With all of the Mexican restaurants in the Valley, coming up with an order of winning chicken nachos in all of metro Phoenix would be like picking the best ice cream flavor -- everyone would have a different favorite. The basic combination of chips, cheese and chicken is often complemented by beans, chili, pico de gallo and a bevy of other Hispanic accoutrements, and can be found at nearly any Mexican establishment.
So we narrowed this battle to Old Town Scottsdale.
In This Corner: Salty Señorita
The Setting: The recent reinvention of this Scottsdale staple initially caused a bit of a stir among its old clientele, some of whom missed the super casual low key vibe of the original restaurant. These days, those looking for a Mexican-themed dive bar go to Old Town Scottsdale's other option, Dos Gringos, and the rest enjoy the improved menu and comfort of the still-relaxed "new" restaurant. Salty Señorita's other location is in Peoria.
The Good: The Beach House Nachos are a slightly different take on the Mexican classic than would be expected, as a substantial layer of white cheese smothers the entire round dish, almost as if it were a Hispanic take on a deep dish pizza. Underneath the cheesy blanket rests a collection of crisp baked chips, calypso beans, pico de gallo and a creamy fundido sauce that ties the whole dish together.
The Bad: The nachos can be ordered with chorizo, carnitas, short rib, or tinga chicken, and at least in this experience, the chicken was a bit bland. The shredded chicken did a good job of picking up the flavors of the beans, pico and fundido, so it effectively added another level of texture to the dish without subtracting from the taste, but it would've been nice to have a stronger seasoning or flavor from the chicken.
In The Other Corner: Loco Patron
The Setting: With television sets hanging all around the restaurant, the Mexican sports bar is a popular place to be when there's a game on. Regardless of sporting event, Loco Patron uses its casualness as a calling card by keeping the rule of never having a dress code or a cover. The bar keeps the environment light and fun by using bright colors and a loose beach theme for its decor. Loco Patron's other location is in Tempe.
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The Good: The Loco Nachos are served with beef, chicken or pork and contain refried beans, pico de gallo, a mix of cheeses and a green avocado cream sauce. The drizzled avocado sauce across the top adds an extra dimension of flavor without the heavy, cementing texture that guacamole (served on the side, along with sour cream) can bring to a plate of nachos. The shredded chicken is extremely well-seasoned and combines with the refried beans to bring a classic Mexican flavor reminiscent of significantly more expensive and "authentic" food.
The Bad: While the flavor on the nachos is excellent, the two negatives we encountered were that the chips were a bit soft for our liking (they were borderline soggy by the time we finished) and that there were just too many empty chips. If the cheese, chicken and other toppings were spread more liberally over the plate of chips, there's a good possibility that the lack of crisp on the chips wouldn't be as noticeable.
The Winner: Loco Patron's nachos definitely weren't lacking in the taste department, and are certainly significantly better than the nachos at many other similar places. Ultimately, the size, texture and uniqueness of Salty Señorita's nachos stole our stomachs in this Scottsdale showdown.