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Calexico
Calexico’s nachos
Photo via Calexico/Facebook

15 Gloriously Messy Nachos to Try in NYC

From loaded sports-bar varieties to surprisingly refined takes

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Calexico’s nachos
| Photo via Calexico/Facebook

pNachos are not quite Mexican and not quite American. Reportedly invented just over the border from a U.S. military base, they’re a true hybrid food, endlessly customizable and beloved by just about everyone. While the Southwest is still king of nachos, the options in New York are diverse and worth tearing through from one cheese-coated platter to the next. These are the city’s supreme nachos, from sports-bar grub to more haute variations.

Note: This list is arranged geographically, north to south.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Calexico

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While the debate over whether to use melted cheese or cheese sauce on nachos rages on, Calexico proves that there’s no reason to choose. The California-style Mexican restaurant submerges its chips in both dairy products and completes them with guacamole, roasted corn, black beans, pico de gallo, jalapeños, and sour cream. There are additional locations in Brooklyn, plus a food truck in Soho.

Valhalla NYC

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While bar nachos seem simple enough, their execution often leaves a lot to be desired. Valhalla draws in Hell’s Kitchen crowds not just with its top-notch beer selection including 48 craft brews on top, but also with bites that are much better than they need to be. The nachos grande are expertly layered with juicy beef or chicken, onion, sliced olives, jalapeños, and slick, unfussy cheese sauce. The sour cream and salsa on the side ensure everything stays crisp.

Virgil's Real BBQ - Times Square

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Virgil’s is one of the more respectable dining establishments lining Times Square, with its competent barbecue dishes. The nachos don’t skimp on the smoked meats, layering chips with pulled chicken, pulled pork, and Texas-style brisket in addition to cheese, jalapeños, bacon, and scallions.

Tortillería Nixtamal

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All the masa here is homemade using a nixtamalization process, and much of it gets shipped out to Mexican eateries across the city to be enjoyed as tortillas and tamales. The restaurant part of the tortilleria makes nachos that hold their own in NYC’s nachoscape. The impossibly light wedges of fried corn dough stand out amid the beans, Oaxaca cheese, crema, pico de gallo, and half an avocado sliced on top. For a few bucks more, add meat.

Tortillería Nixtamal
Tortillería Nixtamal
Tortilleria Nixtamal/Instagram

Hill Country Barbecue Market

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Though New York is not ground zero for barbecue or Mexican-American food, Hill Country’s excellent, moist smoked brisket makes an ideal accompaniment on its nachos covered in cheese, vegetables, and sour cream. They’re only available on the bar menu, all the better for knocking back with mezcal margaritas.

Hill Country Barbecue
Hill Country Barbecue
Daniel Krieger

Mexicue

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As nachos are not authentic regional Mexican food, it’s only right that superlative versions come from venues willing to mix up cultures. The barbecue-Mexican hybrid Mexicue offers a classic rendition of nachos with a poblano cheese sauce, black beans, pickled peppers, pico de gallo, and a sprinkling of cotija. But it’s worth the $4 surcharge to get them coated in smoky, sweet burnt ends chili. There are additional locations in Nomad and Times Square.

El Toro Blanco

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The nachos at this high-end Mexican restaurant, newly helmed by chef Ivy Stark, are only available at happy hour in the bar area, but at $6 (or $8 with protein), they’re a steal. The substantial tortilla chips get dotted with a refined yet indulgent mix of pinto beans, cheddar sauce, Oaxaca cheese, pickled jalapeños, pico de gallo, crumbled queso blanco, and crema.

El Toro Blanco
El Toro Blanco
El Toro Blanco/Facebook

Taqueria Diana

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Started by Californians in 2013, this small East Village taqueria slings reliable tacos, burritos, and nachos that have gained a cult following, allowing the restaurant to expand across the city. Nachos come in six varieties, splayed out on a metal tray for even topping distribution. The crisp, tender carnitas are heaped on the chips with melted Jack, beans, pickled jalapeños and carrots, salsa, plus optional crema and guacamole. There are additional locations in Hell’s Kitchen, Lower East Side, and Williamsburg.

Empellon Al Pastor

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Chef-driven nachos might seem gratuitous for what’s basically a game-day food, but the most casual outpost of Alex Stupak’s gourmet Mexican mini-empire has added nachos alongside the signature spit-roasted pork that suit its bar space. The delicate tortilla chips, made fresh daily, get a generous dousing of crema and pico de gallo.

