For many, nachos are the ultimate indulgence — heaps of cheese atop a bed of salty chips, all of it weighed down with savory meats, rich dips, and a smattering of diced vegetables.
But nachos are much more than greasy bar food or the ideal ballpark snack. They're actually an all-American gastronomic institution. These ubiquitous munchies are alleged to have originated during World War II, when a group of American military wives stopped off at a restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico, after the kitchen had closed.
Supposedly, the restaurant's cooks, in an effort to feed the hungry group, came up with a quick and easy snack — tortillas cut into triangles, topped with cheese and jalapeños, and quickly heated. It wasn't long after that the popularity of those “Nachos Especiales” spread through the southwestern United States.
Sixty years later, the original recipe for nachos has been tweaked countless times, often with outrageous or decidedly unconventional results. Restaurants and amateur chefs alike have used the basic conventions of nachos to churn out dishes as saintly as kale chips topped with raw cashew cheese or as upscale as smoked salmon nachos served with caviar.
Nacho variations are so common, the snack can even be subcategorized into dozens of groups. Yuppie nachos, featuring sun-dried tomatoes or goat cheese, appetize diners on some menus. Other restaurants offer vegan combos with bean chili and soy cheese, or even sugary toppings like chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
Of course, nachos are also vulnerable to America's favorite food trend: supersizing. A plate of appetizer nachos can pack more than 1,500 calories, according to Men's Health. Guiness even has an award for the largest platter of nachos. The winner? A Boston branch of 99 Restaurant, with their 3,900-pound entry made just last year.
From classy cuisine to a meat lover's dream, and from raw tuna to cashew “cheese,” here's a roundup of some of the most insane nachos gracing American menus.
Did we miss your favorite extreme nachos? Let us know!