Quest for the best: These are the best nachos in Calgary, says restaurant critic

Nachos have come a long way in the past 80 years.

It all started in northern Mexico, across the border from Texas. A man nicknamed Nacho whipped together the appetizer accidentally in 1940.

Back then, there were only three ingredients: salty chips, Colby cheese and pickled jalapenos.

However, after it became a pub staple, the dish exploded into multiple variations.

And because of its popularity with just about everyone, the Calgary Eyeopener sent restaurant reviewer Elizabeth Carson to critique the best nachos in town.

By her side helping her tackle all those plates of chips, cheese and salsa was former Stampeder running back Jon Cornish.

Cornish, a nacho aficionado, says he is very particular about his nachos.

“I’m not looking for any meat on my nachos. What I’m looking for, you know, are good chips, good cheese and good toppings,” he said.

“And then the nice dip, like a good fresh guacamole, non-jar based salsa, like a homemade salsa is preferred.”

  • Listen to Elizabeth Carson’s full-interview on the Calgary Eyeopener below!:

Calgary Eyeopener8:21Elizabeth Carson on Calgary’s best nachos

Restaurant reviewer Elizabeth Carson tells us who has the best nachos in town. 8:21

As for the key ingredient, the chip, Cornish says most of what they reviewed were store-bought but they still came across a few that were homemade.

“It was a remarkable difference. The flavour density inside the chip really changed the game and actually elevated a pair of nachos that might have otherwise not even ranked.”

Nacho winners!

The judges ate 10 different platters of nachos based on suggestions from both the listeners and friends.

“Interestingly, half of the suggestions were from 17th Avenue. Seems to be the nacho mecca,” said Carson.

The critic says they looked for a variety of things when rating the plates of nachos, such as distribution of toppings, cheese quantity and quality, freshness and taste of chips, as well as the toppings and dips that were included.

  • Want to learn how to build your own nachos? Listen to Julie Van Rosendaal’s recipe below!

Calgary Eyeopener6:14Julie Van Rosendaal on building the best nachos

Our food guide Julie van Rosendaal takes her crack at nachos and brings us one massive cinnamon bun too. 6:14

Honourable mentions

Carson says they found when rating nachos there were two types, pub-style and hipster.

She says all of the pub-style nachos tied for fourth, since they didn’t really vary in toppings.

Waterloo (Kitchen and Bar) stood out for the great smoked brisket,” she said.

Carson also gave a shout out to Jamesons and The Ship & Anchor.

3. Blue Star Diner — 809 1st Ave. N.E.

Nachos by Blue Star Diner were voted third by the judges. (Avery Archambault)

“They have artisanal chips and peppered gouda and smoked mozzarella, which was a really great change-up on the cheese,” said Carson.

She adds that the nachos came with a “fantastic” smoky bison chili.

The dish also comes with chipotle crema and radish on top.

2. Last Best Brewing — 607 11th Ave. S.W.

Nachos by Last Best Brewing placed second. (Elizabeth Carson)


Carson says these nachos had a great pico de gallo, and that they were the only ones that included a queso sauce.

“They make (the queso sauce) with their Tokyo Drift IPA and jalapenos. It was silky smooth and very smoky,” she said.

Last Best Brewing’s dish also came with housemade chips and flavourful harrisa grilled chicken.

However, Carson says she wasn’t a fan of their beetroot guacamole.

1. Madison’s 12/12  — 1212 9th Ave. S.E.

Madison’s 12/12 has the best nachos in the city, the judges decided. (Elizabeth Carson)

Madison’s 12/12 calls its dish the “Ring of Fire Nachos.”

Carson votes it the best in the city and says it’s the perfect balance between “hipster” and “pub” style.

“They had perfect coverage — buffalo chicken and gooey Monterey jack,” she said.

The nachos also had a diversity of heat and included fresh, hot jalapenos, chili flakes and Vanentina sauce.

“Great guacamole and pico de gallo and we thought one in every 20 chips was perfection,” she said.


Do you have a favourite plate of nachos that aren’t on the list? Tell us where we can try it in the comments below!


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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