Empellon Al Pastor
Empellon Al Pastor
Empellon Al Pastor/Instagram

One Stop Beer Shop

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The tortilla chips at this cheerful beer-focused bar near the BQE are neither artisanal nor house-fried, but that matters little once they’ve been coated in the abundant portion of juicy pulled pork, pungent white cheese sauce, pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole. In warmer months, enjoy them at one of the outside tables with a spicy brew that can stand up to all that flavor.

One Stop Beer Shop
One Stop Beer Shop
One Stop Beer Shop/Facebook

La Contenta

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The nachos are as pretty as the intimate environment of this Lower East Side restaurant from chef-owner Luis Arce Mota. They arrive prettily fanned out in a circular pattern with bright vegetables and a triple helping of cheese, including a poblano cheese sauce and melted Monterey and cheddar. There’s an additional location in the West Village.

La Contenta
La Contenta
La Contenta

The nachos in this festive Mexican joint from the Starr Restaurants group (Upland, Le Coucou) come with equally colorful names. The Nacho Mama plate ingeniously arranges the thick tortilla chips in a giant single layer, so each bite gets a helping of melted jack cheese, black beans, salsa ranchera, sour cream, and pickled red onion and jalapeño. The Macho Nacho rendition is the same, but adds chorizo.

El Vez Photo by Daniel Krieger

The Commodore

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This meticulously conceived Williamsburg dive embraces down-home American food with sophisticated twists, from its fried chicken plate to the Cadillac Nachos, a massive pile of fried tortilla chips that are thoroughly layered from top to bottom with piquant cheese sauce, crema, and not one but three salsas. Despite their artery-clogging potential, they also get a vibrant shower of radishes, scallions, and cilantro.

The Commodore
The Commodore
The Commodore/Instagram

El Kucho

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This barebones spot in the heart of Bushwick’s hip Jefferson stop area splits its menu between Puebla specialties, like the sauce-soaked pambazo sandwich, and comforting Tex-Mex go-tos. The thin, crispy tortilla chips in the nachos come topped with beans, sour cream, queso blanco, cilantro, onion, and jalapeño, and work nicely with carnitas. Supplement them with the homemade chili con queso, which improves on the tried-and-true Velveeta and Rotel formula with a sharper cheese flavor. The result is both gooey and crunchy.

Tacos and stiff margaritas are the main draws at this unpretentious Crown Heights taqueria, but the nachos are secret stunners. They’re packed high with all the requisite fixings, including cheese sauce, pico de gallo, sour cream, and salsa. For a few dollars more, they can be laced with any of the meats available, even fried chicken.

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Calexico

While the debate over whether to use melted cheese or cheese sauce on nachos rages on, Calexico proves that there’s no reason to choose. The California-style Mexican restaurant submerges its chips in both dairy products and completes them with guacamole, roasted corn, black beans, pico de gallo, jalapeños, and sour cream. There are additional locations in Brooklyn, plus a food truck in Soho.

Valhalla NYC

While bar nachos seem simple enough, their execution often leaves a lot to be desired. Valhalla draws in Hell’s Kitchen crowds not just with its top-notch beer selection including 48 craft brews on top, but also with bites that are much better than they need to be. The nachos grande are expertly layered with juicy beef or chicken, onion, sliced olives, jalapeños, and slick, unfussy cheese sauce. The sour cream and salsa on the side ensure everything stays crisp.

Virgil's Real BBQ - Times Square

Virgil’s is one of the more respectable dining establishments lining Times Square, with its competent barbecue dishes. The nachos don’t skimp on the smoked meats, layering chips with pulled chicken, pulled pork, and Texas-style brisket in addition to cheese, jalapeños, bacon, and scallions.

Tortillería Nixtamal

Tortillería Nixtamal
Tortillería Nixtamal
Tortilleria Nixtamal/Instagram

All the masa here is homemade using a nixtamalization process, and much of it gets shipped out to Mexican eateries across the city to be enjoyed as tortillas and tamales. The restaurant part of the tortilleria makes nachos that hold their own in NYC’s nachoscape. The impossibly light wedges of fried corn dough stand out amid the beans, Oaxaca cheese, crema, pico de gallo, and half an avocado sliced on top. For a few bucks more, add meat.

