” (949-226-7263; asadatacos.net)
Nachos have been offered as a special at Rasta Taco in the past, but they are now available full time due to their popularity. Choose from numerous proteins—slow-roasted carnitas, seared Jamaican jerk chicken, even the vegetarian Papa Jack option—or opt for a more unique choice: the Vegan One Love nachos. “We really try to adjust to the … overall trends,” Melendez says. “… Vegan options [have] continued to gain momentum within the industry.” These meatless nachos are crafted with house-made tortilla chips that are dusted with sea salt, then topped with island-style black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, jalapenos and cilantro, as well as vegan sour cream and dairy-free cheese; crispy sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables may be added as well. And, like all dishes at Rasta Taco, the ingredients for the nachos are prepared each morning. “Because of the size of our kitchen, everything is made fresh every day,” Melendez says. “… Therefore, you will get to enjoy a truly made-to-order meal each time.” (949-715-1510; rastataco.com)
La Sirena Grill
With two locations, one downtown and the other in south Laguna, La Sirena Grill is a favorite spot amongst locals. Deemed the “Mexeco eatery,” sustainability and freshness are equally important in every dish that the restaurant prepares—and the nachos are no different. Try the classic chicken variety: The meat is marinated, then grilled and chopped before being placed atop crispy corn chips. Along with the chicken, the nachos highlight the eatery’s vegan pinto beans, jack cheese, sour cream, guacamole and spicy pico de gallo. Though simple, Scott Cortellessa, founder and president of the small chain, says that the quality of the ingredients is what makes the chicken nachos truly special. “The dish is so appealing because all of our fresh ingredients make an old favorite seem new,” Cortellessa says. “… [The] flavors are rich and creamy, … the crunch of the chips adds texture—it simply meets everyone’s desires.” (Downtown eatery: 949-497-8226; south Laguna location: 949-499-2301; lasirenagrill.com)
For a unique spin on a classic snack, try Wild Taco’s poke nachos. Seafood lovers will rejoice over this delicious appetizer, which features high-quality ahi tuna. “The fish we use in our poke nachos is often sustainably caught from our fleet of three fishing boats,” explains owner Thomas “Thos” Carson. “We pride ourselves in serving the fish we catch ourselves and providing our guests with fresh, local and sustainably caught seafood.” The tuna is hand-cut before being tossed with Sriracha sauce, sesame seeds and oil, and fresh seaweed salad. Tortilla chips are piled high with this ahi mixture, then covered in green onions and a drizzle of the eatery’s signature Tommy sauce. “Our poke nachos are … a reflection of Wild Taco’s laid-back, Baja-style cuisine—simple, flavorful and ridiculously fresh,” Carson says, adding that they are also offered for takeout diners. “Our restaurant is walking distance from Laguna’s Main Beach, so they’re perfect … for a beautiful day spent on the sand.” (949-549-4282; thewildtaco.com)