Tortillería Nixtamal
Tortillería Nixtamal
Tortilleria Nixtamal/Instagram

Hill Country Barbecue Market

Hill Country Barbecue
Hill Country Barbecue
Daniel Krieger

Though New York is not ground zero for barbecue or Mexican-American food, Hill Country’s excellent, moist smoked brisket makes an ideal accompaniment on its nachos covered in cheese, vegetables, and sour cream. They’re only available on the bar menu, all the better for knocking back with mezcal margaritas.

Hill Country Barbecue
Hill Country Barbecue
Daniel Krieger

Mexicue

As nachos are not authentic regional Mexican food, it’s only right that superlative versions come from venues willing to mix up cultures. The barbecue-Mexican hybrid Mexicue offers a classic rendition of nachos with a poblano cheese sauce, black beans, pickled peppers, pico de gallo, and a sprinkling of cotija. But it’s worth the $4 surcharge to get them coated in smoky, sweet burnt ends chili. There are additional locations in Nomad and Times Square.

El Toro Blanco

El Toro Blanco
El Toro Blanco
El Toro Blanco/Facebook

The nachos at this high-end Mexican restaurant, newly helmed by chef Ivy Stark, are only available at happy hour in the bar area, but at $6 (or $8 with protein), they’re a steal. The substantial tortilla chips get dotted with a refined yet indulgent mix of pinto beans, cheddar sauce, Oaxaca cheese, pickled jalapeños, pico de gallo, crumbled queso blanco, and crema.

El Toro Blanco
El Toro Blanco
El Toro Blanco/Facebook

Taqueria Diana

Started by Californians in 2013, this small East Village taqueria slings reliable tacos, burritos, and nachos that have gained a cult following, allowing the restaurant to expand across the city. Nachos come in six varieties, splayed out on a metal tray for even topping distribution. The crisp, tender carnitas are heaped on the chips with melted Jack, beans, pickled jalapeños and carrots, salsa, plus optional crema and guacamole. There are additional locations in Hell’s Kitchen, Lower East Side, and Williamsburg.

Empellon Al Pastor

Empellon Al Pastor
Empellon Al Pastor
Empellon Al Pastor/Instagram

Chef-driven nachos might seem gratuitous for what’s basically a game-day food, but the most casual outpost of Alex Stupak’s gourmet Mexican mini-empire has added nachos alongside the signature spit-roasted pork that suit its bar space. The delicate tortilla chips, made fresh daily, get a generous dousing of crema and pico de gallo.

Empellon Al Pastor
Empellon Al Pastor
Empellon Al Pastor/Instagram

One Stop Beer Shop

One Stop Beer Shop
One Stop Beer Shop
One Stop Beer Shop/Facebook

The tortilla chips at this cheerful beer-focused bar near the BQE are neither artisanal nor house-fried, but that matters little once they’ve been coated in the abundant portion of juicy pulled pork, pungent white cheese sauce, pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole. In warmer months, enjoy them at one of the outside tables with a spicy brew that can stand up to all that flavor.

One Stop Beer Shop
One Stop Beer Shop
One Stop Beer Shop/Facebook

La Contenta

La Contenta
La Contenta
La Contenta

The nachos are as pretty as the intimate environment of this Lower East Side restaurant from chef-owner Luis Arce Mota. They arrive prettily fanned out in a circular pattern with bright vegetables and a triple helping of cheese, including a poblano cheese sauce and melted Monterey and cheddar. There’s an additional location in the West Village.

La Contenta
La Contenta
La Contenta

El Vez

El Vez Photo by Daniel Krieger

The nachos in this festive Mexican joint from the Starr Restaurants group (Upland, Le Coucou) come with equally colorful names. The Nacho Mama plate ingeniously arranges the thick tortilla chips in a giant single layer, so each bite gets a helping of melted jack cheese, black beans, salsa ranchera, sour cream, and pickled red onion and jalapeño. The Macho Nacho rendition is the same, but adds chorizo.

El Vez Photo by Daniel Krieger

The Commodore

The Commodore
The Commodore
The Commodore/Instagram

This meticulously conceived Williamsburg dive embraces down-home American food with sophisticated twists, from its fried chicken plate to the Cadillac Nachos, a massive pile of fried tortilla chips that are thoroughly layered from top to bottom with piquant cheese sauce, crema, and not one but three salsas. Despite their artery-clogging potential, they also get a vibrant shower of radishes, scallions, and cilantro.

The Commodore
The Commodore
The Commodore/Instagram

El Kucho